10 May 1948 – 14 September 1998
Sunday 20th Sept 1998
Dear Rob, Josh, Zoë and Pat,
Thinking of you all tomorrow and wishing you all the strength needed to carry on!!
The following are some of my memories of the Hazel I knew and admire and I only hope they do some justice.
My first recollection of Hazel is of her casually strolling into the playground as though she had all the time in the world, and apart from those gorgeous legs that seemed to go on for ever her most striking feature was that face with that physically serene smile and that faultless "English" skin. At first we didn’t speak much but as the boys became better acquainted I couldn’t help but be taken in by this warm vibrant person who seemed to be curious about anyone and everyone, especially those who came in contact with her children.
The Hazel I will remember was eternally cheerful, infuriatingly relaxed under any conditions, blissfully & tactfully direct, delightfully vague & yet also devastatingly intellectually aware. She was also invariably late, completely & happily disregarding of convention & I found with a typically English eccentric wit crossed with more than a little dry Australian humour.
As a mother, it always struck me how totally flexible Hazel was with her children, it didn’t seem to matter what else was going on at the time or what the current ‘thing to do’ was, Hazel would carry on regardless, only worrying about what was truly important to Josh & Zoë and what made them happy. Regardless of what she was doing at the home she always had endless amounts of time to listen to them and above all to be interested in what they had to say. Hopefully in times to come Josh and Zoë will remember this, as I’m sure they will, and realise how lucky they were to have a mother with such interest, passion and devotion for her children.
I remember Hazel as being interested in not only her own children but in other people’s as well. We all remember her weekly "chess lesson"* as her effort to combat the "computer age" and how much the boys enjoyed it. It was very Hazel to want them to learn the simple pleasures in life. When I told Gus of Hazel’s death he said he was sad and then he smiled and said he remembered the chess lessons and how Hazel would make them cheese on toast. "She was always happy, Mum, happy and kind," he said. I’m sure this is how they will all remember her — children rarely forget.
My own personal favourite memory of Hazel is of her artistic talents. Those beautiful black-and-whites she had around the kitchen and her colours later on as she developed. It was always good to call in each week to see what she was painting and we’d do the full critic and examine in depth her technique, use of colour & improvements. She was not only good at it, but passionate about it, which was wonderful to see, even if she herself doubted her talent at times. I remember her coming to our house on a Tuesday afternoon to pick up Josh & Zoë with patches of paint on her hands, hair & face, straight from art classes and absolutely full of enthusiasm for her painting and the enjoyment she got from it — It was enviable, and I have missed for quite some time now those afternoons talking over a glass of wine. I’m sure all those paintings will be highly valued and very much appreciated by you in years to come. They speak for themselves.
It is hard to put down on paper set memories of someone you know, even if it was a brief period of time because there are so many of them.
The excitement and ‘full on’ involvement in creating the new garden, complete with ‘fountain and pond.’ The way she devoured the gardening books she borrowed and returned them saying she was completely overwhelmed by all the beauty.
The hopes and enthusiasm she had when the property was bought at ‘Dargan’ and how wonderful it would be for the children — building that billy cart!!!
In the early stages of Hazel’s secondaries and during her remission period I remember talking at length about her illness and always being surprised at how direct and positive she was about it. She was quite convinced and therefore so was I that she would manage it all, beat it and get on with life. Perhaps it was for this reason I found it hard to see her in the final stages — perhaps it was simply not wanting to accept that this had finally beaten her and not just that I didn’t want to intrude. Sometimes, however, I know Hazel would be the first person to understand.
Like everyone I find Hazel’s death devastating, confronting and unfair — I wish she had built that tennis court; I wish she could be there to see Josh and Zoë grow into wonderful adults; I wish she was there for Rob and indeed for all of us; and I wish she had built that ‘Artists Garret’ in which she was going to slip blissfully into her twilight years and become an eccentric artist!!! Surviving on cheese, bread, wine, the smell of turpentine and talking to her grandchildren.
I do hope she is happy now to be free of the pain and I truly hope for all of you that the time will come very soon when thinking of her brings you comfort, joy and happy memories rather than the pain & deprivation you must all be feeling now.
With my love and greatest sympathy,
Susie was a friend of Hazel’s.
* The chess lessons were given by a local chess teacher whom Hazel invited to 6 Vincent Street on Monday afternoons; a group of boys of Josh’s age learnt chess (as did Zoë). Later, Vicky Vivian, the school principal, continued them at the school.