A special event, planned for a sweet friend who has fought a battle with cancer over the last 9 months.
With the long journey of surgeries, chemo and radiation therapies coming to an end, it felt right that this time should be celebrated. She should be celebrated.
Her strength, endurance, perseverance in face of everything, needed to be celebrated.
And so the planning began.
We needed a special gift to mark the end of this process. A gift that she could look at everyday of her life and know that 'my friends love me, they are by my side and walking this journey with me'
A gift that represents the joy that she brings to people's lives.
A gift that reflects her beauty and radiance.
The answer was simple and straightforward. She needed a painting by her favourite artist - Yvonne Coomber.
Yvonne's paintings represented all that needed to be said to my friend. Their depth and beauty, coming from layer upon layer of work resulting in a breath-taking painting, in which each tiny element plays its part in its beauty.
A kind of beauty that can only be created over time. A deep beauty.
That is my friend, a deep beauty.
So the fundraising began and pretty soon the money started to come in. First from friends and family, but soon from strangers that had never even met my friend and were touched by her story.
When it looked like we would be able to afford a modest painting, I contacted the artist.
I told her of my friends journey and the purpose of the gift - a celebration of her year of endurance.
To begin with the plan was to buy a painting and have it sent. But pretty soon we realised that there was a bigger picture to see. That part of the journey of her receiving the painting, was to actually meet Yvonne. To enjoy the process of receiving this gift and that in itself would be part of the gift.
It felt like this journey was sacred ground and what was being organised was more than a trip to present a gift.
The hotel was booked, the details were planned.
People stepped up and showed more love than I have encountered before. The hotel, when they learned of the reason for our trip, showered us with treats - cakes sent to our room, hand written notes from the Manageress, complimentary spa treatments - and topped off with a service that overwhelmed us all and made us feel so loved.
For that 24 hours, we were their royalty, that is what we knew.
And Yvonne Coomber, I can't even put into words the love, generousity and joy that she naturally exudes.
The vibrancy and beauty of her painting truly seems to reflect her heart.
When the surprise came together after a trip to a Christmas Show (where Yvonne was exhibiting) a chance encounter of seeing her favourite artist at a show that her friends had brought her to...it all started to click and the tears (from all) started to flow.
She was here to meet Yvonne Coomber! and that was overwhelming enough!
She still had no idea she was here to receive a painting, a special painting that her friends and family had contributed to, to let her know how loved she was.
After many tears of joy, Yvonne told her of the reason for the trip and presented her with the task of choosing a painting.
I could write a whole essay on the aftermath of that statement.
Tears, disbelief, happiness, joy, love and so much more. The weight of all the love seemed to finally dawn on her.
"We, your friends, want you to know how much we love you. We want you to know that we are still here, by your side. We want you to know that you are so special to all of us and we want you to let us show you what unconditional love looks like."
It is a day I will cherish forever.