This is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do at The Living Tree.
Last night at 21.40, our beloved tree Fiona Burkeman died peacefully in the Royal Marsden Hospital, her partner Brian by her side. Despite being very weak and unable to walk, she had spent the day at her daughter Tiggy’s wedding, a very special joy to her.
Fiona walked into our lives in October 2012, at the start of what became The Living Tree. As I recall, she was vulnerable and fearful that day – little did we know then what a forceful powerhouse she would turn out to be.
When she and Sue Rorstad were in the room, two feisty women, oh my the sparks could fly with Jo and I dodging for cover! Her generosity to The Living Tree knew no bounds, opening her lovely
home Limbury to us for summer garden parties, workshops, and Christmas lunches – and other excuses for tea in between. She supported all that we did with her time and many gifts – a talented artist, an ex-counsellor, a trustee and committee member, a spokesperson for us but also nationally on ovarian cancer.
No one who met Fiona could forget her, she made an impression wherever she went. She had nicknames for many of us, the only person ever besides my father to call me Jo-Jo. I feel blessed that I was able to speak to her on Sunday evening when she knew she was reaching the end of her life. The pneumonia and septicaemia had taken a heavy toll of her physical resources, leaving the disease to take over. She was the epitome of courage and resilience through her years of treatment, a fantastic role model for us all. She asked after everyone and thanked us for the “lovely card” we’d sent.
Her funeral will be in London but she asked if we would help Brian and Tiggy organise a celebration of her life here in Dorset, which I said would be our privilege.
The Living Tree was a very important part of Fiona’s life and she never ceased to promote us wherever she went. What she treasured most was the support and love so many of you gave her in so many different ways. She appreciated almost more than anyone our therapists who gave her healing, our art sessions and writing workshops.
We looked on as she put her own cancer issues and treatment on hold to support her daughter Sarah through three years of sarcoma, especially for the last year of Sarah’s life. We tried to support her as we marvelled at her fortitude in dealing with a mother’s worst nightmare.
Our hearts go out to Brian, always at her side, to Tiggy and Adam and to all who loved her as we did. We’re not sure when Brian will get down to Limbury but mail can be sent there or we will pass on any messages you send through.
Falling leaves feed and renew the tree so that it grows ever stronger with deeper roots and spreading branches. The Living Tree is part of Fiona’s legacy.
With much love through many tears,
Jo O’Farrell xxx