Gifts from an Artist

Sunday the 15th of September would be the 40th Birthday of my friend Ricki.

She died at the end of 2006 from breast cancer, which by then had ravaged her body.  She was an amazing chick, and she amazed me, right ’til the end.  She had a loving husband Greg, and two gorgeous, kids, who are still the strongest, coolest, most lovely children around.  The following is a little something I wrote, about a week after she died.


Painting by Ricki

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower,

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief.

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

-Robert Frost

I first met Rick when she bounced into work looking for a job.  She was all froth and bubble, and filled a room completely.  I had my reservations, but our manager had the foresight to let her join the team, and so our learning began.  Over time, I found that Ricki was an artist, and lived that way, so rules were less important to her than connection, or passion.  Or beauty.  Or the search for truth.

Later, observing Rick and her sister Hayley working together to open a cafe, I saw another side to her: her organisation, her creativity and her ability to stay on purpose.  I also saw how that big hearted, big sister just gave and gave unconditionally.

Of course she was always giving.  Little gifts for me every Monday night when I’d visit her at her home, when she was too fragile to come into the office for her care; home cooked food, or a present for Liam.  And even more valuable, were the gifts she gave of herself, always in that courageous way she had, without fear or reservation.

In writing about death, Stephen King once said there’s a lot we aren’t told about death.  Of how it is secret, how difficult the letting go part is, because none of us would ever want to get close to another if we knew we’d feel like this, for even a second.  But I think Ricki would.  She’d risk it.  Because she was so brave.

Someone once said that “books read us”, that we see things not as they are, but as we are, and maybe it’s the same for people.  At least I hope so.   For if each of us has even a little of what we loved and admired about Ricki within us, then we are truly blessed.

Monday just gone, Greg said to me that “Rick always felt better when you’d been around”, and I felt honoured to think, that especially in those last few weeks, I have been able to help her a little, because I know I always felt better.  Like somehow just being in Rick’s glow made me a better person, or a least want to be better.  Somehow stronger, or closer to my truth.

This week her kids and I had a play in the house that is somehow still so full of Rick, (she still fills a room), and I had a fun time learning from those amazing two.  The Boy was the ever practical one, wanting to take down Ricki’s Christmas stocking because “She’s not going to be here for Christmas you know”, and The Girl shared with me how, if you go and put your whole face in Ricki’s clothes, you can still smell her.

And so it is for all of us.  We all carry things within us that remind us of Rick.  It might be a smell, or the taste of good chocolate, or a snippet of a song we know she loved, or the emotion from a great piece of art, or a big irreverent belly laugh, or just a bloody-minded stubborn desire to face challenges head on.

We carry these memories within us, because Rick was a chick who made markings on people’s souls.

So nothing gold can stay?  Maybe not physically, but with the brush strokes she left on our hearts, Ricki our artist, will always stay.  Golden.

Still miss ya Ricki.  Happy 40th.