Pippa Rea

Pippa's Journey with a Brain Tumour

It’s My Birthday and I’ll Cry if I want to

My birthday is on April Fool’s Day.  No Jokes.

For all my life I relished the date as an awesome day to celebrate a birthday.  It’s a day where silly announcements are broadcast over the morning news headlines, fooling many but not all.  Those who fall for it laugh at their gullibility and those who don’t give themselves a “you-can’t-fool-me” pat on the back.  It’s a day where, as children in primary school, we used to run around putting “pinch me” signs on each other’s backs or scream in horror pretending to see a massive spider on the teacher’s shoulder.  As an adult, it’s a day where my three children have put toothpaste in Oreo biscuits and ‘thoughtfully’ served me afternoon tea.  Or they’ve held on to their hysterical laughter just long enough for me to take a drink from my salt filled water bottle.

Yes, April Fool’s Day is a day where everyone seems to have half a smile on their lips waiting to see what will happen to make them or someone else burst at the seams with laughter.  What a great day April Fool’s Day is to celebrate your birthday!

Like most people, I’ve had many and varied birthday celebrations.   As years go on, we celebrate less or at least, in different ways.  Cards are not often sent and people now send text messages or post best wishes on Facebook timelines.  Many friends send me lovely birthday messages but in some I sense the struggle at using the word “Happy”.   Likewise, others are careful to construct a message sending love and wishes without using the word “Happy”.  Some friends send lovely lengthy words of kindness and kinship.  Beautiful, thoughtful birthday messages, every single one of them.

On my birthday in 2015 friends flocked to be by my side all day.   Several close girlfriends descended on my house for birthday dinner and drinks.  They bore gifts, they cooked, they ate, they drank, they cleaned up and they left.  They didn’t know what else to do so, as only women do best, they gathered.  I was not left alone for one minute.  I was grateful for the attention I received.   I did, however, request that they all leave my house at 8.30pm so I could be alone with my children.  It was not a party.  There was no celebration.  There never will be.  Yes, I’ll have birthday dinners or lunches, probably birthday drinks again, but that birthday will forever cast a dark shadow on April Fool’s Day for the rest of my birthdays to come.

It was a warm, balmy, summery day.  Unusual for the 1st of April.   My friends could have stayed and enjoyed the drinks and the chatter well into the evening.  They didn’t though.  They respectfully left in accordance with my wishes.  My children and I sat together, alone in the latter part of the evening.  We spent special quiet time on my birthday.  Time together and alone.  Time, we will never have again.

Then the time came.  10.00pm on Wednesday 1st April 2015; the night of my 44th birthday.  Late enough on such a warm evening that no one would be out walking their dogs.

On that balmy, false, summery evening, under the cloak of darkness, a vehicle reversed into my driveway.  The back was opened so that my two sons and I could view what was inside.  I quietly inspected it.  The boys, I could tell, were both surprised and moved by what they saw.   The mere sight of it took my breath away.  My heart simply froze and time stood still.  It looked exactly as I had imagined it would.  When the idea came to me months earlier, I didn’t realise it would arrive on my birthday, but there it was – my birthday present.  No one else had been able to visualise it like me.  No one else had the ability nor the clarity.  For me though, the vision had been very clear.  I was awestruck.

As my heart once again started to beat, without daring to move my gaze and in a barely audible voice, I whispered to the man standing beside me, “That’s just how I imagined it,”

“I’ve never seen one more perfect,” he quietly replied.

The two gentlemen calmly asked permission to enter our house.  My sons and I stood in the hallway as they wheeled a large metal trolley into Pippa’s bedroom.  They gently pulled back her Paris doona cover and carefully lifted her from where she had been lying for four days.  They placed my precious daughter on the sterile trolley, covered her up again and silently wheeled her out our front door.  It took less than a minute and it was all done in complete silence.

In our driveway, they rolled the trolley into the back of the hearse beside the white coffin I had especially designed for her.  Despite the warmth, a chill went down my spine as I stared once again at her casket.  It was covered in so many of her beautiful colourful drawings.   Drawings and words that had been created by her little hands.  The same little hands that would always, without fail, slip into mine as we were walking.

The largest drawing was a of big red love heart positioned on the centre of both sides with the word “Mummy” happily handwritten above.  Beside it, a perfect picture of a rose, “Mummy’s Rose”.  Puppy dogs, rainbows, birds, friends, suns shining and dolphins swimming, all covered the sides.  There was so much colour.  A picture of the Eiffel Tower adorned the top of the casket and the most exquisitely painted purple, yellow and blue butterfly majestically graced each end.

A cold, horrid white coffin had been brought to life through Pippa’s bright, cheerful, innocent drawings and paintings.

