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Sensei Aileen Jeffrey 5th Dan Aikido, Iwama Ryu, 1st Dan Ninjutsu, was and always will be a huge part of my Aikido life, and personal life.
This entry will be about the time I had spent with her, both on the mat and off the mat.
So in the last entry, described my first meeting with Sensei Aileen ''Here''. I spoke about her introducing her self and ''sussing me out'', how she was quiet yet at the same time, made you feel like she had said a hundred words already. She had an aura of confidence and respect, and made you feel comfortable as if you had known her for a lifetime.
Sensei Aileen's technique was, in my eyes perfect. She was agile, precise and deliberate. She could be delicate, gentle and most of all, elegant. When working with beginners, as I remember, she was careful and would discuss what she was doing at every point of the movement. She would make you feel at ease when going through the methods, yet you could feel she was in full control of you and your movements at all times. Her technique was unquestionable.
As I started to move through the grades, 5 kyu, 4th kyu, I was able to follow the techniques and take hard and fast, high break falls. Being one of the youngest in the class it showed that I could be thrown slightly faster and harder, and Sensei Aileen took Advantage of that. Time and time again. The best memories I have of her on the mat, is being thrown by her, or being punched in the face because I forgot to block the Atemi. She actually burst my lip once !
At courses, Sensei Aileen would throw the biggest and best around with ease. She would lock them up and put them through their paces and take them to, and past their pain thresholds.
Sensei Aileen was not the type of Instructor who would refuse to take technique either. Often, she would ask her students to demonstrate techniques with her. A truly great Sensei and Instructor.
As a friend, there was not one better. Aileen was someone to confide in, someone to speak to in a time of need and one who could put a smile on your face no matter the circumstances.When she laughed, she would have the daintiest wee (yet big) laugh, like a stereotypical ''cute girl'' laugh, I hope that didn't come across misogynistic or ignorant. A wise woman. Knowing her from I was 16 (now twenty) I made a strong bond with her, through our tastes in music, both of us loving Heavy and classic metal. Attending courses on the west side of Scotland and me not being of the legal age to drive, Aileen would drive us, belting out Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath tracks, getting pumped and excited for the course. I never knew a woman like her ! She was like another Mother to me in some respects. I would visit her through the week now and then and have tea and biscuits or on the odd occasion dinner together (she could make the best chilli I had tasted) and chat and laugh, talk mainly about Aikido and the blatant Current affairs.
Christmas Nights out were always a laugh. We would all get together, have a curry and a few drinks, then to the Pub for many more drinks. These were great nights !
Her belief in people was outstanding. Her inner spirit was matched by none. Her Budo was what I one day hope to achieve.
Aileen was the picture of health, non smoker, healthy eating, fit and healthy. A keen Skier, going away often with her brothers on Skiing holidays to France and Austria I believe. She rode motor bikes with her Fiance all over Scotland and traveled up north often to her caravan with her brothers, nieces and nephews. But regardless of her great health, in 2010 Ailleen found a lump. At first the doctors put it down to a Benign Cyst and cut it away. At this point, due the surgery, Aileen couldnt train for a month or so due to the location of the operation. She would sit at the edge of the mat and give her 'orders' from there, whilst one of the senior grades took class and made sure things were in order. No matter how much pain she was in at the time, she attended class regardless. Aikido was her passion and true love.
After she had healed from the operation, Aileen came back on the mat for a few weeks and enjoyed the training she was able to participate in. Still with that coy smile on her face and that little laugh. Still able to give me the big throws and tight locks.
Another month passed, and the lump had reappeared. Aileen was then told she had Cancer. A massive shock to not only her self but obviously everyone of us as well. Specialists tried to operate again and managed to remove more of the cancerous tissues from the affected area. However, after this operation, the cancer spread to Aileens stomach, more tests and operations were conducted and the decision was made that she would need to receive Chemo and Radiotherapy sessions. All this time I and other members of the club and family were there to make sure she had everything she needed.
Aileen was allowed to move home, as she lived not far from the Beatson Unit and was was able to attend appointments and sessions whilst still being able to stay in the comfort of her own home. Even when going through these treatments and procedures, Aileen still attended class, in full Gi and Hakama. Sitting at the side of the class giving the same instruction as ever. When the Chemo was starting show its effects and she took ill with the procedures, Aileen's family, fiance and myself were there regularly helping with any house work etc, and just there to keep her spirits as high as possible. Not that she needed us there for that, she was always high in spirit. No matter what the circumstances.
A few weeks past and Aileen was taken into hospital, after taking very unwell and unusual turn for the worse. After decisions made by specialists, it was agreed that Aileen would stay in the Beatson until All sessions of chemo and radiotherapy were past and there was an improvement in her health.
The improvement we wished and prayed for did not come. Over the next eight months, Aileen became increasingly worse, Cancer spreading rapidly and unmercifully through her body including her head and left eye. The effects of the Chemo and Radio evidently taking its toll.
In January 2012 Aileen married her fiance in the Hospital with her family around them. She even found the strength from only she knows where, to manage a First dance with her new husband.
I visited her the day after and gave my congratulations to her and her new husband and let her know how happy I was for them, to see her happy, through the obvious physical pain and time, I will never forget.
A few days later, Aileen past away with her family and husband by her side. At peace.
The timing of this was extraordinarily hard for me, as I had lost my Grandmother to the exact same thing two months before hand, whom I was also extremely close with. Five months later, my first beautiful son was born. They would have loved him. Loosing two strong women, to the same things was an extremely hard thing to deal with, however their strength gave me strength to understand, and get through that time.
Aileen was a remarkable woman, that only those who knew her could understand.
Thank you for the memories and everything that you taught me. I will never forget you, my Sensei and Friend.