Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Searching for Tom and hoping it's a small world...



The year was 1986.  In a small town church along the coast of Massachusetts, Mr. H and I took our marriage vows, then boarded a plane for our new life together in Sydney, Australia. Marriage, a new country, a new home, a travelling husband...I knew I had just met my greatest challenge.

My goal was to find a job and a friend, a girlfriend, someone I could talk to. It wasn't long before I found a job and met Cathy. I remember the day I met her. I walked into the open plan room that was to be my new work space and was greeted with a big hello, a gorgeous smile and a laugh that was infectious. She took me under her wing and told me everything I needed to know about work and managing life in Sydney. She was my saviour. 

For four years we shopped, we chatted, we lunched, we giggled, we got the Mr's together, we shared recipes, we did all the things we loved to do. When my first son was born, she was there. When she and Rob were married, we were there. When she found out she was pregnant, I was there, celebrating the news with her. 


Cathy and her son Tom


In 1990 Mr H and I were transferred home to Connecticut. We flew out of Sydney in May 1990, the same day that Cathy was giving birth to her first and only son, Tom. We spoke just before the plane departed as I wished her well through labour. She could not have been happier.

We wrote letters to each other off and on over the years, it was the days before computers, it was a long and slow process. In 1991 she wrote to say that shortly after her birth to Tom she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately, the doctors were able to rid her of the cancer cells and she was in remission. We were relieved to read her news.

Letters were fewer after that and then there was the last in 1993. She wrote to say....

December 18, 1993
excerpts from Cathy's letter....

Dear Jeanne
The doctors had told me back in '91 that there was only a 10% chance of the cancer ever coming back. In February of this year, I had got the all clear after extensive tests but it looks like it all flared up again the next month. They started treatment straight away-radiotherapy to my eyes and chemotherapy for everywhere else. The treatment appears to be working and the cancer cells are reducing in both size and number. What we are aiming for is complete remission and my doctor feels we have a fairly good chance of achieving that. I can't wait for it to be behind me and for our lives to return to normal again. The hardest thing to face is the fact that we won't be able to have any more children. Anyway, we have a beautiful healthy boy and we are lucky to have him. Tom is 3 1/2 years old now, it really is a wonderful age....I included a photograph

I wrote back to Cathy with hope and prayers and tucked her letter into my bedside table while I waited for a reply. 

Some months later I received a letter from a friend we had worked with to ask if I had heard the news. Cathy had passed away. I still remember the day I opened her letter, where I was sitting and the overwhelming feeling of loss. She was 40 years old, she was the first of my peers to leave this earth. The thought was incomprehensible.

For the past 20 years, I have said a prayer for Cathy in Sunday Mass along with the other dear souls who have passed. My list has grown longer as the years roll on but I never forget each and every one and always start with Cathy.

From 1993 to 2014, Cathy's letter has never left my bedside table.

We moved back to Sydney from 1999-2005, the letter went with me. I had intended to pass it on but didn't. I had heard through a business associate that Cathy's husband had remarried and they had a new life together with young Tom. I decided to let it be.




And now it is 2014,  and I feel a burning desire to pass Cathy's letter on to Tom. He would be a young man now, nearly 25.  Tom was a toddler when Cathy passed away, his memories would be dim, if any, but something tells me the letter should be with him.

I have lost touch with all of the people I worked with all those years ago. I recently did a wide search on the Internet and came up with one "Tom" who I thought was a strong possibility. I mailed the letter to Sydney two weeks ago, unable to find an email address, but having located a work address. I wrote asking him if he was "the Tom", son of Cathy and Robert and gave him my email address.

Today, I received a response....

March 11, 2014

Hi There,
I received your note and unfortunately I'm not the Tom Healey you're searching for. There are no Robert Healey's in my family and my father has no brothers to speak of.
All the best in your search.
Tom

You can imagine how I felt, so close, yet so far. I responded back to thank him for his reply. He could have tossed the letter and forgotten about it. I appreciated the effort.

So here I am, with Cathy's letter, wondering what to do next. He was my only possibility.

So I will do this...

If you live in Sydney and knew Cathy Sheel ( she grew up in Pymble) who married Robert Healey (he had a shop in Double Bay and Neutral Bay) in the early 90's and had a son Tom ( they lived in Roseville). Could you let him know I have a letter that me might like to have. If he is interested, he can write to me at jeannecollageoflife@gmail.com  It will be waiting for him in my bedside table.

Just maybe...

I know there are many Sydneysiders amongst my readers, if I am lucky this might spark a connection. There is a possibility that they could have moved to Melbourne. It is a niggling detail in the back of my mind. Even though we all live continents apart...it never surprises me when I see what a small world it is. This just might work.


