In sickness and in health: Friends make all the difference when it comes to coping with hardship

Last 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

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The Independent Online

Blimey. What a week. In the past seven days, I have been completely, utterly and totally blown away by the kindness of strangers. And friends. And family. And family friends. And colleagues past and present. And people my dad knows (my father is the kind of person who strikes up conversations with whomever is in the seat next to him on planes, and he travels a lot, so few escape without becoming an acquaintance at the very least).

They have all pledged money to fund a wheelchair-accessible vehicle - Van Solo - for Nick, by sponsoring my friend Denise, who has blindsided us all with her kindness. Denise is going to do her first skydive next month, and while it’s not done to reveal a lady’s age, suffice to say she’s doing it for a significant birthday that is a few years north of 21. As well as showing how badass she is, she’s also doing it to help Nick.

Nick has only ever known Denise as a lovely, funny friend of mine and my family. He knows her in-jokes and always loved it when she came away on holiday with us all or popped round for dinner. The truth is, I first met Denise when I was 13 and she was terrifying. I nicknamed her The Mother - not to her face, she was too scary - and wondered how her own 13-year-old daughter survived. Then I met one of Denise’s sisters, and realised that these ladies were forged, not made. Which is what you’re looking for in a friend, I gradually learnt, once you’ve left your teenage years behind.

As time passed, I began to see the woman, rather than The Mother. Before Nick and I got married, Denise would gently (she does gentle, as well as fierce) say that she wished we’d tie the knot. Her own marriage to the singular, hilarious, endlessly missed Sam made her want the same for us. I am so glad we followed her advice. The idea of having got through the past 18 months as boyfriend and girlfriend, rather than legal spouses, doesn’t bear thinking about.

As well as being brave (see jumping out of the plane for details), Denise is accomplished. She is a silversmith, she owns her own fairground-grade candy-floss machine, has been a classroom assistant, has worked at the council in a job I don’t quite understand, does really, really long walks and loves Blues music. She is a doting grandmother and is a tiger mother in the original sense - mess with her young and she will claw your face off.

And it’s thanks to this tigress in size 6 jeans that Nick and I have had our best week since the accident - if not ever. While I would never wish our situation on anyone, the chance to feel the force of people’s goodwill pulling us upward is a rush like no other. The messages from long lost pals, every donation that comes in from someone who Nick used to work with and didn’t know about the accident, the gobsmacking generosity are all enough to make a grown woman weep happy tears. Which I have done at least seven times in the past three days. I’d like to write a column to every person who has showed us that we’re not alone, but for now, there’s this. Thank you Denise, and thank you Team Nick.