Hazel to Steve and Nancy, April 13, 1994

This letter was written only a few days before Hazel’s cancer was diagnosed. When I read it today, it was very sad, since it reminded me what life was like BC — before cancer. On reflection, however, I remember all the things which Hazel did in the nearly four and a half years she had left — the painting, the jazz piano, the work around the house, and most particularly the love, imagination, and energy she devoted to me and the children.

6 Vincent St.,
NSW 2041,

13 April 1994

Dear Steve and Nancy,

Where did you get the photo? It is glorious. We have it sitting in the middle of the fridge which is the focus of our world, and we love it. It is so good at capturing the joy and excitement that is Joshua and Zoë that when they are away I find it’s too good at reminding me of what I’m missing. Like right now. Rob has taken J and Z down to Melbourne to see Grandma and aunts and uncles and cousins for an extended Easter break. I have to work but at the same time I’m enjoying my unencumbered condition — the other night I went and saw In the Name of the Father which I liked a lot. The chase through the streets of Belfast at the beginning of the film which galvanised every woman and child into a stone-throwing, flame-throwing riot was brilliant. And I really enjoyed Daniel’s portrayal of feckless Irish youth and troubled son; Postlethwaite was wonderful; the menacing presence of the IRA was well done, etc. I was a bit disturbed by the fictitious legal developments which made it all seem more obvious than the insidious truth, but it made a good story.

We have an au pair. After we got back from California and raced straight back to work, I was exhausted. So we organised a cleaner who comes once a fortnight and transforms the house. I was still exhausted. So we organised an au pair. Her name is Kerstin, she is 20 and she comes from Austria, near the Swiss border. She speaks very little English and we have spent many nights poring over German/English dictionaries in our attempts to communicate. She is shy, she doesn’t cook, does no housework and isn’t particularly energetic. But it seems to be working. Every day her English improves and every day she has a better idea of what the children enjoy. And she has a good laugh. So I hope it will work out. Kerstin is presently down in Melbourne with J, Z & Rob. They are due back tomorrow.

Work has been interesting. I had a five-day inquest recently into the death of a drug dealer/informer who was a protected witness for the authorities, who failed to give evidence against his co-defendants, was dropped from the witness protection program, and was killed in an execution-style killing. So we had every suspect criminal under the sun paraded before the court, claiming the “fifth”. One morning on the way to court, a flashy car pulled over & a groomed and tanned male asked the way to the coroner’s court. “I’m going your way,” I said and jumped in the back of the car. That was a mistake, I thought to myself. Here was I, the legal representative of the police, about to arrive at court (where a barrage of TV cameras was waiting) in the car of a suspected executioner. I got him to drop me before we got to the court, and sure enough he appeared in court and took the fifth. He was the major suspect. I expect you to keep this story to yourselves.

I’m hoping to make a trip to the UK in September to attend my niece’s wedding. I would love to take J and Z (not to mention Rob) but it’s just too expensive for such a short trip. You may remember my sister, Pat, Mother and Aunt Ivy — well, I’m planning a trip with them up to Scotland to see my aunt’s daughter. As long as I keep Ada and Ivy well lubricated on the long trip, they should enjoy themselves, which is the point of the whole thing.

Rob is re-applying for promotion and the application has gone in. I don’t care about his promotion but I do care about his rejection, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. It would be good for him to be able to put it behind him.

It’s Joshua’s birthday next week, and I’ve got to organise a party — each year has its challenge — should I hire a clown? — should I order a Batman cake? — should I persuade him to invite the whole of his class? — when will Zoë realise that Joshua gets a better deal than she gets? etc. While they’ve been in Melbourne, J and Z have forgotten who I am. Rob phones up, and in the middle of a happy rumpus at his sister’s house will try and get J and Z to the phone, and they’re really too absorbed in other things — I in the meantime, patiently and pathetically by the phone, wait to be granted an audience.

And how are you both? I have some photos for you. We have done a couple of trips since we’ve been back — they are places you would enjoy — Barrington Tops (northwest of Newcastle, north of Sydney), living in an old hunting lodge in the middle of the rainforest, kangaroos, lorikeets, bush turkeys, etc., and Riverrun (see James Joyce), a property south of Sydney between Nowra and Bateman’s Bay, almost contained by a river owned by friends, who are busily planting trees, fencing the land and improving the house. You will see it all when you come. When are you coming? It would be so good to see you.

Also see photos of Jervis Bay — gorgeous, & Bundeena. Just something to tempt you with. In the meantime, look after yourselves,

All our love,

Hazel, Rob, Josh & Zoë

And thanks again for the photo! XXXX.

The photo we received from Steve and Nancy was a blown-up, laminated shot of the two of them (Josh and Zoë, that is) in the bath at the Bun’s house in Menlo Park, California.

Hazel didn’t travel to her niece’s wedding. She finally made her last trip to England in early 1996, to her mother’s eightieth birthday party. Aunt Ivy died some months before Hazel did. Pat and the kids and I drove up to see Cousin Anne and Jim in Aberdeen in June, 1999.

Hazel took medical leave from work as soon as the diagnosis was made, returning to work a year later, until the diagnosis of secondary. metastatic cancer was made in August 1995, when she quit and soon took medical early retirement.

I got my promotion later in 1994. After I rang her with the good news, Hazel was able to get us a table that night at Tetsuya’s in Rozelle, Australia’s best restaurant.

Joshua’s fifth birthday party was held the day after the diagnosis came through. Hazel had hired “Bubbles” the clown. That December, for her fourth birthday party, we took Zoë and her friends from Pre-School to “Dollicious”, a combined doll museum and kids’ party venue — there is a video of the event. (The large photo of Hazel on the main web page was taken just before we left for the Dollicious party.) Zoë still reckons she has three parties to go to catch up on Josh.

Last Updated 13 November 2000