Last week, Helena, a dear friend to my two sisters, died. She was mother to two young children, wife, sister, highly respected photographer.
|Helena photographing my sister's wedding in Ohope Beach 14 years ago|
Over the last two years she saw only close friends and family as she had Sezary, a rare blood cancer affecting the skin. It caused her so much pain and disfiguration the unfairness was impossible to comprehend. I remember her as a tiny, beautiful art student wearing vintage dresses, big beads and leather sandals. Whomever she spoke to felt like the most important person in the room - she would fix them with her intense blue gaze and iridescent smile. She was a bloody good laugh. She tried always to be good and kind. Why did she have to suffer?
A close friend of ours - one of the fittest and most vital of all the fathers we know - found out last month he has cancer. He has started the onslaught of treatment with all that means; the rollercoaster of drugs that strip almost everything from you. His three children are friends with our children and the past decade has been a slideshow with his family and others; skiing, laughing, drinking, eating, being with our kids and being ourselves.
How do you make sense of this? How do you stop railing against the unfairness? The Art Of Fielding which I finished last night, says: "The true fielder lets the path of the ball become his own path, thereby comprehending the ball and dissipating the self..."
It's hard to be a gentle noticer. Someone who says: "The sky is so blue" and allows that to be sustaining. I'm more: "When I walk the length of the beach at home, you have to touch the cliff to show you've reached the end." So this weekend, I tried to just notice.
1. Cy, 8, said: "You need to put more photos of Teddy on your blog, he's very important." Here you go, Cy.
2. The kangaroo paws always nudge you as you walk down the front steps...
3. Tallulah,11, has a secret language with friends and they call each by store names. Here Tallulah (Ikea) is doing some Royal Bouncing.
Helena had a website for her photography, explaining it as a journey: "As a kid I used to sit at Dad's feet as we hurtled through the Hawkes Bay countryside at night in the Holden Kingswood, and he would tell me when there was a car approaching and I would push the 'dip' button by his feet and thus adjust the car's lights. As I clicked through from high beam to low beam I would imagine the cars coming and feel safe and happy helping out and visualising our journeys in the dark."
Maybe the answer is: she is still traveling. And further down the road we will see her sky-blue eyes once again.