What do you think? 

Am I crazy to carry on the search?

What would you do?

As always, thank you for reading along. This is not the most upbeat of posts but it comes from the heart... Cathy would have liked that. 

Jeanne xx


UPDATE
The small world that I had hoped for is coming together. 
I am so very touched by the comments and letters that have come my way.
More and more information is coming to light..and it is remarkable.
I have reached out to another "Tom" and am hoping for a reply.
I hope to update you when the details fall into place.
Once again, thank you..it is a beautiful small world at that!
xx

88 comments:

  1. This deeply touched my heart. I think her Son would appreciate the letter so very much indeed.
    I wish you luck on your search for him.
    Blessings. Love Jeanne

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    1. Thank you Jeanne..fingers crossed. I have a good feeling about this. xx

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  2. Hello Jeanne, I just did a quick search on facebook and there is a Tom Healey who attended Melbourne Grammar and Deakin University there. It says he lives in Melbourne but is from Sydney. Perhaps you should use Facebook, send him a message and see.

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    1. Jenni...you and Lisa (itztru) both wrote at the same time with the very same information. It looks promising. I sent a message to another "Tom". Now to wait..xx

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  3. Keep searching, you just have to. Maybe some Aussie television/radio stations would be interested in this story? I feel a happy ending coming on with guidance from above.

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    1. With the responses and suggestions so far Lisa (yours included)..I am feeling very optimistic. xx

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  4. I do pray you find him as I know this lovely letter you've kept safe at your bedside is something he would treasure. Love you, my friend!

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  5. Ancestry dot com does have amazing results for some folks.
    I wish you well with your search.

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  6. Forwarded a link to your post to a blog-acquaintance in Queensland ... just in case. Jenni's suggestion looks wonderful - would definitely follow up on that. Good luck. This is a doable quest.

    Now i can wipe my tears and go back to work.

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    1. Thank you very much Webb. I have followed up on Jenni's suggestion, fingers crossed. xx

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    2. One of my many failings is jumping into "solve it mode" without first thinking about the people... and i did that this morning.

      So very, very sorry for your loss. What a wonderful friendship you must have had - to have held onto that special letter for all these years, and to want to connect to a child whom you never got the chance to know. I truly hope this works and you get to meet him on your next trip to Australia ... or his next trip to Vietnam. Fingers well crossed.

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  7. I think it is wonderful what you are attempting to do. If I were the recipient, I would be deeply touched by the kindness.

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    1. Thank you for the encouragement, very much appreciated.. xx

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    2. I'm the contact mentioned by Webb(above). Beyond suggesting a Facebook search I could think of nothing that you have not already tried.And I see Facebook came up with a different Tom.All I can say is keep looking and good luck.Perhaps Tom's father may turn up?

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  8. Such a touching story...wishing you the best in your search. I have a feeling you will find him Jeanne. Your readers are far reaching!

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    1. They certainly are Cindy, amazing women and men... xx

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  9. Jeanne, I think you are right to search for him. It looks like many of your readers agree and have wonderful ideas. Please keep us all informed as you continue your search! I pray you find Tom.

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  10. WE will HELP you find TOM!
    I know three gorgeous ladies in MELBOURNE.Off this e-mail will go to them right now after I finish typing to YOU!It is a small world…………..and YOU will find him.Just keep the letter in your nightstand for now!
    Much Love……….Contessa
    Ps.I was married in 1986 too!!!!!

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    1. You are a sweetheart Elizabeth, thank you. I think our world is getting smaller and smaller, just as I expected. xx

      (why am I not surprised that we were married in the same year) A magical year!

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  11. I pray you find Tom + something tells me you will + you are the best + I know Tom will be thankful for your generosity + good luck + keep us posted. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

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    1. I will Peggy, thank you. I am taking the comments so far as a very good sign. xx

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  12. Oh Jeanne, I really hope you find Tom.....surely with the internet, it must be possible, I really hope so.

    35 is no age at all is it, how terrible.

    Keeping everything crossed for you X

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  13. Jeanne,

    This post brought tears to my eyes, how kind of you to search for Tom after all of this time to give him this letter. His mother seemed like a very special person and I am sure that her son must be too.

    I hope this search is fruitful and that after all of these years your letter finally reaches him.

    P.s. The Tom that you sent the letter to deserves a mention, thankfully he was nice enough to take the time to let you know he was not THE Tom.

