by Natalie Collins (@God_loves_women)
Bex Lewis (or @drbexl as she was known online) described herself as a Life Explorer. She was relentlessly positive, and always confident that digital media could positively change the world.
Along with a love of history and a PhD in Keeping Calm and Carrying On, she passionately advocated for the potential to digitally share the good news of Jesus and be church. She laughed all the time, and shared openly and wholeheartedly, railing against the idea that offline interactions were more authentic than online friendships. Everyone who knew her loved her. And her enthusiasm was infectious. She wanted everyone to feel confident online and worked to equip many through training, speaking and her book Raising Children in a Digital Age.
Our family visits with her were filled with laughter, always ending with a social media selfie to share the joy. When Bex was diagnosed with cancer, it was deeply painful. She had bought a lovely house, settled into an exciting post as Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University. She was revelling in the success of her books and enjoying life. It was not fair.
Bex chose to approach cancer as a life explorer, chronicling her treatment. She hated the rhetoric about “battling cancer” and focussed instead on living and loving as big as she could. She focussed on making her house as lovely as possible, planning travels and adventures. Her wonderful cousin Hannah helped her style the house, she regularly said she wanted to only own things that were either useful or beautiful (or where possible, both). And her friends were there, cards everywhere in the house, everyone wanting her to know how much they loved her. Cupboards stocked full of delicious things people had posted her and cheese, all the cheese.
After treatment and recovery she embraced work and life, a New Zealand writing retreat for the second edition of her book, adventures and travel. Then came the devastating news of secondary cancer. But she read all the books she could and joined online communities with other women in a similar situation. She talked frankly about the pain, in a way that ensured we all learned and were part of the journey. On one visit, she said she’d been thinking about her funeral, it was surely a long was off but she didn’t want to do it alone. She pulled out her Mac and we started to plan. We threw out ideas, she typed them up. We laughed, discussing potentially inappropriate song choices. A deep intake of breath as she talked about the music she’d wanted for her wedding; could she bear it as a funeral piece?
COVID hit while she was stranded in New Zealand. On arriving back in the UK, news of further cancer was a huge blow. And in a global pandemic. The dearest Andrew and Jane Graystone became her bubble. Gabrielle and Emma organised Bex Zoom parties, where we came along and laughed and chatted. Always honest and a little irreverent, these were precious moments.
Accompanied by Jane, Andrew and the many friends from across the UK and beyond, Bex plodded on through discussions about treatments and next steps. Always focussed on the positive, not in denial, but she could use this to help others, build understanding, educate. All around her, the methods she had pioneered; online church and social media community was finally embraced as the country lockdown. Her patient encouragement and ceaseless enthusiasm for digital suddenly wholeheartedly embraced by people who previously dismissed it as Not Real. And Bex welcomed everyone, simply pleased they’d finally got there.
When news came of her death today (18th Feb 2021), we all felt the deep injustice of Bex’s loss. Bex knew death was not the end and I take comfort in knowing that she will rise in glory. Many of us weep for her loss, the world is darker without her. I found myself wondering how her online community could collectively mourn, with no physical space to join together in; Bex would have had loads of ideas! And already, the hashtag #bemorebex has begun trending, a testament to the woman she was. She would be delighted!
In our funeral discussions, Bex said that The Greatest Showman’s, This Is Me most summed her up and pondered whether it was funeral material. I don’t know what she decided, but as I mourn her loss, I’ll shove that song on YouTube and sing it at the top of my lungs, as a prayer of thanksgiving for the woman who made the world a much better place.
Rest in peace, Bex.