This couple? Neill Duncan and Rachel Besser. A couple of spunks. Amazing, creative, talented, incredible real and open people ... my husband Dave built a music studio for them recently. Whenever Dave does a job for somebody, he comes home with stories and snippets.
"Hon, they're the coolest couple!"
And they are. I first met Rachel a few years ago when she wandered with her high-spirited, exquisite children into the Leura shop I was working at, Mrs Peel. The world often looks down upon highly-spirited, exquisite children. They played and laughed in the shop corridor until a random lady came in to tell Rachel to keep them under control. Rachel turned to me:
"Well, SOMEBODY could use an orgasm."
I replied with something so filthy I can't even write it here, made Rachel laugh so hard. Rachel is how all women should be .... open, honest, tough, loud, creative, STRONG. A firecracker. Her house overflows with colour and creativity. She is tattooed and speaks her mind ... can be found over at Painted Lady Productions. She takes my breath away. I want to be just like her.
So what of Neill? Well, that's the thing. Neill's had a bit of a big time in life, lately. Curveballs galore. He is one of Australias most talented musicians, a drummer and a saxophonist and a myriad of other instruments I can't even name. A member of the Snaketown Rattlers. A loving father. A beloved drumming teacher.
Neill noticed a lump in his arm about eight weeks ago, it was a sarcoma, he went on chemotherapy, it failed, so he had to get his arm cut off.
Cancer is a thieving whore.
Last Sunday night, Rachel and Neill held the biggest bash of a send-off. The Blue Mountains has a beautiful community. Hundreds of people came together to say goodbye to Neills tattooed left arm.
I gave Rachel a pink sari from India, told her how tough the Indian women are because they have to be. Rachel is being tough because she has to be. There is no choice. I teared up when I saw Neill only because I recognise that particularly fetching shade of chemo beige. I pointed to Dave and told Rachel that he was once half-dead with a forty percent chance of living. That he got so sick and beige that women didn't even perve on him in the street anymore. "But look at him now, Rachel ... fuck cancer, and fuck statistics."
We all watched and clapped and laughed as Neill and his amazing band of musicians played. It's a huge gift to allow others to witness your life, instead of shrinking, squirrelling your pain away. Doesn't do us any good. I've learnt that the very hard way.
Stood there with my remissiony guy with Neill in the background playing the biggest ode and Rocco hugged me tight and I was officially the luckiest woman in the world. (Until an ENTIRE BEER spilt into my handbag and everything smelt beer-y. Thing is, I didn't know it was beer I just thought it was water so I patted my face with it. A recovering alcoholic beerface woman. This is why I don't go to Christmas parties.)
Neill played for hours. He looked out to the crowd like he was a Spirit, probably because he was. Questioning your mortality does that to people.
Here he is just after his diagnosis, pensive.
Neill had his operation a few days ago. His arm is heavily bandaged .. I hope his cool tatts made the literal cut. He's in quite a bit of pain but he's up walking around, beautiful Rachel ever-present by his side. They are constantly in my thoughts.
I imagine Neill and Rachel travelling in a Michael Leunig cartoon car overflowing with love and Frida Kahlo images and music. Lots of music. Those blonde urchins of theirs in the back seat who help kiss Neills left arm, thank it for all of its help, and throw it out the window. No rear view mirror to look back.
There's only forward, driving ahead into a new landscape they didn't know was there but it's coming and it's AMAZING.
Sorry for the dark quality but it's been a dark time. Shed them some Light now, Universe.
2.37 minutes into this is spine-tingling. Can you feel what's happening? A man is saying goodbye to a beloved and vital member of his body, using that very beloved and vital member of his body. He does it well. It ends abruptly because he still has music to make and he's not done yet, not by a long shot.
You can send some love and beautiful thoughts to Neill and Rachel ... please feel free to leave a comment to them. It'll be a Christmas unlike any other, and they'll be reading this post sometime today on Rachel's phone, perched up on a hospital bed in Sydney together. Always together.