Grief and loss are exhausting. Today would have been Jane’s birthday. She would have been 56. Normally I would have woken her up with a card and a present if she was home and I was home, if not with a phone call. Instead, I went to the beach to collect pebbles. Jane would bring me pebbles from her trips, knowing how how much I love their textures and colours.

About 8 or 9 years ago, Jane and I went to Fox Glacier, the 25 minute walk to the glacier took us an hour because I kept stopping to take photos of rock striations and various pebbles. I took 1 photo of the glacier. It was a great trip, we sat in the hot pools in the town as the stars came out and the rain fell. Magic.

A colleague sent me flowers today, to remember Jane and let me know of their care and support. One of Jane’s exes sent me a lovely text. I am gently held from afar by so many hands of care, many of whom I first met through Jane, but some of whom are my tribe, my autistic friends and whanau, and some of whom I have never met, but for whom Jane was so special.

I got home from the beach and Chico wanted to go for a walk. I could hear Jane’s voice in my head as I ummed and ahhed (it was cold and raining). “Don’t be mean, take the little fluffy thing for a walk, he was so good to me when I wasn’t well.” He got his walk, we got wet. We saw three pairs of beautiful green and red birds, gorgeous red buds filling tree branches that were bare yesterday.

Each and every sad moment is like the sky at the beach today, heavy clouds of sadness, through which the light or moments of joy shine, when you least expect it. Nothing is forever, sadness, happiness, life. I am so appreciative of the gifts of wisdom and love that Jane so freely gave and I am truly a better person for having had her in my life. At the same time, I know I was often the light when she had clouds and that she was able to be the best her that she could be in the years we were together.

I gave her the gift of acceptance, I had no issue with her ADHD, her wish to change jobs so frequently, often after 6 weeks. Admittedly, I wasn’t so understanding about the 1000 otoscopes she bought during 5th year med school, “because they were a good deal”. I gave away the last of them in the weeks after her death, they went to good homes.

I gave her the gift of believing in her, valuing her skills and respecting her values (which we shared, though she was far more generous than me). Jane had finally come into her own, practicing medicine exactly how she wanted to – taking time and care with each patient, educating them so they could be active participants in their healthcare. I was so proud of her, even though we both joked that she was the poorest GP in Australia because she wouldn’t charge her patients and the government disproportionately financially rewards what she termed ‘checkout operator medicine.’

Neither of us cared about the money, we had enough, we were content to make a difference in the lives of the people we interacted with. On this, your first not here anymore birthday Jane, I want you to know how proud I still am of you and that you are forever in my heart and in my mind. I am still trying to live the values we shared, and I promise to keep walking Chico even if it rains, because it never rains forever. Arohanui Jane.