Today – the 2nd August 2012 – is Rachel’s birthday. My dear friend Rachel Cheetham Moro who died on 6 February 2012.
Today’s piece has been written by Rachel’s mother – Mandy Cheetham. I met Mandy in New Jersey in February this year after Rachel died. Mandy lives in Perth, Australia, and had travelled far to be there so was in the US for a few days after Rachel’s service, as I was. So we got to spend time together, which I enjoyed very much. One memorable day we made a trip over to New York and spent the morning at the zoo. And we’ve stayed in touch and continue the conversation that began with Rachel’s death. Here Mandy remembers Rachel on her birthday.
‘But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day is bonny and blithe and good and gay.’ Today is Rachel’s birthday; she was born on a Sunday and the attributes in the well known nursery rhyme describe so well how she was during her lifetime. Most times, whenever I think about Rachel, I am reminded of this rhyme. She would have been 42 had the cancer, she bravely endured over the past eight years, not tragically taken her away nearly six months ago.
This time last year I was staying with her in New Jersey and we celebrated her birthday together. After she opened her presents, a mandatory visit to the chemo lounge was first on the list for the day. Rachel observed that this was not a fun thing to do on one’s birthday. But after the chemo there was quite a lot of fun. First of all we had a delicious lunch with MIL and AIL and then the shopping began. I found some excellent little things to take home, she was enchanted by several summer skirts and dresses then we discovered several cute sun hats. She was persuaded to be given one and I also added one to take back – alas it has disappeared – left somewhere I think. Later, we looked at a fine array of handbags. What a treat! We shared a passion for handbags and purses and of course she insisted on buying the one I coveted for my coming birthday. Afterwards we stopped for ice creams at a splendid roadside stall and then went for a quiet stroll by the river. Only the memory of sitting next to her attached to an IV stand in the hospital chemo lounge mars the quiet delights of the day.
The months since that awful day in February seem to have passed in a kaleidoscope of memories many of them triggered by things around the house. The eel skin purse reminds me of the time Rachel drove to faraway Esperance with her father and brother, and then there is the pale blue leather bag that she found at Fremantle Markets. The little black and white photograph of her aged two wearing a fringed dress brings back my sewing days and poignant memories of the clothes and toys I made for her. My sewing machine from those days has long gone but hers is stored in my laundry cupboard perhaps waiting to be used. There on my bookshelf is Blackie’s Girls’ Annual, a reminder of her interest in antiquarian books; the china cats that she left in my care sit impassively on a kitchen shelf. Outside, wandering about the garden I remember when we designed and planted the flower beds in front of the house. To celebrate this feat she gave me a handsome stone duck who is currently sitting comfortably amidst a lavender bush.
All of these things and many others are like souvenirs from Rachel’s life. Sadly, there is another untimely memory that absorbed her last years. Thoughts of breast cancer have continued to push relentlessly into my mind. I look at websites, follow up information on new research and read books. Siddhartha Mukherjee‘s masterly epic history of cancer “The emperor of all maladies” continues to preoccupy my thoughts. It seems that I am indirectly still engaged on Rachel’s behalf to learn more about this dreadful disease.
The photograph celebrates a lovely day Jay and I spent with Rachel at Moore River. There will be no more of those days but thankfully Jay has strong memories of his dearest Auntie.
So on this day my darling Rachel both of us remembers you with love. You will always be bonny and blithe and good and gay.