The men closed the doors and drove away.  Tears streaming down our faces, James, Patrick and I went back inside our house; our home that now had one less member of our little family in it.

The next day, two years ago today, on the 2nd April 2015, over a thousand people attended a celebration of Pippa’s 11 beautiful years in our life.  They gathered on the lush green grass under a tree canopied blue sky in the beauty and tranquility of the botanical gardens.  They watched photos and videos of Pippa come to life on a 5-metre screen.  They listened to her brothers and me speak her eulogies.  The duck pond surrounded by weeping willows and with its lily pads and quaint cobble-stoned bridge formed a perfect back drop for the service.

Finally, as she was carried through the crowd and over the little stone bridge to a reading from Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree, one thousand people were fascinated and transfixed, gazing in wonder at the beautiful casket – my birthday present.

April Fool’s Day is my birthday and now, every year, I will cry if I want to.

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Artistic Inspiration

Recently  I met Pippa’s class at the art gallery.  Pippa’s portrait is on display in a local competition.  It has been entered by her Teacher Aide who spent a lot of time with Pippa both in the classroom this year and at our home.  They would laugh, play games, find cool music apps, draw, paint, do assignments and of course her favourite school work – maths.  Pippa was very chuffed that she was capable of doing maths equations far beyond her years and Jeff always left our home with sheets full of math problems and numbers depicting the latest numeric patterns they were working on.  She even did this on her very last day.

Needless to say, Jeff, like everyone has been deeply affected by the loss of Pippa.  Jeff stays in touch which is lovely and along with registering her star on our behalf, he has put his feelings into two magnificent pieces of artwork.

We went along to admire his talent and the class of E1 then had some quiet time drawing or writing what they felt on paper. There were some attempts at replicating Jeff’s portrait, but there were also a lot of beautiful frangipanis drawn – art again inspired by Pippa!

Both of Jeff’s pieces are done with fine pencil and the detail is incredible.  This portrait is currently hanging in the Warrnambool Art Gallery until 16 August

Pippa Rea, Legs Eleven


I’m almost certain Jeff’s portrait received quite a few “people’s choice” votes that day!

Jeff is still entering the following drawing in art competitions around the country.  Every time I see it it takes my breath away – as someone said to me, they have never seen someone so recognisable from behind!  Good luck to Jeff on getting this piece of art displayed somewhere as well.


Jeff has written very moving and just as touching words that accompany these pieces:

Pippa Rea (Legs Eleven)

I’ve always thought that people come into your life for a reason. They come into your life and make an impact either large or small. You may notice, you may not. I am a teacher aide at a primary school, and this picture is about a special little girl who I supported at that school. She was a very active, friendly, intelligent and an inspiring girl who liked to dream big.

When I first met her I knew she was special. I knew she was in my life for a reason. This special little girl was fighting a big battle with terminal cancer. Everybody thought that she didn’t have long to live, but I was determined and motivated to help her fight it and become better again. As the weeks went by her illness expanded, leaving her unable to walk, talk and hear very clearly. This didn’t stop her though, she was still eager to go to school and hang out with her friends and do school work. On her days when she was unable to make it to school, I was assigned to teach her at her home. It was a very challenging and different experience for me, however, I enjoyed every moment of it. This experience helped me grow as a person by giving me courage and inspiration to live life to the fullest.

Away from school, she liked to play music, especially drums. Unfortunately, with her illness and lack of movement, she wasn’t able to play anymore. However, she could still use her right hand, so I downloaded some drum apps on her iPad so she could still play. She also liked to paint and draw, which was great because it was something I liked to do and that we could do together.

Early this year, she passed away peacefully in her sleep. I was beyond devastated. When I received the msg on my phone, I was right in the middle of the city (Melbourne Central). Surrounded by busy city life, the whole world seemed like it had stopped.

This picture is explaining about this special little girl and her next journey. The ripples in the water are representing multi-universes and different dimensions. She is walking through these dimensions trying to find her own special place. The picture fades out into the distance and is representing the unknown, and that is where her next journey begins.

This special little girl has put a mark on my life forever, and has inspired me to do bigger and greater things. I will always remember her courage and strength, wherever I go and whatever I do. Every time I do a drawing, go for a surf, play music and even going on adventures. She will always be there in my mind and I know she is out there watching over me and everyone else.

Jeff is also the owner of the grey haired, blue eyed husky – precisely what Pippa has always wanted for her 16th birthday!  Exactly the gift I as mother of a long legged, beautiful individual was going to be very happy to give her!!


I am proud to be Pippa’s mum and proud of the inspiration she has unknowingly bestowed upon others.


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