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....
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
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.
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 email@example.com It will be waiting for him in my bedside table.
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.
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!