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The Red Handkerchief

The Red Handkerchief 

Late in 2003, my husband Bruce and I set off for Shanghai for Bruce to undergo a month of Chinese cancer treatments for terminal mesothelioma. Western solutions proved futile in containing the cancer. Though Bruce beat the odds of his prognosis, we knew we had slim chance of success: however, the idea of giving up on maximising every infinitesimal moment of life was unthinkable. Whilst in Shanghai, and in between difficult treatments, Bruce and I tasted Shanghai, all the while lifting our spirits by planning long-ranging goals in our future. We went to a tailor where Bruce was measured for a three-quarter length, cashmere overcoat. He chose an extravagant, chocolate-brown cashmere fabric, the very best silk lining and hand-carved buttons. Not only would the coat be memorable, but the whole experience of three fittings would never be forgotten. It was forty degrees in Shanghai and winter in Australia was seven months away! On the day of his second fitting he took a fancy to an exquisite, red, silk fabric, covered with colourful hibiscus flowers. He told me that I should have something made for me. I had a pleated skirt made. It was beyond dreamy. When we collected our finished garments the owner of the store aid that the seamstress had made me a handkerchief with the leftover fabric. He said, “You wont be able to wear the skirt every day but you can carry the handkerchief with you every day.”

He was right.  

Bruce lost his battle with mesothelioma in January 2006. He never saw another winter, and never got to wear his precious cashmere coat.  Today, the coat hangs in my wardrobe – a memory of the giant of a man my husband was. And, in my stunning, red handkerchief, every day, I carry the memories of a day spent with my husband that could never ever be forgotten.

Julie Stafford

1 comment

  • Elizabeth Berwick

    I purchased your beautiful hankies for a dear friend for Christmas. She is also fighting cancer at the moment and was delighted with them.

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