She was warm, smiley, up close and direct, firm to the touch, but she was equally scary, a slightly threatening creature of intent. She put the heel of her stiletto into the head of a junkie taking liberties in the bathroom of my Camden council flat. She meant well. She told me then how she had been a junkie herself, a Cheltenham runaway, adopted, alone. It was a bottle-of-vodka-edge-of-your-seat type of herstory. I knew all this anyway. She was damaged, so that it showed.
She had rejected the stuff completely, for over a decade, by moving location and becoming absorbed in parenthood; giving her boy the life she had never had, as best she could. I believed her. She had turned her life around, without God, without a miracle of patience, 'other half'; without replacing her addiction with something else.
Then the anger came. It came from her feet all the way to her heart and she burst before it got to her head, before the thinking part.
Then the tiredness crept in. It seeped in to her bones and then into her very being. The doctor said to her that there were plenty of 'options'. She tried a few. She tried to talk about it to me, to other friends. It was difficult to respond without the experience or authority. It was difficult to grasp the seriousness when Lena was putting her beautiful all in to getting your complete attention: arms waving to greet you, eyes daring and teeth sharp, smile fixed and that chuckle in her voice.
Around five years ago she moved to Mexico to live the life she had left to the full. It must have been great to feel the hot sun on those aching bones and to be allowed to sleep in the day, like everybody else. I heard she died last year - in her sleep. We said goodbye long before that. Autumn 1999.
In the summer of 2006 I am just saying: 'Hello there girl. You are remembered.You made a difference. Thank you.'
I feel that Lena gave up and I feel it was her friends fault this happened. We had relied on her enthusiasm and encouragement for ourselves but when she needed it from us, we didn't know how to give it; how to help. Make sure you tell your friends how they can help you and give yourself the passion and committment you have always given others. That is why I have relayed Lena's story.
by Ngaire Ruth