Pippa Rea

Pippa's Journey with a Brain Tumour

Pippa Rea Friendship Day

Last year the Grade 5s at St Joseph’s had to give a speech to be considered to be part of the leadership team.  One of Pippa’s friends gave his speech on establishing an annual Pippa Rea Friendship Day to be held at the start of the year near her birthday.  This day would encourage and remind students how to be a good friend to each other – something that so evidently came naturally to Pippa and was recognised by everyone.

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In the lead up to the day the teacher who was assisting Flynn commented how refreshing it was to start the year using “Friendship” as the focus instead of anti-bullying.

The children all wore yellow – those who had Team Pippa shirts wore them.

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The grade 5 and 6 students visited the junior and middle school classrooms in the morning talking about friendship and running a “Friendship Workshop”.  They all learnt the “Friendship Pledge that Flynn had come up with in memory of Pippa.    James, Patrick and I popped into the Botanic Gardens over the road from the school to say hi to the senior students when they were enjoying a shared picnic in the glorious sunshine.

In the afternoon all the school “friends” moved into the hall.  590 children stood in a circle, joined hands and, led by Flynn, recited the Friendship Pledge.

 

In memory of Pippa, I promise to be a caring, thoughtful and fun friend.

IT’S COOL TO BE KIND!

 

Flynn and I then spoke to the school about friendship and Pippa.

Flynn has been working tirelessly on this project. Last night when he visited us I was so impressed with his speech that I asked his permission to share it on the blog.  He says that Pippa is his inspiration but what an inspiration Flynn is.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every school could take his model, adapt it to their environment and also hold a

Pippa Rea Friendship Day

creating  schools where kind, caring and thoughtful actions were on every student’s mind and where in Flynn’s words it is:

“COOL TO BE KIND”

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Hi my name is Flynn.

I am here to explain the Pippa Rea Friendship Day.

I came up with the idea and then spoke with Virginia, James and Patrick so we could all never forget, and always remember, what Pippa taught us.

Pippa Rea was a student here at St. Joes from Prep to grade 5 and is part of our grade 6 year level.

She is our friend.

I think I am the LUCKIEST boy in the world to call Pippa my friend. She was an amazing friend not just to me but to ALL  of us.

Pippa was SUPER kind,        SUPER generous      and       SUPER caring.

I am only 11 years old and she has taught me things that lots of adults don’t even know.

Friendship day is a good day to go over these.
FRIENDS.

Pippa is a girl and I am a boy. This did not matter. It taught me that friends come in all shapes and sizes.

I think you all should try and branch out and  YOU TOO might find someone just as amazing…give it a go!

 

IT’S COOL TO BE KIND.

Pippa taught me this!

I LOVED spending time with Pippa.

Pippa was the kindest girl.

Her actions and words were always kind and generous.

She was always thinking of others.

ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS.

and GIVING IS BETTER THAN RECIEVING.

This was the hardest lesson at first. It was REALLY  hard seeing Pippa not being able to talk so well.

I soon learnt you don’t need words to be a friend.  PIPPA’s actions spoke for her.

Pippa always had a smile to give, her hands to hold, a wink or a thumbs up to give.

This taught me that a simple smile    or     thumbs up can change someone’s whole day or even life!

I know when I got one of Pippa’s smiles I felt so Happy.

I MISS Pippa’s smile the most.

Remember to share yours.

 

100% EFFORT and ATTITUDE

Pippa was STRONG  BRAVE DETERMINED and COURAGEOUS

Pippa made the most of everyday and opportunity.

Pippa was a happy positive person.

Pippa showed us all this at sports day last year…she is a GUN at sports!

We should all try and give 100% effort and try our best every day and never give up.

Pippa has made me try SO much harder especially at maths.

Man she was SMART!

I loved when I was her buddy in maths. It was the only time I went well because she had all the answers!!

Pippa loved St Joes and her friends.

We are all lucky because when we go to St. Joes, we are all one friendship group. We should all look out for one another and help each other.

At St Joes there is NO room for unkind words OR actions.

It is NEVER ok to be unkind.

I would like everyone to think how you could be a better friend.

I hope we all have a happy year of friendship in 2016.

 

ONE FRIEND CAN CHANGE YOUR WHOLE LIFE!

Let’s all now wish Pippa a happy 12th birthday with 12 big claps.

Thank you for your time.

 

Flynn, Pippa would have loved today. She would have relished teaching the younger students about friendship and sharing the day with you and all her friends.  I know that she is watching over you and is so proud of what you achieved today in her honour.

What a truly great friend you are!

