On August 1, 1990 – a 14 year old Gladstone, Queensland girl lost her battle with melanoma (skin cancer). 2 weeks later her Mother called me and asked if I would write her story. Michael Beatty of the TV10 Network had covered the story for television – and suggested that Francis contact me… My 2 day visit has lasted 17 years (so far). The Murdoch press ran the story in papers and magazines world wide – and the response was amazing. The rose still grows – beyond the wall…
The cemetery is flat and then slopes suddenly towards a small creek. Cassy’s father is sitting beside her grave, silhouetted against the setting sun.
Head bowed, shoulders slumped and one hand resting gently on the mound of fresh earth. He is not expecting me.
Leon and Francis Jones split up a while ago but have stayed friends. They were together just a few weeks ago when their 14 year old daughter died.
Leon’s hurt is a private thing and he’s not yet ready to meet strangers. He greets me politely and wanders away towards the creek with their children, Rebecca and Richard. Together – alone.
They have been here often. Cassy used to bring them here when she was choosing a place to be “planted”. Her phrase. But right now I’m intruding on something special and I’ve never been a very good intruder. I sit down where Leon had been, and I glance at the grave. Scratched, by fingernail, in the dry earth are three simple words. “All my love”.
I‘m not coping. Writers usually don’t cry – but fathers do.
This father did.
I had been met at Gladstone airport just 30 minutes earlier by Francis and her two children. Rebecca is 18, gregarious and sad, wisdom and questions rush back and forth. Richard is 9. Confused and missing his sister… “a bit – she used to stir me up”.
This is to be a happy story. Trust me.
A story of an amazing teenager who drew the short straw in life and was invited to depart early. But, in her last few months, set some incredible goals and achieved all of them. Made a lot of people laugh and many feel inadequate. She was determined that we should all become more aware of skin cancer and set about an almost spooky – but very professional – marketing campaign. Theatrical even.
She wanted to record her thoughts and her last few months for her family and friends. But the diary which follows covers just 3 short weeks. It was all she had left.
It is a modest document. From a modest young lady. Francis had invited me to call and collect it, but I left with so much more.
Gladstone gave Cassy a large concrete wall. She gave it back with a graffitied message which will be preserved for future generations. They did not give her the water tower – but she painted it anyway!
She decided that large container ships were impressive and that it would be “Prime” to pilot one – so she did – and was flown there and back by helicopter.
Every day she helped with the household chores – not always without complaint. “Here I am dying – and I’ve still got to hang out the bloody washing”.
She raised thousands for a research fund called “Cassy’s Wish” but when she was given a personal gift of $1,100 – “just for yourself” – she bought presents for others. And left $700 unspent – to pay for her carefully selected pink casket – with deep purple satin lining. Two days before she died, she suggested that the undertaker “get your finger out, I’m going to need it soon”.
And she “borrowed” the clothes in which she was to be buried. Just to “stir” her friends one last time.
Rebecca talks of her own very special gift. A signal. The sisters had often talked of Cassy’s imminent move “upstairs”. But how could they be sure? It was decided that Cassy would send a signal. “I’ll rain on you!” July and August have been dry months in Gladstone. At 9:40pm on August 1st, Rebecca hugged her little sister one last time – and ran sobbing out of the house. She returned 15 minutes later, smiling and wet. It was raining.
During my 24 hour visit with Cassy’s family, I listened to her stories and met her friends. Val and Eric, new partners for Leon and Francis, supporting and protecting. Donna Townsend, cajoling, controlling and caring. Cancer sufferer. Soul-mate, confidante and wall-painting confederate to Cassy during her last few months.
Donna and her husband Bruce were charged (by Cassy) with the skin-tingling task of reading Cassy’s last letter to her family. At her funeral. Everyone should have a Donna Townsend in their life.
We hugged our farewells at the airport. I was no longer a stranger – or intruder. The diary and letter were under my arm to read on the plane. As we left the ground, I took one last look at Gladstone.
500 feet directly overhead Cassy’s grave. A climbing turn over the water-tower and we entered her clouds… Cassy Lives.
