It seems impossible to sum up in words how much Mum meant to us, how could we ever do such a love justice? It is with deeds, not words that that we will carry on her legacy.
On April 10th 2019, a Wednesday like no other – we received the heart shattering news that Mum had stage 4 cancer. After two weeks of struggling to accept her diagnosis, we made the decision to remain as positive as possible collectively, fighting alongside Mum, hand in hand for every step of the journey ahead. In her honour, my brother and sister decided to take part in a sponsored half marathon to raise money for her favourite local charity, Lincs2Nepal. In the midst of an otherwise difficult time, they had given us all something to focus on. The initial target was £300, which had more than doubled in a matter of hours. We wanted to be able to set up sponsorship of a child for Mum but quickly realised we could do much more than this. Over the months and with the support of Mum’s devoted family and friends, we raised over £8000 doing various fundraising events. This surpassed £10,000 after her funeral. With the money raised, Garry and the Lincs2Nepal team decided to build ‘The Vanessa Riches Suite’, which incorporates a medical room, medical supplies, a library, conference room, a toilet area and a quiet area outside for the children to read. The project is now providing medical care and vaccinations through ‘The Vanessa Riches Suite’ and we named the ongoing initiative, ‘KindNess’. Mum was known as ‘Ness’ to her loved ones, so it seemed fitting. Under this project, we are able to extend the unquestioning hand of kindness that Mum offered to everyone she met; she was such a selfless person, a perfect example of always putting others first. She did this in her personal and professional life, spending three decades working for the NHS.
To me, KindNess is a sincere example of what love can achieve and how it enables you to live on, even after you are gone. That love has fuelled everything we do, we have made so many amazing memories to look back on and I couldn’t be prouder of my siblings. To be an instrument of love is an incredibly sustainable form of activism. What better way to nourish the soul than helping others in her memory? Like the lighthouses she adored – a symbol now for her everlasting light, she guides us forward, navigating us through the pain of life without her, even on our darkest days.
We lost Mum on January the 3rd 2020, aged 56; though frail in body, she was always strong in spirit. It’s hard to find balance when you feel like your roots have been ripped from under you. Finding the light in a situation filled with such intense suffering can seem impossible at times. Moving forward, personally, my grief can’t help but shape my path. Mum died as she lived – surrounded by pure love, and it’s that same love that carries me forward into each new day. She made us promise to never stop talking about her, so I suppose this is a great way to continue her legacy of love – 5000 miles away! After her diagnosis, the fundraising brought incredible joy to Mum, she was overwhelmed by the generosity of all involved, each small donation making its mark on her. Her joy serves as a reminder of what truly matters – love, hope and connection with others. Even when things don’t turn out the way we hoped they would – there is still so much positivity to be found in the journey and so much to learn. As timeless as the love she gave, Mum never stops inspiring me. With each and every thing we do, there will be a little piece of her. That is love, finding inspiration in the smallest things, in human relationships, caring for one another – feeling brighter because for a few seconds in your day you look outside of yourself and it isn’t all black. If I could speak to Mum today, I would just want her to know how unbelievably loved she is and how far that love continues to reach.