 

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A Beach Afternoon for Pippa

The permanent bronze plaque will be put in place on Pippa’s memorial seat in time for her birthday.

We would like to invite everyone to have a beach day on the afternoon of Saturday 13th February to enjoy Pippa’s 12th birthday.  Swim, surf, play cricket, fly kites, build sand castles – bring whatever you want to enjoy the beach and come and visit Pippa’s seat.

We hope to see as many people as possible.  Pippa would like that.

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A New School Year

I guess milestones, particularly those in the first 12 months, are going mean that I will inevitably get asked the same question over and over again.  That’s OK.  I know that it means people care.  I’ve come to understand that and instead of twisting and churning inside I simply answer the best I can at the time.  It’s still hard and I understand that it’s just as hard for other people to speak to me because I know they don’t know what to say and are scared of saying the wrong thing.  That’s OK too.  I don’t mind.  The best thing to say is to actually say something about Pippa.  Knowing that others do not forget her and also have fond memories is the best comfort I can receive.

How did I manage the Christmas and New Year period?  Well, yes, it was difficult.  We ran away to WA to my sister, brother-in-law and adult nieces.   That was the right place to be.  In fact, Christmas Day was manageable.  Of course there were tears and a lot of them.  In fact, at one point I looked around and the whole lot of us were crying.  I had prepared and strategised in the lead up and I think that helped get through what was a very difficult day.  Pippa loved Christmas.  She always methodically wrote Christmas cards.  She was chief present wrapper and decorator.  Just like any little girl.  She especially loved it when Christmas was at our house.  Boy did she have James and Patrick organised!

What I wasn’t prepared for though was halfway between Christmas and New Year.  That’s when it really hit me.  I’d managed Christmas Day but then what?  A new year was on it’s way and I would be starting it without Pippa.  With one less person in our family.  What did I have to look forward to?  What did I have to celebrate?  Neither an old year passed nor a new year coming.  You see, I didn’t want 2015 to end because it was the last year I was ever going to have a living memory of Pippa.  2016 or any year to come was never going to give me that.  I felt like that from now on each new year will just leave her further and further behind.  Over the holidays there were so many tragic deaths of children.  My heart went out to every one of those parents.  People often say to me they cannot imagine what I am going through.  I honestly don’t think there could ever be anything more painful than losing your child.

Now I find myself at a new school year.  A year that Pippa should be in year 6, excited about being a leader at school and looking forward to secondary school next year.  I try not to think about that but last week I had to go into school to collect Pippa’s tub.  Yes, you would think I had done that ages ago, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it last year.  I thought I would be OK because I had been to every day of school with her so there wouldn’t be any surprises.  I was wrong.  In the box along with her books and pencil case was her school report which had been put together with beautiful messages and pictures from her classmates.  A report that not only reflected Pippa’s ability academically, but showed me again how much she meant to everyone else and the incredible person she was.

Now everyone is back to school.  Parents shed tears as their children start prep, others swell with pride as theirs start secondary school, some are nervous that they will miss theirs terribly as they send them off to boarding school and Pippa’s classmates become the big grade six leaders of their school.  James and Patrick head into year 10 and year 8 but Pippa goes nowhere.  Patrick is not my youngest.  I will never get to send my youngest child off anywhere.  She’s already gone and she will never come home.  Not at the end of the day like most school children nor the end of the term like the boarders.

Pippa is never ever going to or coming home from school again.

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A Beach Girl Forever

Pippa loved the beach. I have so many photos and videos of her in the water, on the sand, in the dunes…jumping, running, playing, cartwheeling, catching waves…even performing dances.

I remember taking her on a special trip to Torquay to buy her first pair of bikinis.  Proper grown up bathers.

When planning Pippa’s memorial service I knew that I would never want to go and visit a plaque or a headstone in a cemetery.  In Pippa’s words that would be seriously boring!  I knew I wanted something to reflect her love of the beach and I knew that in time it would come to me.

In a perfect tribute to Pippa a series of events fell into place.  Pippa had spent many summers on the picturesque East Beach at Port Fairy doing nippers.  It was only fitting that this would be the place we chose to place a memorial seat.

Now on East Beach foreshore, in time for the summer holidays and backdropped by the blue waves and pretty lighthouse on the horizon, sits Pippa’s magnificent bluestone surfboard seat.

There in her memory but for everyone to enjoy.  Precisely how she would want it.

By chance when we went to the beach today some friends were there. Exactly as intended Pippa’s seat created much interest.

