A Heartfelt Note for Rose on the Brooklyn Bridge

This blog began as a way to document my personal tribute to my mum. To celebrate what would have been her 60th birthday, I scattered 60 handwritten postcards around Paris in her memory and I wrote my email address on them in case anyone was to find one. (You can read more in my Glamour article here.)

Since then, the project has now moved forwards with the overwhelming amount of messages received from people who are sharing their own stories. I invited readers to become a part of the magic via 60 Postcards Stateside and I set off to New York City to scatter the individual notes.

Today’s post is for Tony, who wrote a heartfelt note to his mother, Rose.

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“Hi there, 

Please don’t throw me away but take a few minutes to read.  

This card is in memory of my mother, Rose, who loved New York. Sadly I never really knew her. She gave birth to me in Dublin in 1953 when she was just 17. She looked after me for 18 months but in May 1955 gave me up for adoption. I was adopted and went to live in England. She then set off on the boat for New York, where she worked hard and made many friends. It wasn’t until 1987 when I decided to trace her that I found she had been taken ill in 1974, returned to Ireland and died aged only 39. I met her sisters and brother and heard who an amazing, loving and lovely person she was. I don’t know if it’s genetic but my daughter loves New York and would love to live and work there. Not a day goes by without me thinking of Rose and I’m sure that between 1955 and 1974, while living in New York, not a day would have gone by without her thinking of me and praying that life worked out OK. I can let her know now that it did. 

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Tony.”

I know Tony, as the daughter he refers to in his message is one of my closest friends, Beccy. Yet, this postcard came as a complete surprise and I felt so moved when I read about his search for Rose.

Beccy was with me for that very first trip to Paris and I lived with her for 4 years – she was there through it all. She flew off to Canada last year but we were able to meet in New York on her way home and so, naturally, we wanted to do this one together.

I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was about 12 so why not give it a whirl for the first time in years on the TERRIFYING roads of New York? Sure. We went to the bike hire shop in Brooklyn, signed a disclaimer saying that we would be responsible for our own deaths (great) and set off for the Brooklyn Bridge via Prospect Park and many a gorgeous NY street. I was wobbling about like crazy but we ignored the beeping cars, embraced the downhill straights and enjoyed a pit stop for an ice cream en route.

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Our plan was to leave Tony’s postcard for Rose on the Brooklyn Bridge – a structure full of history, brimming with tourists and a gorgeous spot connecting Brooklyn with Manhattan. Beccy tied it to the railings with ribbon, we hopped on our bikes and rode away – hoping that it would be read.

The beautiful, Rose

The beautiful, Rose

In Tony’s letter (to accompany his postcard) he describes how, despite the fact that he was unable to meet his mother in person, he has now connected with new family members and they continue to tell him all about Rose and her warm and wonderful nature. I had the pleasure of meeting one of his cousins in NYC , too.

I’ve sobbed all over again writing this one up. It is an incredible story. There may be heartbreak in the separation of Tony from his mum, but there is so much beauty in the fact that he is still able to get to know her through others. And now, she lives on through him and his children too.

Tony, Rose – I will be raising a glass to you this evening.

With love,

Rachael x

Every single one of these postcards has a different story, a unique message and an overwhelming amount of warmth and love embedded in the words. If you would like to do a postcard tribute of your own, please do get in touch – I would love to help.

Email: 60postcards@gmail.com

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60 Postcards Hits 2 Years; From Paris to Now

Hi there.

So, it has now been an utterly astonishing 2 YEARS since that first trip to Paris, where the 60 Postcards project began. I still can’t quite comprehend how so much has happened since that long weekend but I thought, to see the New Year in, it would be nice to review the journey over the past 24 months.

December 2012 – 60 Postcards in Paris

The month was December, the location was Paris and the reason for the long weekend there was my wonderful mother. Frustrated and lost after her sudden death to bowel cancer in February 2012, I wanted to celebrate what would have been her 60th birthday by spreading her memory around the City of Love. I chose to reach out to the tourists and locals who may stumble upon a postcard and wrote my email address on each one, in case anyone was to find one and get in touch.

My article for Glamour last year (60 Postcards; One Unique Tributesummarises the trip and the tribute.

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March 2013 – The Beginning of the Blog

It took me three months to share my story. I knew that by documenting the magic of the postcards and the responses, I would also be talking openly about my grief – something which I had found so hard to deal with. But as the very first words hit the page, I felt a release. I realised how much of a taboo death still is, and how speaking out should not be something to be afraid of.

I have written 95 posts – approximately 720,00 words – and after a quiet couple of months recently (due to the development of the project behind the scenes), I am looking forward to writing again.

(You can read the very first post here.)

April 2013 – NYC – Part 1: More Postcards & Meeting a Finder

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When I received an email from ballet dancing, NYC based postcard finder, Stephanie, I knew I had to get out there to scatter more postcards and see her perform. While I was there (with friend Caroline), I met so many wonderful characters, stumbled across inspirational projects and really didn’t want to come home. One of the projects was a Before I Die wall and I took part by writing a message on there:

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I was incredibly lucky – my hope for the future came far sooner than I could ever imagine….

