Pippa Rea

Pippa's Journey with a Brain Tumour

A Birthday with no Birthday Girl

That’s precisely what it was.  Saturday 13th February.  The day when Pippa should have been jumping on my bed waking me up excited to open her 12th birthday presents.

Instead we woke silently and with no excitement.   We had what Pippa would have ordered for her birthday breakfast – pancakes complete with nutella and strawberries of course.  Thanks to a thoughtful friend of Pippa’s we even had a present to open.

The boys and I had a list to work through to get ourselves ready for the day.  I most importantly had to make Pippa’s favourite chocolate mousse for her birthday dinner dessert.  We needed to pack the car with things to take to the beach.  A picnic had to be made and a cool bag organised to keep the drinks and food cold seeing as we were going to be there all afternoon.  A birthday sign to make it a party of course was required.  Flowers for the birthday girl.  Chocolate Brownie.  The motions were rolling.

My phone was busy with texts and calls like on any other birthday. The rule in our house on your birthday is that the birthday person has to answer every phone call.  There was no birthday girl to do that.

The day was beautiful, the sun warm and the sky and the water at Port Fairy’s East beach were both crystal clear and breathtakingly spectacular.  The only thing missing was the birthday girl turning cartwheels on the sand and calling out to me from the water, “Come on mum, why don’t you come in for a swim the water’s beautiful!” when I know too well it’s a touch on the refreshingly icy side of chilly.   But that’s what she would have said with a cheeky grin on her face.

So many people came and went across the afternoon and I am incredibly grateful to everyone.  It really was a strategy to help James, Patrick and me cope with what was always going to be a difficult day.  Pippa described her 11th birthday as her best ever despite not being able to talk, eat or walk.   I think Saturday was the best we could manage for her 12th birthday.  It was in fact perfect, but…there was no birthday girl.  I felt numb and empty.

People were sprawled all over the sand, on the grass bank, in and out of the water.  Flowers were placed at the base of her memorial seat.  Pippa’s friends swam, surfed, played cricket, built sand castles, used her kayak.  At first everyone tentatively looked and marvelled at the seat but eventually the ice somehow broke and photos started to be taken of her friends sitting, standing and playing on it.

At one point I overheard some of the young boys standing around Pippa’s seat having a chat.  They were talking about death and what it feels like to die.  The result of this gorgeous conversation was that it doesn’t hurt to die and that it doesn’t matter how long it takes for you to die because when someone starts to die you go to the place where your dreams and memories are and that’s where you stay.  You feel only good things and you don’t know time.  And then they ran off back to the beach.  It was utterly beautiful and I don’t know if these boys came up with this on their own or whether one of them had previously discussed it with some wonderful parents.    Regardless, what I do know is that they certainly wouldn’t have been standing around a headstone in a cemetery or a plaque at crematorium having this conversation.  This simple, casual chat makes the memorial seat even more special invoking such raw and innocent discussions in children that will help them all deal with such a difficult topic.

Toward the end of the day darling little 4 year old Lottie came up to me and said, “Ginya, I’ve been looking all day but I can’t see Pippa!  I’m cross with her that she’s not here!”  I said, “Oh Lottie, when I went in for a swim before I’m sure I saw her.”  Together we looked up to the sky.  It was no longer clear as some whispy clouds were floating around.  We strained to see and eventually there she was – the faint crescent of the moon appeared in between the clouds.  Lottie was absolutely thrilled to see that Pippa hadn’t missed her birthday.  To Lottie, Pippa lives in the moon and she loves seeing her during the day time.  They are always special days for Lottie.

We came home after a long day in the sun a little tired and with presents and cards to open and read.  The day was not unlike any beach birthday party.  It was simply missing three very integral parts:

  • there was no happy birthday song
  • there was no birthday cake
  • there was no birthday girl

Saturday 13th February was Pippa’s 12th birthday but she will never be twelve.  Instead, she will always and forever be “Legs Eleven”.

Our thanks to everyone who made our day bearable.  I love this very special photo

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In memory of our beautiful Pippa Rea

13/02/2004 – 28/03/2015

A Nipper at Port fairy SLSC, Pippa loved this beach

Please enjoy the beautiful views 

sitting or playing on her surfboard seat.  

“Happy Memories”

Designed and kindly donated by Bamstone

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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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