We hope that over the summer and forever to come people can enjoy, play on and photograph Pippa’s seat. #pipparea

 

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Ten Fingers, Ten Toes and a Cute little Button Nose

28 September, 6 months.  James decided to dig deep into his wardrobe and have a clean out.  A feat generally unheard of from a teenage boy!  I didn’t realise he was even doing it until he emerged carrying a box.  Apologising to me he handed me the box telling me he thought that in it were some birthday cards.  James’ bedroom used to be Pippa’s before I moved her into a room close to mine.  Close so I could hear her every breath every night.  And then, later,  I moved her even closer – right into my room.  James was correct.  In the box was a collection of birthday cards of Pippa’s.  I knew this without lifting the lid.  But lift the lid I did anyway.  To my amazement sitting on the very top of some of her birthday cards from when she was a toddler were two ultrasound pictures.  They were from twelve years ago to the day.  The hairs stood up on the back of my neck, my heart stopped and I burst into tears.

Ten fingers and ten toes.  As parents we all check and count with the same intensity of looking at a four leaf clover – making sure we’re counting correctly.  We listen for the first cry – a sign of good, healthy lungs.  We marvel at our newborn’s instinct to attach to the breast and suckle.  They scrunch up their little bodies so used to being curled up in the womb and then time stands still when they first lock eyes with their mother.  Perfect moments of bliss.  Pippa was all that.  Perfect in every way a tiny little newborn should be.  Perfect in the way that all mothers want and hope that their newborns are.  She was born at 39 weeks measuring 48cms and weighing 8 pounds 1 ounce.  ‘Short and fat’ I remembered my brother calling her!  She had an Apgar score of 9 at 1minute and 10 at 5minutes.  She breastfed immediately.  She slept perfectly.  She rarely (in fact I could almost say never) cried.  Pippa was utterly perfect.  A blessing to James, Patrick and me.  Utterly adored.  A treasure we only had for eleven years.

Ten fingers, ten toes, a cute little button nose and a time bomb ticking inside her brain.  I found myself wondering what if I had have known then? What if, at her 20 week ultrasound I knew what twelve years time was going to bring me?  Of course I would have not done a thing.  How could I not have a life full of Pippa for eleven years?  How could Pippa not have a life of eleven years?  Would have our lives been different if I had known what was going to happen?  They most certainly would have.  I know how I was for the 2 years I did know what was going to happen.  A living hell every time I shut my eyes.  I shudder at the thought of having to do that for 11 years.  I’m grateful that twelve years ago I didn’t know what lay ahead.  I would not have wanted that crystal ball.

I then found myself wondering about the next 12 years.  What would the crystal ball show if Pippa hadn’t had a time bomb in her head?  Would she grow up OK?  Unscathed?  The 6 o’clock news doesn’t give us much comfort for what lies ahead – fears for teenagers and young adults; and the fears for our daughters are possibly worse than those for our sons.  I found myself asking what if I just accepted the time bomb and alleviated those fears?  No was the very quick answer.   I would take any fear that I could possibly ever have for the future if it meant that Pippa was still here.  We can hold our children tightly and fear for their safety, their wellbeing and their future.  But I can’t hold Pippa anymore.  To be able to hold her, feel her, hear her, see her smile…far outweighs any fears that the newspapers and televisions can put in front of me.

Instead I have new fears.  Fears for me, James and Patrick in a life and a future without Pippa.  Fears for our wellbeing.  Fears for the scars that Pippa’s brothers will forever carry.  A tragic burden they should never have to endure.  Heartache.

Count as we might, superstitions or not, it turns out that ten fingers and ten toes cannot guarantee us anything.  Not life.  Not happiness.  Not health.

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Innocently Beautifully Sad

It’s now been more than five months since we lost our beautiful Pippa.

As the day approached (the 28th of every month seems to loom as a dark shadow slowly creeping up to engulf me) I thought I was prepared and in control, expecting how my feelings would unfold and what events would mark the day. I was wrong.

I thought that the “five months since losing Pippa” was going to be marked by the beautiful, selfless and humbling gesture shown by Hayley. It wasn’t.

On the morning of Friday 28th August (5 months) I could not ignore the fact that it was “book week” and everywhere I looked were primary aged students (Pippa’s school friends) dressed up as characters from books. I found myself wondering what Pippa would have gone dressed up as?  I have photos of her dressed up as Miss Marple from Agatha Christie, Gabriella from High School Musical (yes, I had made her produce a book!) and my favourite, up a tree as Koala Lou.