MONDAY 9 JULY 1990
Talked to Donna today about my feelings an how much time I may have left on earth and we decided that I was to prove the doctors wrong with any time estimates, as they say the average is about from 8 weeks to 1 1/2 years but of course I’ll prove them wrong. Also well into the organisations of my funeral and dad and Val’s wedding. Donna said Ray Edwards is going to come and visit me in the next few days or so and said that he was finding it hard to handle and I understand that cause one of his good friends died not long ago of cancer as well,
Today I feel much better about it all and things are starting to go in the right direction. I’m going to see Jack the undertaker and Father Paul and Donna is going to see if I have to be baptised, I hope not because I believe in God but not all that mumbo-jumbo of baptising. I felt funny today I got what I call vibes. I meet some range of people and sort of felt like I’d know them longer like their hidden thoughts. e.g. A fellow came into Roseberry and I felt he was very conscious and afraid. Really unusual and I also meet this lady who I soon found out she claims to communicate with the dead. I sort of felt it inside like she knew it all and that she was a friend from beyond.
TUESDAY 10 JULY
Today I feel O.K. a bit short of breath but apart from that I’m fine, going to lunch with nana J today at the pizza hut.
Just come home from donna’s shop. I ate chicken, chips and corn really yummy. When I had the cap on my head at the hair dressers today (when I was getting streaks) I got a bit of a headache above my right eye, but when the hairdresser took off the cap the headache went straight away.
The pizza I ate was super supreme really yummy. I felt really hungry this afternoon. Well I feel really tired so I’m going to bed.
Today me, Becky, Slates, John, David & U-anita all went and played tennis at the Q.A.C. and I lost lots of times and afterwards we played pool. Me & David -v- U-anita & John and they won so we played Becky & U-anita and won. Also we ate salt & vinegar chips with NO flavour which I was really annoyed with. Costs $0.70 but this afternoon I felt really good and could run for miles but I won’t cause I’m gonna go to school tomorrow.
Going to shop assistant of the year dinner on Saturday night and a barbee on Sunday.
Photos with Murray on Wed 6.00 pm.
I awake feeling grumpy, take my tablet, now that I’ve eaten I feel fine. Richard the lazy isn’t up yet but will be when I throw the cat on his bed. ha ha. Eric’s going back to work today finally. Going to school in a min.
Home from school, I lasted 5 lessons Art, Music, Lunch, Maths, English, pretty good. I feel really had it, me and mum watched a movie and went to pet shop. No good kitten, just one like sid. Went to life line clothing (2nd hand) shop and bought 3 tops and a skirt for about $8. John my x boyfriend rang, “the pain in the ass” wanted to go on a date but thank goodness I am busy but unluckily I’ll see him at BBQ on Sunday, DAM SHAME.
Have decided my cancer will have to stop growing while I have fun cause Uncle John & Sheryl are coming to visit in 2 weeks. PRIME! can’t wait.
I think Richard & Becky have severe attitude problems today and I’m sure I’m gonna strangle the dam dog soon – it runs ahead of me into the Dunny and I could kick it. But that’s cruel to animals. All the Boys at school like my hair so do the girls but who cares what they think.
New maths teacher, he’s really slack so I’11 have to give him a hard time so he might actually teach us some Maths.
Must go my hand is so tired.
Today woke up my usual grumpy me and I at crumpets and took my tablet then I got ready and went down to Donna’s shop. I mostly answered the phone and ate today. Good Morning Australia wants me on Tuesday next week which will be good, so me and mum have to get to Rocky to the studio. I’m getting really sick and tired of Richard and this morning mum cracked a mint and threw the furniture on the verandah over board, including the bird in the cage which was out there, which really gave me a shock. It gave me the feeling that it was all my fault but I can’t help it when I get in a bad mood cause Richard just picks picks picks and big sing songs and making the dam dog run about and bark.
Mum is being really unreasonable about going on Good Morning Australia.
