A helping hand
By HELEN JACK
KATHLEEN O'Meara's friends will take up where she left off, determined to help care and nurture her three daughters the way their childhood friend had done.
It was only two weeks ago Kathleen, or Kathi to her friends, fell ill with Meningococcal Meningitis passing away that same night.
The shock of her loss is still being felt throughout the small communities of Billinudgel and Middle Pocket.
Her three daughters Kristie, Ashley and Haleigh and her mother Helen are inconsolable.
But the loss of Kathi falls harder knowing she was the sole carer for her daughter Kristie who was diagnosed with Athetoid Cerebral Palsy at eight months old.
Now 25 years old, Kristie knows her mother is gone and the special communication they had, those little touches or noises, is disrupted.
The care of Kristie, which is around the clock, now falls to Kristie's younger sisters, Ashley, 22, and Haleigh, 18.
Ashleigh has had to give up her job to become Kristie's full time carer but the skill and sheer physical strength their mother brought to that role is difficult to duplicate with the girls having to hire a hoist to lift their sister, a task their mother did herself.
Cindy Holland and Tracey O'Donnell went to school with Kathi and are now coordinating fundraising efforts to buy equipment for the girls, fund medical prescriptions and carers.
But it's not easy.
Still reeling with grief from the loss of their mate, Cindy and Tracey are appealing to the community to help them help Kathi's girls.
"She was the best mother I knew," said Cindy.
"She was selfless and alway made sure her children's needs came before her own.
"So over the next three months we plan a major fundraising effort and are aiming to raise enough money to buy a suitable vehicle for the girls.
"Local businesses and the community are getting involved and we are planning a Family Fun Day and an Auction and Opera in the Tin Shed at Billinudgel Hotel."
While no dates are yet set, Cindy and Tracey plan the event for October or November.
"The Mullumbimby/Brunswick Lions Club have kindly allowed us to come under their banner as a registered charity so major donations are fully tax deductible," said Tracey.
Donations of money can be deposited at any Commonwealth Bank to AH&K O'Meara or at Byron Shire Council or Billinudgel Post Office, Michaela's Hair and Beauty at Brunswick Heads or Abracadabra in Bangalow.
"Kristie's sisters believe they have the love to care and nurture her," said Tracey.