Pippa Rea

Pippa's Journey with a Brain Tumour

Pippa’s Muddy Mud Cakes

Today at the end of what should be Pippa’s 15th birthday I feel I have more questions than ever.  Most of them are wondering and searching for answers that will never be.  Wonder at how Pippa, the 15 year old teenager, would celebrate her birthday?  Wonder at what subjects Pippa, the 15 year old school girl, would have chosen this year?  Wonder at what sports Pippa, the 15 year old athlete, would be playing?  Wonder at what Pippa, the 15 year old young lady, would be like.  How tall would she be?  What clothes would she be wearing?  Would her friends be the same as four years ago or would she have new ones?  Would she have a part time job?  Would she have spent endless summer days at the beach?  Would her hair still be long?

Why??????

Another day and another birthday passes though and I have no answers.  Not a single one.  I know Pippa the 11 year old. Pippa the 15 year old only exists in my imagination with her future never to be told.

Pippa was famous for making chocolate mud cakes on birthdays.  Or for Easter.  Or anytime she thought would be a good time for chocolate mud cake!  She was often asked for our recipe.  So I thought that on her birthday, I would make and share her recipe for chocolate mud cakes – most often topped with a Malteser.

Pippa’s Muddy Mud Cake(s)

250g butter, chopped

250g dark chocolate, chopped

3/4 cup caster sugar

20ml whiskey

1 1/2 cups hot water

1 1/4 cups self raising flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla

  • Preheat oven to 160
  • Sift flour and cocoa together
  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan
  • Add chocolate, sugar, whiskey and hot water
  • Stir over low heat until chocolate is just melted and mixture is smooth
  • Gradually beat flour and cocoa into chocolate mixture using a wooden spoon
  • Add eggs and vanilla and beat until well combined
  • Pour into a buttered and lined 24 cm tin (or cup cake patty papers or mini cupcake papers)
  • Bake for approximately 50 mins or until a skewer comes out almost clean (shorter if smaller cakes)
  • Stand in cake tin for 10 mins before turning on a wire rack to cool
  • Ice with chocolate ganache and top with a Malteser!
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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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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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Happy Birthday Pippa

I keep forgetting what Pippa did for her 10th birthday so I looked back on photos……..then I remembered.  It was a sleep over party with 6 friends.  It started off like any normal 10 year old’s birthday but then in the middle of the night things went pear shaped and Pippa ended up with a visit by the doctor and then a hospital admission the next morning.  Not much fun in the end.

The start of last year’s party

Twelve months on, Pippa is now Eleven and despite everything else she is still just like any other ten year old excited in anticipation.  She went to bed with “1 more sleep till my birthday”

One More Sleep

Adding to the  build up, Pippa started receiving a few cards and gifts early including a special delivery of her favourite flowers…….

Frangipanis

I have to be truthful and say we are in a place where we never thought we would be.  Never dared dream of being.  Even though things are different and things are hard we wouldn’t swap it for the alternative.  So many people have helped me pull a very challenging birthday together in a short space of time, I am eternally grateful and I hope Pippa has lots of fun.

Mostly though, tonight, I have been taken by Pippa’s wonderful brothers  and the thought and effort they have gone to not only buy her gifts that she can enjoy (and have sooooooo much fun) with each of them, but create a lounge room of colour and fun that she will wake up to………My heart has melted with their energy and exuberance.  I am just so proud of them.

The simple fact that James and Patrick came straight home from school this evening, cancelled their cricket training, organised themselves (including those to ferry them around their shopping lists) and did everything they have done without any input from me (but a little assistance from their hand picked balloon blowing expert) is an incredible indication of their love for their sister.

My divine Pippa is 11 and not even the worst brain tumour in the world was going to prove itself more powerful than her.  Yet again she is bouncing back and having some good days.  I cannot believe her strength and her amazing courage and determination to live the best life she can.

Happy 11th Birthday darling Pippa.

“Girl, You’re Amazing Just the Way You Are”………..Pippa, You Always Have Been and You Always Will Be.

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