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    1. Agree Elizabeth..I am hoping the most recent note I sent off meets with the same result. xx

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  14. Do you know what I think is the best part of this very touching story? That you still remember your friend and hold her in your heart and prayers for over 20 years. Yes, do keep on your search. If nothing else, it will let her son know how very much she was loved, that she made such a difference in your life. Jeanne, I always knew you were a beautiful person, inside and out. This just confirms it.

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    1. You are very sweet Stephanie. When I look back over the 20 years and all the friends since that I have found a special bond with, I often think there is a little of Cathy in each one. Perhaps it is like minds finding a way towards each other. There is a definitely a quality amongst them all that is similar. I count myself very lucky. xx

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  15. I'm putting it to my Facebook Expat network - I hope you find him! I have faith :) xoL

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  16. Dear Jeanne: I believe in my heart your letter will find Tom. As others have already mentioned it is a small world. You are far from crazy to carry on this search, as you can see from your readership. Continue to believe it will happen, and Tom will be most appreciative of your kindness. Emotions will fill his eyes, as they have yours. Stay strong. I am sending you positive thoughts from New Jersey.
    With love to you, Kathleen

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  17. I think if it's meant to be, you'll find him.

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    1. So true Lisa, if it does not happen now, well...I guess it will have to sit in my bedside table a little while longer. xx

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  18. Dear Jeanne - I was really moved by your post. Good luck with your search - I know you'll find Tom one day. We live in such a big yet small world. I've bumped into friends and acquaintances all across the world: Venice, London, Provence, Maine, etc, etc. Take care, Loi

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    1. Thank you Loi, I see that all the time as well, and often in the most unexpected places...I love that about life. Many thanks!

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  19. Jeanne... What a moving story ...
    This is a long shot but did Cathy by any chance go to a school called PLC Pymble.. I grew up in Pymble and her name sounds very familiar... If she did, I could contact the old girl's union and see if they have any information... Just a thought... xv

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    1. Thank you Vicki...i sent you a note. She did go to PLC...the world is getting smaller by the comment. xx

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  20. I always knew you were a good egg - and what would I do? The exact same thing. As crazy as it seems. I hope this goes viral and you locate him big sis. L x

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    1. Thank you little sis...I had a feeling you would too. xx

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  21. Dear Jeanne, this moved me to tears, the happy ones, as proof of how wonderful humanity can be. I wish you all Fortune in finding Tom.
    xo,
    H

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    1. Thank you Heather..it certainly was an emotional one to write. As you know, when you think it, feel it..then you have to write about it. xx

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    2. Ps. Put a note on my blog for my Aussie readers and friends, just in case it helps!

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  22. Dear Jeanne

    I am touched by your friendship with Peggy. I will pray that you find Tom and he gets to have his mother's letter.
    I am very moved by this post of love, loss and never ending friendship

    Helen xx

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    1. Thank you Helen..I felt the time was right, I am hoping it turns out as planned. xx

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  23. Of course, you search. Losing a good friend is one of the hardest things I've ever experienced and there's not a day that goes by I don't think of her and find myself sharing a thought, a laugh or whatever as if she were still here. In some ways, she is. Keeping your friend in your heart is what continues to make her real.

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    1. Agree Linda...I think of them all and see them in the little everyday things. A comforting thought. xx

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  24. Love felt in this posting Jeanne.. so beautifully shared.. I hope Tom finds you.. he'll be so delighted in meeting a special friend of his mother's, who clearly cared and kept her memories alive in her heart.. aah. you're v special! x j - ps.. sorry didnt catch up this time in Saigon.. next time hopefully.. we were only there for two nights with the golfers.. but I'll be back! xx j

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    1. Thank you Jean...and I am sure we will meet up some day...one one continent or another. xx

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  25. The God of the universe can help you and then show you He has a higher purpose for your life. I'll pray that your letter finally finds Tom. What a good friend you are--but I knew that already!

    Love,
    Mary

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    1. Thank you Mary...it would be nice to come full circle with Cathy's letter. xx

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  26. Hi Jeanne,
    This post really moved me as well. It's beautiful to hear that you still think of your dear friend and have her letter. It is a small world and I truly believe the universe will guide you to find Tom. So, no, you are not crazy in searching at all. Stay positive and you will find him.
    Rita x

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    1. Thank you Rita, I have a feeling it will be one of those out of the blue moments when a note finally appears. I hope so! xx

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  27. What a great friend you are to Cathy, in life and in death. Such a touching story and I do so hope to read of a wonderful outcome and contact with Tom. Fingers crossed.

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  28. This just leaves a terrible lump in my throat, Jeanne. I hope you can someday be relieved to find your Tom. Prayers and thoughts...

