Hello and welcome back to my blog! We had a lovely family holiday in France, from which I promise to bring you all the fun and mishaps over the coming weeks. But for now, simply a quiet tribute to a friend who sadly passed away on August 13th, aged only 49.
My images this week were taken from the rocky groynes at the Widewater end of Shoreham Beach, a place where I love to spend time surrounded by nature. Saddened and shocked by the news I'd received on return from my holiday, I felt uninspired to photograph for my blog, and instead spent an hour that evening in quiet contemplation of the times I'd shared with Doreen during my five years in America. Before leaving the beach, I got out my camera and captured the solitary seascapes surrounding me, barely moving from my vantage point. I later decided that the monochromes I created would make a fitting tribute to Doreen.
I first met Doreen in 2008, when she was 44. She was a keen photographer, and one of the first friends I made on joining Pines West Camera Club, a few miles from my home in South Florida. Always considerate, and a person who put others before herself, she was kind enough to suggest room sharing on our first weekend-long photography field trip, knowing that I would feel more comfortable with her than others I knew less well. This in spite of her having closer friendships with fellow club members traveling with us.
Doreen was always cheerful and positive, and a very kind and approachable person. When I arrived late for club meetings (which was often, on account of my having young children and not being able to leave the house until my husband returned from work) she would quickly pull up a chair and invite me to join her table. She was practical and confident, and the sort of person you could ask any question and get a straight answer.
So when she told me in 2011, aged just 47, that she'd been diagnosed with stage four colon cancer, it was hard to take in. She spoke matter-of-factly about her diagnosis and illness, always outwardly positive. I hadn't seen her for a while when she arrived at a later club meeting, her long naturally wavy hair that she religiously straightened, cut into a shiny, shoulder-length bob. Complimenting her on the striking new style, she replied that her hair would fall out from the chemo she was to undergo, and that she was taking steps to prepare herself. Even then, her upbeat attitude and mental strength made it hard to digest the seriousness of her condition.
On my last club meeting before returning home to the UK from Florida, in the summer of 2012, Doreen looked well and radiant, and I felt sure - along with many of her friends and family - that her strength and conviction would ultimately beat the cancer. But in just 2 and a half years since her diagnosis, during which she endured 24 sessions of chemotherapy, five major surgeries and six months of alternative medicines, she sadly lost the fight.
My heart truly goes out to her family, with whom she was close, as a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, sister and daughter. Although we only met once a week, over the four years I attended Pines West Camera Club, the regular members became like a second family to me, and I know that many others felt the same way. Doreen was a committed and active member, who I know will be sorely missed by the club, as well as by her own family.
I feel happy to have known Doreen, and know that her Christian belief will help her family to find peace. It might sound cliché, but the untimely death of a friend does help put life into perspective and, for me, serves as a reminder to take risks, live life to the full, and devote time to family and friends.
As I write, Doreen's memorial service has just taken place at St Maximilian Catholic Church in Pembroke Pines, Florida. Sadly, time and distance made it impossible for me to attend, but this blog post is my way of remembering Doreen. Thank you for your understanding.