Monday – day – video on melanoma for Q.C.F. night – spray painting
Tuesday – maybe ‘Good Morning Australia’
Wednesday – family photos at Murray’s place 6.OOpm
Feeling fine, going wedding dress shopping with Val, Carl, Christy and Val’s mother. Christy’s going to get a perm for the wedding (spiral) it’ll cost about $70 (pricey). Donna & Mum gave me a little bottle of port this afternoon. I won’t drink it yet.
Went for drive out to cemetery – Old cemetery. I couldn’t remember where Grandad’s grave was but when we got home Mum & Becky told us. Saw Donna’s dad’s grave also. went out to see the (shit house) new cemetery, it’s awful, its like its been put there to forget and it’s got black boys growing everywhere and I hate black boys. I want to be planted in the old cemetery with Grandad then it’s more convenient for people to visit. Me and Donna are going to do a guilt job on Col Brown to see if we can get a plot in the old cemetery.
Went and saw the undertaker (Jack), he seems nice and funny. Also looked at the coffins, PRIME STUFF, I want Rosewood.
Going to a BBQ tomorrow at marina.
Absolutely boring morning – my muscles are aching & I feel shit house. Going to BBQ this afternoon.
Went to BBQ & it was great, it turned out to be a party for me & I got given 9 spray paints & a large bottle of good port so that’s really rad! I’ve got a bridge to paint & we (the CANTEEN KIDS) are on Monday night going to free-hand spray paint up our name (my name really large & then small)
Luke & his mum gave me a calendar with a beautiful Rose & two carnations which must be worth a packet. We are going to have a canteen outing once a month now.
Feel about normal. Going on Good Morning Australia tomorrow about 8.00 to 8.30 sometime. Going on Current Affair 9.30 am on Wednesday, Thursday relax or go to school. Nanny Johnson has said (offered) to pay for a perpetual trophy for one of the subjects at school. I have to choose it and organise it at school. Cost is to be about $50.00 – PRIME STUFF! Going spray painting at 6.45 pm up at the water tank. The dog is really getting up-tight & Richard is too. Oh God I don’t mean to but I keep getting up mum. The dog barks all the time, the bird squawks, It’s getting to me really bad. I can’t stop eating.
Today left for Rocky at 6.00am this morning. We got there & I went on ‘Good Morning Australia’ – so good & then we went on the local news for tonight at 6.00 pm. I’m really pleased we did the spray painting on the tank last night. The Good Morning Australia wanted to do a sort of Documentary on me so when I pass (die) they can raise money for the cancer fund which would be the absolutely the best. Michael Beaty is coming from Brisbane early tomorrow morning and he’s bringing me a kitten & we’re going down to the bridge this afternoon to mark it out for tomorrow.
Back at Dawn (when I get up) clean house then at 8.45 meet Michael Beaty at Airport (he may have kitten for me) then down to wall, then 10.00 am down to Donna’s shop for cup of coffee & talk. See Col Brown then, that afternoon 4.00, Dad, Darren & Carl all down to place to buy suits – then at 6.00 pm photo’s at Murray’s all finally over.
Mum said we can have this computer game for me to play whilst I’m at home. I feel fat, hot & ready to explode from eating so, I ain’t gonna eat no more tonight.
I think I’ll call my cat ‘Whispers’ after Elton Johns song ‘Whispering Whisper’ cause it always makes me cry, and I remember it always makes me think of kittens.
Jeez it’s hot tonight. I’m sweating. My ‘trendy’ saying for the Day is:
My life’s story
I _______ later to be filled (died)
Oh well – signing off for the night, with my really messy hand writing.
8.45 Airport. Picked Michael, Steve, George up from the airport & they seemed really cool and are good.
10.00 Donna’s shop. Col Brown said he’ll see what he can do but can’t make any promises.
Answered this Questionaire (below) which has made life much better. Going out on ship & helicopter tomorrow soo prime.
12.30 Went to Caverlears (Cavalier’s) men’s wear shop, got suits boot $69 each. No sox or jox. Dark silk ties. Family photos are sorted out & I asked Murray about photos on plates for wedding present & he said to ring him in a week.