September 2013 – The Book Deal

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Suddenly, it was more than the odd blog post that I was going to have to write. My world felt like it had changed in so many ways since the trip to Paris but it was on signing a book deal with Simon & Schuster UK when it totally flipped upside down. My extra curricular writing became a real life role as I took some time away from my full-time job for an energy company.

I can understand why so many people assumed it would be a book of my blog posts. But I didn’t want that. Although some of what I had already written has been echoed and adapted, I wanted the book to have a real narrative and to go into far more depth about both Mum and the postcards.

I buried my head in my laptop for a few months and fuelled with fear, emotion, passion and a hell of a lot of coffee – I wrote my memoir 60 Postcards.

February 2014 – The Release of 60 Postcards

I didn’t sleep all that well the night before the release of the book. I will never forget walking into the Foyles in Waterloo and seeing it on the shelf for the very first time. I thoroughly enjoyed a few chats on the radio and seeing my story in an article or two. It was all very surreal. When postcard finder, Stephanie, flew over for the book launch at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel in March, it really was the icing on the cake.

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October 2014 – NYC – Part 2: Postcards Scattered Stateside

As the months after the book released passed, I adored the emails that would fill my inbox from readers sharing their own stories. This is where my mind started to kick into action and with my strong desire to move forward with my own grief, I wanted to create an opportunity for other people to be a part of the project. 60 Postcards Stateside was the plan and I set off for NYC again. And this time I would be the messenger.

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2015 – New Year Plans

High up on the 60 Postcards New Year event list is the release of the paperback – with a lovely new cover.

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After the success of the New York trip, delivering memories on behalf of other people – I was sure that it was time to take this project to the next level. A social enterprise is a very daunting thing to be starting, but I am game. I am ready. I am petrified and excited in equal measure and now it will be a very busy year ensuring that I work fiercely hard at creating a network, platform and service that can offer help to those suffering from grief, using creativity either anonymously or for the world to see.

I won’t be able to do this alone and I hope to hold a focus group to bounce off some ideas and gain some honest and valuable feedback. More to come on that very soon!

Phew. I think that’s everything for now. Let the hard work begin.

Wishing you all a very happy New Year and a wonderful 2015.

With love,

Rachael x

PS I have also been invited to blog on the Huffington Post platform (first article here) and I will be releasing a New Year piece in the next week :).

Lucy & Linda; A Message on the High Line

Bringing you news once a week about the ongoing 60 Postcards project (you can read a summary of the story in Glamour Magazine, here).

Earlier today I was in the creative cafe, Drink Shop Do, having a coffee and a chat with Lucy. I didn’t know Lucy before our meet but I did know a little about her already, as she heard about 60 Postcards Stateside in Emerald Street a few days ahead of my journey to NYC. Her postcard arrived just in time. Phew.

There is nothing like sitting down and chatting away with a total stranger who just ‘gets it’. Although the experience of losing our mum’s fell at different stages of our lives, the conversation flowed with openness and ease. We could share, rant, laugh, reflect and feel completely comfortable talking about the taboo topic of loss in a, ‘This is how it is’ way. Completely refreshing.

Today’s post is about Lucy’s note for her mum……

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“To whoever finds this postcard – local or traveller, I send you positive energy from London, UK. 

I am writing this to spread the memory of my mother – Linda who passed away in 2003. 3 months before this we took a trip to NYC having the trip of our lives. It remains a very special place to me due to these memories of happy times. My mum wanted to travel and see the world a great deal more than she had the chance to. I’m lucky enough to travel monthly with work and take her memory with me. Most recently to Greece – as on the front of this card. 

Tell your close ones you love them today. Lucy :) x

The High Line in the Meatpacking district was high (ahem) on my list of things to do during my trip. Somehow I had managed to miss it on my first NYC visit. It is a walkway of greenery set above the streets, running over Chelsea up to the Lower West Side. It sounds pretty self-explanatory but I still wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I hopped up the stairs and realised how much of a hot spot it really was. I held Lucy’s postcard tightly in my hand and could only hope that I would find a quiet moment to leave it.

10830466_10152822099985873_6320938512997195063_oI walked along the urban park, taking it all in. I went through a group of stalls – one of which was selling old postcards. I was tempted to buy some but I have more postcards than I have ever owned in my life right now, and I certainly didn’t want to get any mixed up with the heartfelt messages I was carrying with me. I got about half way along the High Line when I took a stop break on a bench. Behind me was the buzz of the city and in front of me was the beautiful view of the Hudson River. This was it. This was the place. I didn’t want an audience for what I was about to do so I waited for a flurry of tourists to pass by and as the path became free of wanderers, I tied the postcard to the side of the bench, took a few snaps and flurried down the nearby stairs back down to street level.

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The scattering moment has been made even more special after meeting Lucy in person. We talked about how difficult grief can be, as sometimes you want to talk and other times you don’t. That fact reminds me of why I believe using creativity can be so beneficial when dealing with the loss of a loved one. You don’t need to talk at all. You can remain completely anonymous or you can choose to share to the world. Even just reading other people’s stories can help ease the pain.

I adore the closing line of Lucy’s postcard, ‘Tell your close ones you love them today’. It is such a lovely call to action for whoever may find the postcard and to anyone reading this blog post now.

Linda and Lucy – this one’s for you. Thank you for being part of it.

Rachael xx

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