Would Pippa have gone as a character from the Faraway Tree?  No, because if she weren’t dying she wouldn’t have been searching for comfort and solace in the magical stories of the Faraway Tree and its warming characters with its mystical lands listening to chapter after chapter every night for the last four months of her life. Would she have gone dressed up as Ruby Red Shoes visiting Paris? No, because she probably wouldn’t have received the book as a gift on her 11th birthday as we wouldn’t have taken a trip to Paris if she weren’t dying.   What character would Pippa have dressed up as for book week in grade 5?  I don’t know.  One of many “I don’t knows” I’m going to face as I gingerly bypass small and not so small milestones after losing a daughter at the precious age of 11 years to an incurable brainstem tumour.

I thought that the “five months since losing Pippa” was going to be marked by costumes and smiling happy faces of other children dressed up for book week. It wasn’t.

Instead, Pippa’s four-year-old friend, Amyius, innocently marked the “five months since losing Pippa”.

I had bumped into Amyuis in one of Pippa’s favourite shops only the Friday before.  Pippa had bought me many little gifts from this homewares’ shop and had decided it, along with her favourite clothing shop, would be good places for her to have her first part time jobs when she turned 14 years and 9 months old (to be precise).

It had been a while since I had seen Amyius and he had not been to our house since Pippa was lying in her bed the days after she passed.  When he came then he was quiet, tip-toeing around careful not to wake her.  Amyius looked at me that day in the shop with a sad little face and told me he always asks his mum, “When is Pippa going to come home so she can eat chips and play trains with me?”   He told me his mum says she’s not coming home.  It was almost like he was hoping that I would prove his mum wrong and correct the answer he had been given.  He gave me a cuddle and let me carry him and his sad little face to the car.

(Pippa took great joy in showing anyone this “isn’t he just so cute?” video of Amyius sending Pippa a message very early on in her diagnosis hoping she gets better soon so she can eat chips and play trains with him again.)

Coinidently, last Friday night (five months) Amyius came around to our house.  This tiny little boy who I have only ever seen cuddle his family and Pippa, gave me another cuddle, pointed to a photo of Pippa and said, “I miss her”.

Later, as football was being watched and chatter was around the table and in the lounge room Amyius and I went quietly to look at all the photos of Pippa.  We ended up in Pippa’s bedroom. Every night I draw the curtains and turn a lamp on.  There’s a few different lamps in Pippa’s room and I turn on whichever of them I feel like at the time.  This night though, for some reason, I had taken a lamp down from on her bookcase, placed it beside her bed and turned that one on.  I had not done this before.  It was a light a friend from school had given Pippa in probably only her last weeks. It has stars of blue and red that glow on the walls and the roof.  Pippa couldn’t use it to go to sleep with as her friend had wanted her to because her eyes didn’t close properly and therefore the projecting lights were too bright.  We did, however, often to turn it on and look at all the beautiful stars it would make around the room. She liked getting me to move it to different positions and heights as each change would alter the “constellation”.

Amyius walked into Pippa’s room and was immediately captivated by the stars.  He was dazzled! He marvelled at the stars, how they changed and at how much he loved Pippa and her room.  He wandered around asking me questions, looking under her bed, touching things and always coming back to the beautiful stars.  He found some jewel stickers that had fallen under her day bed (covered in teddies) and asked if he could stick the love heart ones on Pippa’s bed for her?  He did.  He picked up her little cow pillow pet that sits on her bed beside her pillow.  He cuddled it.  It smells just like Pippa.   When he realised this he went along every other teddy that sits against her pillow on her bed.  He picked them all up, cuddled them and smelt them.  Each of them smelt like Pippa – Sprinkles, Geoffrey, Henry, Monty and Nibbles Puppet.

Pippa's teddies on her bed

He hopped over to the other side of the bed and using Nibbles Puppet ducked down and performed a puppet show for me in which he was Nibbles, Pippa and Amyius.  He told me that the stars were his and Pippa’s stars – hers were the red ones and his were the blue ones.  They were together in the stars.  He said, “When I go home and go to bed and pray to Pippa tonight I will tell her how beautiful the stars in her room are and how they are sparkling for me and her”.  I told him she could see him in her room and she already knew he liked them.

Eventually Amyius asked me if Pippa was ever going to come back to her room and her bed. With my eyes filled with tears, grateful for a dark room and stars sparkling on the walls I told him, “No, our darling Pippa wasn’t going to come back.”  He knelt down beside her bed and lay his head on her doona.  “Well then,” he said, “maybe I could come and have a sleepover in Pippa’s bed so I can smell her teddies.”

He cuddled me again and then we had to go and get his mum to show her Pippa’s room and have her smell Pippa’s teddies.

 

That’s how five months after losing Pippa was marked………eloquently and innocently and oh so sadly beautiful by little her four-year-old friend.

 

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