Got another letter from Becky & we talked it out afterwards…
“Why am I being allowed to die?”
I’m being allowed to die because I’ve achieved more than most other people have and there’s a place for me up-there in the skys for me.
“Why me, is it fair?”
I wish I was allowed to stay because I don’t want to leave this earth of ours, Yes its fair in one way, I’ve got to go otherwise I might put some sort of sense into this earth, the wankers with bombs would be doing things my way, it I could stay – but no its not fair in the sense I have to leave my family & friends & they will lose me. I was just starting to like this dump & now they decide no – I’ve got to go.
“Am I angry, who do I blame for this shit of a mess?”
I am angry with upstairs for wanting me but who knows, I could be wrong for it could be my fault for letting myself get sunburnt but I don’t really blame anybody because its not my fault because the sun may not be the problem totally. It’s not anybody elses fault cause there’s nothing they could of done.
I don’t believe I’m being allowed to die but I think I have no choice – the only choice I have is the length of time I live – if I’m positive I’ll live longer & if I’m negative I’ll live far less time.
Went down to Donna’s shop feeling total drained but feel ready to roar now. Going out on ship. Getting Observer photos done.
Pilotage Certificate (original) is in this book & I filled it out. Soo good, the helicopter flight was so good. All aboard.
Going down farm now and I am taking my kitten Whispers.
Have had a really great day but I’m totally buggered and can’t wait to go to bed, Nana is really pleased to see me.
Had a really relaxing day I think I’ve recovered from yesterday.
Val Batty came down to the farm to day & it was really good to have a chat. I felt really good today when I did the chores, I felt as though it had achieved a days work. Carl is not good, he’s at the age where he thinks he’s not aloud to cry & has to be macho – I don’t know how to react back – he’s stirring to get attention, it’s the wrong way cause he just gets into trouble.
Named & everybody loves my kitten. Mum says its the sort of kitten you could sit & watch for hours. She’s damn right.
God, I feel that every moment of the day is to be for achieving. I can’t be a miracle though I feel as though I could be saving somebody from going through the pain I am feeling inside.
All the top shit heads spend money on bombs & guns & killing when we could put it into research & save lives & maybe the world wouldn’t have so many Roseberry house cases. War, weapons & killing all mean death & pain. An argument is a much more fulfilling feeling & less pain is involved & no blood is shed. Just think if they hadn’t spent as much money on weapons – they may have come up with cures for Aids & cancers & other terminal problems & we would have many of the lost people of war. We are a wasteful, selfish, cruel world. We’re all shit heads. I wonder whether we should go to heaven at all. God, I wish I could live a normal life. But of course I’m being taken to work for them’s upstairs. I’m scared and I don’t want to leave everything in a mess.
Good Morning. Wickety Wak was excellent & I got a free shirt. Went to party at Ian E’s & Craig C was there – god he was drunk & had a fight & he unfortunately recognised me. God – why can’t you take them in the sky & leave me alone. Craig won’t remember hopefully he was drunk enough to forget. I found it rather disappointing talking to him when he was in that condition, he embarrassed himself.
I had a cry & let it out. I feel much better the money side of things for the O.C.F. is all sorted out.
Today I feel shit house. I feel fat. I’m sick to death of eating & I am really feeling uptight. Had roast pork for lunch & then apple pie & custard. Yum I feel fat. Greg dropped into Nan’s & Grandad’s while we were there.
Becky’s friend Miara (can’t spell) father died Friday night which was a big shock & he died of cancer & he was & has been in pain for quite some time. Miara gave me & Becky tickets to 1927 on Thursday night. I must thank her.
Tonight I am really tense & Richard won’t eat any vegetables. Becky’s upset about the death & David’s right in the middle, David & Eric have gone out.
Going out to buy Bridesmaid dresses soon, feeling OK this morning. Was on telly again & tonight in Brisbane. I’ll be on too. Uncle John will be here about Thursday. Going to arrange a barbecue when Connie gets here & John & Colin Nuttly.
This Saturday we’re going to have a B.B. cause Uncle John & Jennie & their familys will be here. Colin Nuttly might come.
