On Mother’s Day Jade Goody breathed her last at her home in Upshire, Essex. By the time the earth receives her bones, the world would have lost a woman of Amazonian courage who mocked death when it was obvious that there was no hope of ever living among the living. Jade Goody’s story was one of startling courage which defied reasoning. Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister paid tribute with a broken heart.
Who was Jade Goody? Well, she entered my living room in one evening around 2002 when she was one of the residents of Big Brother House. Though the show ended acrimoniously when Jade was accused of racism against a Bollywood star called Shilpa Shetty, Jade nevertheless bowed to public opinion, wet her eyes on our screen and duly apologised to a wounded Indian actress.
From an unremarkable upbringing in Bermondsey, a gritty part of South London, she eventually moved on to become a businesswoman, girlfriend, wife, mother and a TV star. The melodrama of her life to stardom was typically the stuff of Western media relentless projection and of dusting up a wannabe and turning such into a noonday icon. That same melodrama has now morphed into the forbidding genre of tragedy which took Jade’s life away.
The journey to this tragedy began when Jade was 16 and a pre-cancerous cells had to be removed from her body. Then in 2006, she was admitted to the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Essex, with stomach cramps. But it was in August last year that tragedy eventually struck when she was told that she had a terminal cervical cancer. Since the announcement, Jade defied death and packed more into her 27 years than people in her age bracket. She found a rare courage to tell death to wait while she rewrote her story as a source of inspiration for other terminally ill patients around the world.
In December 2008, Jade was optimistic. She completed her chemotherapy and would not reveal to her boys what was wrong with her. She told the two innocent boys that she had a tadpole in her stomach and needed doctors to make them go to sleep. When told she had a 50/50 chance of surviving the cancer, she sobbed uncontrollably and wondered how can there be God when so much bad stuff happens. When she passed that stage of inner probe, Jade began her own funeral in advance of death.
In February 2009 at the Down Hall Country House in Hertfordshire, Jade married boyfriend, Jack Tweed. In spite of the visible sadness worn by the guests, Jade partied, laughed, made funny comments and danced the night away to the tunes of DJ Woody. A couple of weeks after the wedding, Jade had another dream realised.
She and her two sons- Bobby and Freddy- got baptised in the chapel at the Royal Marsden Hospital. In the throes of death, Jade was philosophical. She said that she was not scared of dying any more. “I believe in heaven and spirits so I am not scared of death.” However, she is frightened of leaving behind her sons, husband, mum and grandparents. In her words, she said, “I’ve put together a memory box that has lots of letters I have written for Bobby and Freddy and I have left them lots of photos of me, plus all my TV shows that I have done, my perfume, book and fitness DVD. I‘d love to have a statue made of me and when I am gone I want a foundation to be set up that will raise money for charitable causes. I would like to be in Madam Tussauds. I have had a rough life, a bad childhood and I made cock-ups as a teenager and as an adult, but I have been able to bounce back each time. I think God wanted to make me a strong person. He gave me challenges, and I think because I have coped with them, he has served me with more. Why he has chucked this one at me, I just don’t know.”
Across the UK, people had tearful nights when her predicament was televised live. Many people are sad to see such a ‘mouthy bird – the one who irritated and entertained people in equal measure’ go at an early age. Before and after her death, Jadefest industry grew and well wishers have been leaving flowers and fruit baskets at the gates of her Essex house. Also, two evangelical Christians defied the demon of cancer to light candle and do intercessory prayer for Jade. Sadly, death would not be placated.
If Jade Goody were to be a Nigerian, things would have been different. One, she may have died long ago through lack of sophisticated health care that kept her going. Secondly, she would have passed through many phoney prophets pretending to be healers. Cows, goats and chickens would have been killed to ward off imaginary ancestral spirit of death hovering over Jade.
Bogus pastors would have called for empty vigil while the genuine ones would have chastised Jade for succumbing to death without putting on a shield of faith that says ‘I will live and not die, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord-psalm 118: 17.’ Jade is no longer among the living, but we are left with the challenge her courage has thrust upon us, the living. Her soul has made the journey through that dark tunnel of no return, but her memory may linger if the management of Madam Tussauds allows her wax image to delights the living who will throng to her shrine. May her soul rest in peace.