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    1. Thank you Becky..that is exactly how I felt wriiting it. xx

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  29. I'm not sure if this will aid your search, but I happened on a 2004 obituary for a man named Douglas Sheel, who would appear to have been Cathy's brother. Perhaps you can contact his son, or at the very least, the funeral home. Good luck to you from San Diego.

    Barbara S.

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    1. Thank you Barbara...for your notes and assistance, it has been a tremendous help! xx

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  30. Forgot to include the link to the above mentioned obit for Douglas Sheel, "son of Collin and Moina, brother of Catherine (deceased)." http://www.onlinememorials.com.au/detail.asp?Ref=3078

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  31. I do so hope that you find Tom. This was such a beautiful, hearfelt post. I am glad you wrote it.

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    1. Thank you Loree...I put it off for some time, as you can imagine, it was an emotional time writing and editing this post. All the same, it brought back some wonderful memories for me and Mr. H. He worked with her as well. She was a special woman... xx

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  32. You obviously will not rest until this mission is completed…I find that so heartening…fingers crossed that Vicki's connection will lead to a match…and if not, then all hopes are that it falls into place through this, as you say, increasing smaller world in which we live.

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    1. Thank you Virginia...the smallness of our world never ceases to amaze me. The responses to this post have shown that. xx

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  33. ANY NEWS YET????
    Did VICKI's connection help?Probably too soon………..
    My contacts are sending around too and to the place she lived in.These women would have children his age!!!!!!!FINGERS CROSSED and TOES TOO!

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    1. Not yet Elizabeth...still hoping..with fingers and toes crossed. xx

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  34. Hi Jeanne, this Post moved me too. This is definitely something I would feel compelled to do as well. I have just e-mailed some relatives. My Grandpa still lives in the home he built in Pymble 70 years ago. Sadly my Grandmother passed away 2 years ago and she knew EVERYONE and I just have a feeling she would know or at least know who would. Even the name Sheel rings a bell for me! Maybe my Grandpa absorbed their names somewhere along the lines. I also have my Aunt and Uncle in Turramurra and cousins too. Will let you know if I hear anything. In the meantime, good luck with the search. What a beautiful friend you are! Mel x

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    1. Thank you Mel, I have made some headway tracking down Cathy's father in a nursing home. I have written a letter...hoping for the best. xx

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  35. Hi Jeanne, I too went to PLC and was going to suggest the same idea as Vicki. Please let me know if you'd like me to try from another angle. I now live in Perth but all my family, old school friends etc all reside in Sydney, so happy to help. I'm also in contact with the school regularly as I've assisted with reunions and newsletters etcI
    Do you know what school Robert went to as his name also rings a bell!?!
    Best wishes for a speedy result, you are doing a beautiful thing.
    Kind regards
    Linda McC

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    1. Hi Linda...you have been a star, thank you so much for all you help. Happy to see you on IG now as well. Cathy would have got a kick out of the fact that we met through her.. xx

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  36. I sent your blog to a friend who lives in Sidney.

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  37. Jeanne - What a wonderful quest. I hope you find Tom. A letter written by his mother would be such a gift.

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  38. Keep searching. It is a good thing you are trying to do. It will happen eventually and you will be glad you went through the effort. Good luck.

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    1. Thank you...very encouraging and much appreciated. ;)

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  39. Oh Jeanne, you had me in tears with this beautiful story. You're not crazy....you have to try to pass along the letter. It's so thoughtful of you. I think this letter touched me so deeply because of the timing parallels mine and my dearest friend, the one who introduced me to my husband back in 1987 lost her battle with breast cancer in 2012. Her two boys were in college, but had they been younger I know they would have wanted to have the letter. There's something about a handwritten letter. There's a reason you've kept it so long in your bedside table. What a wonderful gift that would be....I hope you find your Tom! From all of the comments it seems you have enlisted some help already! I look froward to following your story as it continues to unfold. xx

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    1. Thank you Annie...it pulls on the heartstrings for many of us. As we move on through the years, the loss of friends like your dear one, start to become a familiar and heartbreaking story. I think Cathy's story has resonated with many readers. We have all been there. xx

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  40. Dearest Jeanne,

    What can one say? What a beautiful, wonderful quest you are on. I'm sure once you find Tom you will be giving him the most precious gift of his life.

    You most definitely know and live the very definition of true friendship.

    xo,
    Tish

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    1. Thank you TIsh...a quest is the perfect way to put it. xx

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  41. thankyou for sharing this, you are a true and special friend to Cathy still.
    I wish you well on your quest to locate Tom

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Can I just say....that I so enjoy what YOU have to say. Just a few words or a
few paragraphs, no matter. If you would like to write to me directly, I would love to hear from you... jeannecollageoflife@gmail.com

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