Our story... there's nothing like a Dame!
My Dad George, a qualified Civil Engineer hailing from Bootle, Liverpool, dedicated a massive part of his life to education as a lecturer. His diagnosis of Myeloma (blood cancer), with just a few virus like symptoms was a complete shock and our world changed overnight. His constant chemo treatments necessitated an abrupt halt to his cherished role as the Head of Quality and Equality at Liverpool Community College, a place where he had poured his passion. The life we knew took an unforeseen turn.
At the time of his diagnosis, I was navigating my second year of undergraduate opera studies at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Thankfully, I was only up the road from Liverpool and it meant we could also still be close. As my training advanced, so did my professional performance opportunities. Throughout the eight-year battle against his illness my parents attended all of my concerts and operas. An amazing duo, their determination saw us all crisscross all over the country during various stages of his Myeloma - and we kept on focusing on what we could still manage to do.
Beneath their unwavering positivity and resolve, there were many moments when it seemed we were up against insurmountable challenges; days when hospitals and anxiety took centre stage. Life felt like a rollercoaster, teaching us the significance of "one day at a time," and sometimes, even just "one hour at a time."
In the face of adversity, each of us finds our own coping mechanisms. For me, sketching was a huge part of that; my continuous act of scribbling served as a distraction from what was often overwhelming. Pen and paper became our companions, the quirky doodles painted with a dash of humour (sometimes unintended!) brought some smiles - and I learned the quirkier, more colourful and full of detail I could make them - the better! :)
One day, 'Dame Doo Dah' made a debut in my sketchbook. When George laid eyes on the Dame, he immediately conjured up a vivid personality to match her appearance. Later that day, he handed me a piece of paper, and to my delight, he had breathed life into her through his writing. From that moment forward, he immersed himself in creating a plethora of comical biographies for a diverse cast of characters, each brimming with tales waiting to be illustrated.
Whether in the bustling treatment rooms of the hospital or even as his mobility waned, George remained undeterred. Armed with a notebook, pen and an unyielding spirit, he would sit, scribbling away, pouring his creativity onto the pages. His determination remained unscathed, proving that even when faced with so many increasing health challenges, writing became an oasis of joy and expression.
The handwriting above with 'The Dame's story' belongs to George. It was a great focus to spend time together creating the stories and illustrations together.
George hadn't dabbled in creative writing since his school days, but when life got tough for us all, our creative side lit up. Hospitals, often a place of waiting and worrying, took on a different vibe through our imaginations. George found a new flow in writing – so much so that keeping up with his character ideas became a big challenge for me - I couldn't draw them quick enough! Every day was a chat about new ideas, swapping stories about people, critters, buildings, nature – anything that got our creative gears turning.
Our lives did change, but in so many ways for the better - more than ever we appreciated the simplest of pleasures - and we could see with crystal clear clarity how precious life, love and the time we have together is. Dad also had a sense of humour that showed us that life could still be funny, even in the toughest moments - it's a lesson I'll forever treasure.
When in doubt create
Following the loss of my Mum and Dad - there have been stretches of time where singing, drawing, and creating has sometimes felt like an insurmountable task. But I keep perspective that everyone's life consists of ebbs and flows, ups and downs - in one way or another, at different times - and sometimes we may not be at all aware of what someone is facing. But, I do know how important music, art, creativity can be to help us all through - a source of solace and healing - and that's a great reason to keep creating. George, Sue and our Dame Doodah remind me to put things into perspective, try to enjoy each day, take in the big picture and celebrate the little moments and joys we share.
'Rest if you must, but don't quit.' Rediscovering my pens, paints and delving into music books - and eventually sharing it and connecting with so many kind people makes each day better.
There is a Schubert song I love, 'Frühlingsglaube,' - 'Faith in Spring.' It's all about gathering up courage. There's a line that roughly translates as 'Don't fret... even in the deepest, darkest valleys, Spring will come again, and the flowers will keep on blooming.' I hope my scribbles might be like those flowers - popping up just when someone needed to see them :)
Dame Doodah and friends..
Maybe you are reading this and in a similar situation - in an anxious waiting room somewhere, or going through a rough time. Whoever you are, wherever you are at - I'm grateful that you've read this far and that you found us :) Life certainly doesn't work out how we had hoped sometimes - and that's my scribbles are about. Wherever there is love and faithful creativity, there is always hope. Keep on smiling 😍 and counting the love hearts as you go 💗
It doesn't matter if we win or lose, we never gave up' George Rudge (1956-2014)