What a day. I got up late & I feel shit house, have done house cleaning all morning while mum’s been on the phone. My hand is like a leaf. We bought mum’s bed & it comes this afternoon. Also bought the Nintendo computer game. I’ve eaten & my hand still shakes. Rang Dr. H. He said have 1/2 a tablet & see how I go cause I’ve put on weight so fast. Austudy people are trying very successfully to piss Becky off.
We went to school for BP. B.P. & English today & I saw Mr. B – had a good old chat. Totally stuffed him up, he had to ring Donna to see how to treat me & she said “Normally” which is excellent. Didn’t get around to seeing Mr. D.K. damn shame. Julie gave me a necklace with half a best friend emblem on it & Donna gave me a charm as well. Got more mail today. Got a cheque for me from BHP Combined Mining of $1147.86 to spend on me personally.
Bought CD player for the family & a present for everybody in the family & a teddy for Cheryl & a shirt for John. Going to 1927 tonight also in my new clothes & new earrings & waist coast over Becky’s shirt. I’ll have to get Mira a thank you present. I shouted me Bec & David at the pizza hut $28.00.
Becky’s friend didn’t show for 1927 – silly bitch, David could have gone if she had only rung & told us she wasn’t going. 1927 was Great. Support group ‘Paris’ were good too. Saw Phillip Selely & Becky & me are invited to 18th birthday party on 11th Aug. Damn shame, same day as Dad’s wedding but Becky may be able to go (I’m under age).
John & Cheryl arrive today at 4.30 by train. Becky’s ‘x’ friend Anita is a lying bitch – she told her friend she went to 1927 & enjoyed it – liar, if I ever meet her she’ll be real sorry.
John & Cheryl love their presents & poor little Richard has got the chicken pox. Hope I don’t get them cause I’ve never had them. Going to Dinner at Donna’s now.
Dinner – Chicken & ham spring rolls
Corn & Chicken soup
Sweet & sour pork
Fried ice cream
lots of drinks
& chives chips
My legs are aching from when I had apple juice & orange yesterday. Connie & Gary arrived today 9.30am. Jenny & Bob arrived last night but saw them this morning.
Me, Beck & Mel went shopping – I shouted hamburgers & drinks and bought 2 discs.
1 – New Kids on the Block
2 – Darrel Breakaway
Must go now – hand is tired – must post some letters.
BBQ at Gardens with all of Mum’s family & Dad’s. Prime day lots of yummy food.
Video cameras here again – enjoyed the day my legs were aching – I was happy & I was contented & most important Mum was beautiful & happy. Dad helped Becky & kept her strong for me & Richie still was his impish self. Nana J enjoyed her rides & Nana & Grandad had all their family together.
I nicked off with Donna & Bruce & had icecream & a bacon & egg hamburger Prime.
Went to the Chinese place for tea & ate more than $10 worth. Suck eggs! Elevates opposition!
Went to Donna’s – rang Jack to check on coffin – prime pink one – it’s coming. My one long stem pink rose tied with purple ribbon will be Prime on it.
Went for drive with Donna to Boyne. I’m tired & I have had enough. I hate the tablets, I’ve done all I want. I am happy now – all I want now is to be pain free & free to fly with the wind & the clouds. Back to shop after 2 pies, Yum. Then to Nana’s for tea, Yum again.
TUESDAY 31 – from here – words are Cassy’s – inserted by Donna.
Lazy day, legs ache. I am tired but to the Cancer Fund Meeting I go, eating on the way!
Meeting was great, I was not so good, did a good job of pretending though. Home with my Mum & family I now stay. I love you all so much & that aint ponsie.
Voices whispering Cassy Cassy
You can no longer stay
Hands reaching out to grasp
Helping me on my way
I’ll no longer ache with sorrow
No longer feel this pain
Go adieu & fare thee well now
I shall see thee again one day!
My journey has begun it is too painful to stay & I really am needed upstairs, so watch out for my rain & don’t forget me wall.
