In Sickness and in Health: Cheers Jacko, the kindness of strangers is a great tonic

I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has made the effort to get in touch since I began writing about Nick

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The Independent Online

Earlier this year, Rebecca’s husband, Nick, was hit by a car and seriously injured. Here, in one of a series of columns, she writes about the aftermath of his accident.

Without wishing to sound too much like poor Blanche DuBois, I've been thinking about the kindness of strangers a lot. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the pubs that have been my homes from home since the night in February when Nick nearly died. I mentioned the one opposite the care home where he currently resides by name, but not location, as I didn’t want to upset the management here with my loose, journalistic, lips.

On one of my next visits to the Hand and Crown, Andy behind the bar handed me an envelope addressed to the manager. Inside was a Christmas card with a jolly robin on the front. Inside that was a clipping of the pub column, along with a message for my attention. “I do hope that Rebecca and Nick are able to enjoy a drink together this Christmas. Have one on me!” Jacko, an i reader, had taken the time to find the pub’s address, had had the kindness to write us a card and the generosity to slip in £10 for our Christmas drink. Reader (and most especially you, Jacko), I cried happy tears. And I took Nick for his first trip to the pub the next day, inspired by good wishes from someone that I’d never met.

I have had so many letters and emails since I began writing about Nick, and I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has made the effort to get in touch, but for the sake of space (and your boredom threshold), I’ll try and keep it brief. Douglas in Derby, I love receiving your notes. Mehmet and Geraldine, thank you for the Christmas card. To those who have written to me and left off their addresses, so that I wouldn’t feel pressured to reply, I want to say how highly I hold you in my esteem. To Eleanor, whose partner was in the same hospital as Nick at one point, and who tracked me down to give me a beautifully phrased card, I hope that things are going well. Linda Beesley and David Hill, you have become my Twitter guardian angels, sending me messages to keep my chin up. Your virtual support has been a very real comfort.

Then there have been people who don’t know what’s been happening, but who have been kindness personified nonetheless. The lady cab driver who reduced my fare when I was racing to see Nick in intensive care, for one; and the railway staff who dealt with me and my tears kindly when I left a bag on the train that contained vital notes about my husband’s care.

Last week, after a four-day stint (and three nights on the camp bed by Nick’s bed that feels as though it’s made from beaks and spine) with my exhausting darling, and a long journey back on a dark Sunday evening, I arrived outside my flat. I’d just received a tearful and incomprehensible voicemail from Nick (with a bit of help from the care-home staff).

I sat in my parked car and started to cry. The space between my two lives - carer and career - is one that I sometimes find overwhelming. As I sobbed, a lady peered through the window and asked if I was OK. “I’ll be all right, thank you,” I said. And I will be, thanks, in part, to people I don’t even know.

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