I woke this morning to the news that a close cousin of my mother’s had passed away. For many families a mother’s cousin sounds a bit too far removed, but this particular cousin, Lornie, was more of a sister to my mum and her siblings, and became more like an Aunt to me. Mum and I also worked along side her in her catering business for seven years, spending many long Saturdays dressing tables, prepping courses, and then serving and cleaning up after wedding guests. She owned a takeaway shop as well. My mother worked it with her and her son, and I’d head there straight after school to help out with the after-school rush. She wasn’t my first boss, but she was my first good boss. She was the first employer to pay me fairly and treat me like an adult. When you’re a teenager, that stuff really counts.
Lornie wasn’t just a good boss, she was a good person. She was one of those women who was always baking something for someone. A batch of scones for church, some Anzacs for the old Vets in the nursing home, or a fruit cake for someone’s birthday. Having catered for so long, she had an uncanny ability to know how much food was needed for any gathering, always making just enough for leftovers for staff dinners and a small plate of sweets each to take home.
She was the brightness in any room. The fact that she was a larger woman never bothered her, but rather encouraged her to always dress immaculately. She loved bright colours: “They’re going to see my arse anyway, may as well make it easy for them”. Hair, nails, make-up—all perfect, always. She was a delight.
Lornie was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer five years ago. It started behind her right eye. The first time round the doctors managed to get most of it, and she was in remission within a year. Then, at the beginning of last year she went back to discover it had returned, this time much more aggressively. The doctors, a new team this time, told her she had time and, not having private health care, she was put on The List…right down the bottom. In June this year, the pain was so severe she begged her physician to do something, and the surgery was moved forward to September. Too late. Even with surgery, much of the cancer wasn’t accessible, and they inevitably left half of it behind. But they discharged her anyway, and told her to go home.
On Monday, she was admitted to the local hospital, vomiting and unable to stomach food. They tapped her with a drip, ran some tests, and told her she’d be fine. She passed away last night at just after one o’clock from brain swelling and a clot in the lung, believed to have developed during surgery.
As much as she will be missed, I’m secretly relieved for her. She can rest now—no more fighting against the cancer and the clock. She’s better where she is, free from the pain. And no doubt she’s got all the angel’s chowing down on her famous scones.
Rest in Peace Lornie.