Dear Francis Leon Becky & Richard
(1) Why did she die:- To do bigger & better things. To teach us many things & to be with very special people in a very special place – her SKY – upstairs.
(2) Why did you give her up so lovingly & freely:- Because she was a very extra special little girl, she was a gift that was loaned to you to teach & to train – only trouble is she trained you & us.
(3) Thank you can not say what I feel. I am so proud & so honoured to have had the gift of her soul, my little soul-mate, I loved her so much, I hurt so much. I cry inside for her touch & her Prime Ways. I can never thank you enough for what you allowed her & I to have, she did the choosing. I accepted her with a ton of love. I wish to God I could have handed your precious gift back to you completely healed & whole, it was not to be. I hope & pray she is happy & content now because she will never leave my heart or memory & I will never be the same person I was because Cass my little shit has given me so much & taken a big chunk of me with her. She has left me with the will to continue to try & find a cure for this shitfull asshole of a disease.
I love you all
Your daughter’s friend & soul mate
PS Please continue this on, don’t allow it to stop here Francis!
SUNDAY 5 – Funeral Day
I am now all dressed & boy do I look prime
Damn Shame! The boys at school can’t see me.
Cassy’s Letter – Read by Donna’s Husband, Bruce
Bruce says he won’t finish my letter unless he can say a few words first. I hope he is not going to get all yuckie about it. Oh well! Its only a small handout for what I need him to do so I think I’ll let him. Off you go, but I’m listening so be careful what you say other wise you’ll be in heaps of trouble.
(Bruce) I am privileged and humbled to have met a real angel, Cassy Jones, before she was recalled to be a spiritual angel upstairs. How’s that Cass? Short and sweet. Gotcha!
(Letter) Dear Mum and Dad, Beckie and Richard,
Off all the things I have achieved in my life I’m finding this the hardest of them all to write. I’ve torn up letter after letter without getting past the heading, but time is running short and I must get it down. Oh no! My time has run out so I will have to write to you through Bruce.
(Bruce) Why me Cassy? I don’t know what a fourteen year old boy would write, let alone a cheeky young miss like you. But I suppose if we get our heads together we may be able to compose a letter to your parents, sister and brother. Okay, lets start by saying Dear Mum and Dad.
(Cassy) We’ve already got that you goose.
(Bruce) Who’s a goose?
(Cassy) Hell, we haven’t got past the first line!
(Bruce) Okay, well let’s try to talk to Mum first.
(Cassy) Why Mum? Why not Dad first?
(Bruce) I don’t know why. That the way we started the letter, with dear Mum.
(Cassy) Why not start with dear Dad?
(Bruce) Look here young lady if you are going to stir by asking silly questions you can write the thing yourself. There are other things I could be doing tonight, like watching football or sleeping. So let’s get on with it.
(Cassy) Prime, Brucie woosey is getting cranky. Look I’m sorry Bruce but I was born a stirrer, died a stirrer and still one. Heaven help upstairs when I get there. Okay, now I’ve got that out of my system I guess it’s time I finished this letter to my mum and dad, Beckie & Richard.
(Letter) First of all you must forgive me for all the times I stirred. I know I was excessive, but then I only had a short time with you and I was trying to give you a life time of memories. Forgive me for not allowing you to share my pain and anger. My love for you all was so great that I could not bear the thought of you being hurt unnecessarily, because I knew it would be hard enough on you all when I carked it. That is why I turned to another, my dear friend and companion, Donna. Gee! I’ve just realised how much a greedy, self-centred little thing I must have seemed to Donna’s family and friends. Please, please find it in your hearts to forgive me as I did not wish to hurt or upset anyone.
Cheez! I have to admit to feeling a little bit happy about my last big stir. Stuff it! I admit it’s the greatest, it’s real prime stuff.
But. I’ve only just fanned the flame, and I wish that all the people here, and those that my efforts have touched, will make my small flame become a blazing inferno, so that the sacrifice my family has made will not be in vain.
Don’t forget to SLIP, SLOP, SLAP.
‘Bye for now, See you upstairs.
From your Cass, whose love for you is so Prime.