• Alison

Roisin's Pillow & The Tree of Life

I’m on day 4 post chemo, these days are the most unsettling when you need to sleep and your mind and body is not really cooperating, I’m just up and mindlessly flicking through Netflix after a night of broken sleep, tossing and turning in bed while my mind tries to filter a million thoughts As I try and find the elusive perfect spot,, I reach to feel the silk of a pillowcase that was given to me by one of the most wonderful ladies that has come in to my life since I was diagnosed. It made me think of all the friends, new and old, and that they have done for me in the past 4 years.

Roisin is the mother of great friend, who I bonded with over many gin and tonics at the Dalkey Book Festival nearly 3 years ago, after we attended an audience with Salman Rushdie, We met up after this illuminating night in a local watering hole where we mused over Salman being a bit full of it, and then compared tumours and if we should be drinking while on chemo – we both agreed we should (in a slightly black sense of humour sort of way!). Having these conversations with people like Roisin is uplifting.

Your family and friends may not always understand the details of dealing with a diagnosis, but the release of a few giggles with a fellow cancer crusader who just understands is therapeutic. After our night on the gin, Roisin gifted me one of the most beautiful and thoughtful presents I have ever received, a silk pillowcase. The cream silk case arrived with a card explaining how resting your head on silk when you just can’t sleep, letting the luxury of the fabric rest against you skin will help you drift off. She also explained how it’s the kind of thing that you would never buy for yourself, always the most appreciated type of gift I think. Someone had shared this secret with her and she wanted to pass it on to me. I have a pre-chemo routine which involves making sure my bed sheets are clean and fresh before I go in to hospital and always make sure I’ve “Roisin’s Pillow” washed and ready for my pile of pillows to get me comfy and restful. Sadly the beautiful Roisin was taken from us over a year ago and I love to think of her often when I rest my head. She was a remarkable woman who embraced creativity throughout her life and, from what I saw, she spread magic and kindness wherever she went. Roisin’s pillow is a treasured possession and a soothing embrace when I just can’t rest my drug-addled brain. It will always remind me of how the smallest of thoughtful gestures can give so much.

As you can imagine I’ve received lots of beautiful gifts over the years, but along with the pillow one of the other most stand out presents also is very relevant this month. My beloved two best friends from “home”, who I’ve quite literally known since birth have stuck firmly by my side since the cancer arrived; Lizzy is a present giver extraordinaire, everything from a knitting set to knit my own beanie cap when I was post surgery to a random book and podcast suggestions.Livy is quite possibly the most thoughtful person I know. She has been dreaming us up “serendipity” days for her friends for years. So, together they are a dynamite team of kindness and thoughtfulness. But even they excelled themselves when they presented me with the “Tree of Life” they had commissioned in 2015 to commemorate what we thought was my “all-clear”, just after my for first diagnosis.

They commissioned an artist in the US to created a tree installation in brushed titanium with branches reaching out to celebrate the years ahead for us as friends. They dreamt up an adventure for the 3 of us to take every 3 years together, up until we are 65! Their way of reassuring us that we and especially me have a future to look forward to. The first adventure was to London Fashion week (you will learn I do have a passion for the fashion) so off we went to London town for what we thought would be a very glamorous weekend drinking anything with bubbles and rubbing shoulders with only the most stylish people. We did get to stay in a very swanky Airbnb just off Covent Garden, and on the Friday night at the beginning of our foray into the fash pack, we took a few minutes to read the tickets the girls had purchased and without going in to the finer details, let’s just say we did not have the required “passes” and after a few minutes of extreme panic, we ordered some more wine and laughed for about an hour and especially when we saw a man take a mannequin out of a taxi, fully dressed and wheeled her up the street in to a very cool studio/secret fashion bash, which we couldn’t get in to, but a mannequin could!!

Despite the lack of actual passes to the coveted events, the weekend was not lost, we could have the best time together in an empty room, so we had the most fantastic time wandering around the city trying to blag our way (unsuccessfully) in to any fashion week party we stumbled across. We ate hot dogs and champagne, I made them both try on fabulous clothes I can’t fit in to (they both have amazing figures) and desperately tried to make them buy .Lizzy did buy a jacket that she freely admits made her mammy self feel “cool” and finished the weekend off with afternoon tea at the Ritz.

The next “adventure” is coming up in two weeks, my birthday! I haven’t opened the envelope to see what they have planned, but I know it will be amazing. What our first gift from the “Tree of Life” really says to me, despite all the planning in the world, not everything works out the way you planned but sometimes it works out better! The thoughtfulness that was invested in this gift still blows my mind, when they gave it to me in a hotel in Dublin when we were where having afternoon tea (bit of a pattern here. We do love the afternoon tea!), and when I opened the box and cried like a baby, people were genuinely aghast when they asked what was so large (it came in a HUGE box) and caused me to cry such happy tears. One lady even thought it was like being in a movie!!

They are my friends who wanted to assure me that they want to share adventures together until we are old ladies, despite the cancer looming large in the background. They have faith in me sticking around and for that I love them even more. In a world of constant consumerism, where it’s easy to personalise anything and send the most extravagant of gifts, I think they most special ones are the ones that have more meaning than they cost. So make memories with your family and friends through the gifts you give. I won’t open the envelope until I’m with the girls and will report back on the “Tree of Life’s” second adventure,

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