Two birthdays and an anniversary

October was always a big month in the Choueka household. Rosie’s mum has her birthday on the 14th, Rosie had hers on the 15th and we celebrated our wedding anniversary on 24th. Last year, while in the midst of her first chemo battering, Rosie managed to find the strength to celebrate all three; one in particular in great style. Rosie alluded to it in this post. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not one for birthdays or celebrations, but Rosie and I weren’t going to let our 10th anniversary pass without marking it in some spectacular way. The day unfolded amid carefully planned surprise after surprise. It culminated in the gift Rosie had always wanted, a beautiful eternity ring, which had in part belonged to her grandma. As she said, there were tears. It’s only now almost a year later and less than four short months since her passing that I realise the full irony of the gift.

I’d always half jokingly said to Rosie that I wouldn’t giver her an eternity ring until we’d been together for an eternity. After all, I reasoned, an eternity ring should be a sign of achievement not an aspiration. Well how bitterly right I was. It was our eternity together. It certainly was for Rosie.

Sitting here now writing about this month it feels so odd that while we remember two important dates (my mother-in-law’s birthday will, I hope, still be a celebration) the country also marks Breast Cancer Awareness month during October. Just before she died Rosie instructed me to set up a charity. She wanted it to raise funds to research secondary breast cancer. She wanted me to publish this blog as a book and she wanted any money to be split equally between the children and the charity. Since June I have been thinking and working on both. With the support of a dedicated band of friends and family we work towards the establishment of the charity; and with the help of a different set of equally dedicated friends I am navigating the difficult world of publishing.

I’ll admit that the concept of establishing a charity to do such important work hangs heavily over me. I know, because I’ve been told by anyone who cares to tell me, that it is fantastically hard to start a charity. There are so many competing for limited support. Why the hell would I take on this challenge while I have two little children to care for? Well the answer is obvious. Because Rosie asked me to. There were scant few things that Rosie ever asked of me that I didn’t (eventually) agree to. My friends, quite rightly, question the wisdom of doing this right now. A few days ago my best friend asked if I’d be starting a charity if Rosie hadn’t asked me to. “Of course not.” I replied in a flash. But equally quickly I added that she did ask me to and so I had to. No question.

And yet I feel so very torn. The charity will do great things. It will raise large sums for a significant and important cause. But most importantly it will help to cement Rosie’s legacy for a long time to come. When our daughter talks about selling her Disney Princess dresses and dolls to raise money for “mummy’s charity” what option do I have? Really?

So we will work to set up the charity and unless some excellent reason prevents me from doing so I hope to enlist your help at some point. Watch this space as they say.

In the meantime I continue to care for and nurture my little children. This morning before the sun rose Joey climbed into my bed. He asked me, as only a four-year old can, “When is mummy coming home?”. What can I say? I’d like to know the answer to that one too.



10 thoughts on “Two birthdays and an anniversary

  1. I wish you all the luck in the world for both ventures but somehow I don’t think you’ll need it with your determination.
    Patricia x


  2. Have you spoken to Dan Blake? He set up Nicki’s smile after his wife sadly died from pancreatic cancer and its become a successful charity, i’m sure you can find him on fb or via the website. Good luck!


  3. Elliot I never met your Rosie and discovered her by chance when my then 3 year old sent her a friend request. We have a mutual friend. I am the same age as Rosie and a lawyer with three small children. I found her blogs to be an inspiration and think of her often. It is so terribly unfair. She has left a great legacy as are you. a charity in her name will be wonderful x


  4. i am so so sorry for your awful loss.
    14 years ago my brother died and we set up a small charity in his memory which has grown over the years. It was easier to set up than it may seem to you at the moment and if you want to talk about how we did it we would be happy to do so. It is mainly run by me and my mum now, but we do have other help too. Happy to help if we can, although I am sure you have lots of good advice, and sending you and your family all the very best during this incredibly challenging time xxx


  5. I never met Rosie but she offered me career advice as a fellow lawyer pondering options after mat leave. She was working, your son had chicken pox, she too was balancing family life and she still found the time. I remain truly grateful. When I thanked her she said it was all part of the “sisterhood”. If there’s any way I can repay the favour in whatever you do decide to do charity-wise, please let me know. I can understand that the task ahead seems daunting but part of Rosie’s legacy is that she brought a generation of women together, in particular through Wonderful Working Mums. Why not use that legacy, the “sisterhood”? Support for charities is competitive but I think people would want to support Rosie’s cause. You could have hundreds of women participating in fun runs in Rosie’s memory or perhaps your daughter has the right idea for a disney dress sale. We could certainly provide a few. Start small and rope in Rosie’s employers. Any funds raised are an achievement. In the meantime though I wish you strength this month and every month. As always your posts move me to tears. My daughter is the same age as your son, I can only imagine what he’s going through.


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