Goodbyes hurt the most when the story is not yet finished and the book has been closed forever…

I have been asked each day, sometimes many times a day over the past year by those close to me – How I am?  How I am doing? …I admit to having little to no idea.

Losing Coop has left me devoid of any ability to self-assess.  In fact, Cooper’s passing has stripped me bare of emotion as I once knew it.  Each day is simply survival, and with it, a thinly veiled attempt at making every day count as Coop always did, despite the appalling hand of cards dealt to him.  I never lose sight of the blessing I have in Mitch and Colin, who are the only ones that truly understand the depth of this pain, that rarely eases, and never leaves.

Cooper’s passing took our breath away.  There are days one year on, where we still feel it is nigh on impossible to breath, and panic attacks are common.  It is that moment that can strike anywhere, usually prompted by complete unpredictability, where the gravity of this situation will, without notice, hit hard.

The only means I have been able to find to articulate how each of us feels daily, is for those who are parents, to picture that brief but unplanned separation from your child in a department store, in the street, or indeed in any populated and public place.  Your child leaves your side, in that blink of an eye when you looked just the second before, and they were there.

We can each identify with that swift feeling of all consuming terror.  The nagging pit in our stomachs.  The unfiltered fear. The heart that beats out of your chest.  The pure angst which brings with it an inability to breathe, and the cold sweat – until your child is finally back by your side, and you allow yourself to slowly breath again…The feeling of sheer and utter relief you feel cannot be articulated nor replicated.

From the moment I open my eyes each morning, there is a split second where life is perfect again, and Coop is asleep in another room of the house – the way it was always meant to be.   Then reality sets in, and the terror and angst of twelve gut-wrenching months of separation is ever present, until relief finally comes in the form of sleep, and the pain is once again gone – albeit temporarily.

I became a different person when August of 2018 came around – counting each day, as the 24th drew closer.  Each day represented a day closer to the day we lost our precious son and brother, and each was associated with its own bitter sweet memories of the last two Augusts, since the nightmare began.

Each day I wonder what I missed, or I what could have done better.  I ask myself why I could not find the answers.  Parents are fixers.  They fix the problems in their children’s lives.  When the stark reality hits and you cannot fix a dire situation despite your best efforts, the helplessness and complete loss of control is palpable and debilitating, and you live with the guilt on a daily basis thereafter.

People often speak of turning back time in an effort to make each moment count.  Thankfully, we did just that – we lived in the moment, led by the courageous and fearless young man who bore so much pain throughout his brief life, and despite this, fought hard to leave his mark.  The problem is, it is never enough – no-one never wants the moment to end. No-one ever expects it will.  When you are the parent of a gravely ill child, you live with hope, and you never give up. Giving in is not an option.

This form of grief is similar to living two lives – one is where you publicly pretend you are doing well, and the other is where your heart silently screams out in pain.

We have been blessed with wonderful friends and family, as many who walk this road do so alone.  Random acts of kindness from those we have never met, have melted our hearts along the way.

Conversely this journey can be a sad revelation of the strength of true friendship, and it is fair to say there have been some insurmountable disappointments along the way, but very, very few.  It is a sad reflection that even in the depths of despair, people will form ill- conceived judgments about your journey, and how you deal with what comes your way.  You find yourself feeling sorry for those who do this, and often wonder how they would cope given the same hand of cards.

Cooper used the analogy of a train full of passengers pulling out from the station, and by the time it arrives at its final destination, a number of passengers have disembarked – this is the way he saw his treatment, and his declining health, with regards to those close to him.  He knew unequivocally, who his real friends were, and he ensured we knew also.  These friends were by Cooper’s side throughout, and there until the end of his journey.

To those people who have wrapped their arms around our family from afar, and walked this road with us, we are humbled, and will never be able to adequately and properly thank you for your love, thoughtfulness and kindness, the absence of judgment, and the endless support you have provided.  We are truly blessed for your presence in our lives, and each of you knows without doubt, who you are. If I could, I would name each of you individually, but it would take me days, if not weeks to do so.

With the next twelve months looming, we will continue to place one foot in front of the other, all the while, attempting to each day place our best foot forward.  We will make mistakes, we will often be difficult to read, we will sometimes withdraw, we will forget things – often birthdays, but we will never for a moment forget the love and support we have received over the past year, and how blessed we were to have Cooper in our lives, albeit so briefly.

The absence of Cooper’s larger than life presence, his courage, and the very essence of who he was, has created an enormous void for those who loved him so very much.  It is a void that can never be filled.  Our hearts remain broken, as we are forced to once more contemplate life without him.

Cooper will live on in our hearts, and in all we do in his name, for eternity…

The definition of a true friend to the end…

A very excited Coop jumped in the car after the school sports carnival in July of 2014, announcing he had found the next Sydney Swans first grade player.

Coop had for some time been studying the form from afar, of this new SGS student who hailed from Cranbrook, and had noticed he was skilful, dedicated, lightning fast, and according to Coop, he had just the right balance of ‘mongrel’ and passion.   Needless to say – he liked what he saw.

We were intrigued as it was rare for Coop to comment on others – he liked to back himself, and always did so.  At a school where AFL was not an option for sport, it was even more rare to find those boys who did play the game at club level, and whilst there was a depth of AFL talent, this young man had obviously stood out from the rest.

The two formed a special bond, forged by the commonality of AFL, and then playing in the school cricket side together.  They shared a love of sport, and a wicked sense of humour, often at the expense of others – but never spiteful.  Some of my most fond memories of the boys were during cricket lunches where there was a look of pure joy on Coop’s face whilst devouring ‘Charcoal Charlies’, and strategising about removing the opposing side.

Lachie was not only a talent on the AFL field, but also proved to be a formidable opponent on the cricket field.  At one point, he and Coop opened the bowling for SGS, and they relished every moment.

When Coop was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, it was Lachie and his beautiful family who were the first to put their hands up for anything and everything, and to this day, nothing has changed.  Carolyn, Simon, Lachie, Ned and Ella provide our family with love and support, and never waver.

Cooper loved the fact ‘ Swaney ‘was then shorter than him, and enjoyed letting him know, he needed to grow if he was going to be serious about his AFL.  This was his way of letting Swaney know he backed him.  Swaney took the advice and grew…almost as tall as Coop – but thankfully he knew better than to overtake him.

Lachie was one of the few friends Coop would allow to see his condition deteriorate – a testament to their friendship, and the trust Coop held for his friend.  At 16, Lachie showed immense courage in visiting and supporting Coop during some of his darkest moments – sometimes Coop was so weak Lachie would be forced to leave after a short time, but this never phased him.  Suffice to say most adults would have found this process excruciatingly difficult – but Lachie took it in his stride, and provided untold comfort to Coop’s troubled mind throughout his swift deterioration.

On September 3rd, Lachie ably assisted his team at the East Sydney Bulldogs to a premiership, and as always, took a starring role in doing so.  It is of note, this was only two days after we farewelled Coop in the hallow surrounds of the John Vallance Hall, on September 1, 20187.

As you may imagine, it was an easy decision to ask Lachie to join us as Ambassador at CRBF in honour of his friend who treasured their time together.  We know that Coop would have loved to have seen how Lachie’s career is taking off, but it would come as no surprise.  He always knew it would.

There is no doubt there will be an ever-present voice during every game Lachie plays, during what will no doubt be a stellar AFL career.  It will be telling him what he is doing wrong, and how he can do it better – and reminding him he will NEVER grow to 189.5cm…

Thank you Rob Hao!

On Friday 10th August, 200 passionate classical musical lovers came together, and with the exception of rapturous applause, you could hear a pin drop.  From the moment pianist Rob Hao emerged from the wings, to be seated at the grand piano to begin his recital, the audience were spellbound.

Rob’s recital, superbly set in the commanding presence of Big School Hall, at Sydney Grammar School, delighted all those who were fortunate to have secured a seat, and were transported to another place, whilst listening to  late Chopin works, Bach and Alban Berg, together with an early Beethoven sonata to complete the flawless performance.

The Cooper Rice-Brading Foundation, and in particular the Rice-Brading family, wish Rob every success during his time in the UK, where he will commence an undergraduate Bachelor of Music course, majoring in piano performance, at the Royal College of Music in London.

There is absolutely no doubt how bright the future is for this accomplished young man, who is not only a talented musician, but the loveliest young man you could ever hope to meet.

Amazing people doing amazing things….

Heide Middleton and Sarah Jane Clarke are not only the founders of the highly successful Australian fashion label Sass and Bide, they have also lent their highly credible names to improving survival outcomes for sarcoma patients, with their fundraising and awareness initiatives.

It was while Heidi Middleton was staging her own battle with breast cancer, that her friend Kate Boyson was also staging a valiant battle with a Ewings Sarcoma diagnosis. Ewings Sarcoma is a highly aggressive and rare form of primary bone cancer.

Kate passed away in October of 2007, five months after her diagnosis, leaving behind her husband Marcus who now chairs Rainbows for Kate, the Foundation that proudly her name.  Kate and Marcus also had two young children.  Heidi was understandably devastated by the tragic and unnecessary loss of her friend at the age of 32.

Sass and Bide presented a tribute to Kate at New York Fashion Week, 2008, titled ‘Rainbows for Kate’ . This collection was inspired by a bracelet Heidi made for Kate, which contained coloured beads representative of different emotions, which today forms the basis of the Foundation logo. When addressing those at the Sass and Bide show, Heidi’s poignant words remain a strong reminder of all the qualities she admired and missed in her beautiful friend Kate Boyson.

My beautiful friend, tonight we celebrate your incredible spirit… your unbelievable courage, your shining heart…your ‘light any room’ smile…you burst into my life like a beautiful rainbow…” 

This story is a powerful reminder that sarcoma, like most cancer, does not discriminate.  It can affect all ages, despite disproportionately affecting young people.  Kate’s story, put simply, is heartbreaking.

Kate’s story also serves to remind us of the strength of the human spirit.  Her husband Marcus, their children, and her dear friend Heidi Middleton, all worked through their  unspeakable grief, to help spare others from traveling the same road.

The highly successful Rainbows For Kate, (RFK) funds ‘critical research that will bring hope, time and more treatment options to those diagnosed with Sarcoma cancers.’

RFK has contributed more than a million dollars to sarcoma research, and last Saturday night marked their ten -year milestone at The Swifts, Darling Point.  We are in awe of what this Foundation has achieved over a decade, for sarcoma research, and ‘grass roots’ awareness, and their outstanding resilience.

Please go to the website www.rainbowsforkate.com.au to donate or press the link below

 

http://www.rainbowsforkate.com.au/donations.html