The Leaves of Life

Thursday 11 February, 2010 by Jacqueline

I would like to share with you a story and poem about my mother's fight with breast cancer. She died on the 1st of October this year from the cancer that had spread to her liver, brain and bones. She battled it for 15 years, undergoing many chemo and radiotherapy bouts, and many experimental drugs. She epitomised the word 'fighter', and always put others before herself, even in her darkest days. She is sadly missed.

The Leaves of Life

During Autumn 2009, I was sitting in a park, thinking about Mum and her fight. We had only recently been told that her prognosis was very poor, and that she probably would not see out the year. In front of me was a row of beautiful tall trees, most with their leaves bare in preparation for the winter. But one tree stood out from all the others. Surrounded by bare, lifeless branches, one branch was still full of healthy, strong green leaves. It was as if this branch was saying to the tree 'if you think I'm giving up without a fight, think again!'

This lone branch reminded me so much of Mum's fight to stay with us. While the rest of her body was failing, there was a small part of her that was fighting so very hard - her 'green leaves' so to speak.

As I sat there, I started to compose this poem in my mind. I hope you gain some comfort from it and, like I will from now on, think of Gwen when you see the autumn leaves.

I walked a path, clear and long,
And saw an autumn tree, tall and strong.
Its branches were bare, except a few
Which were green and strong, for they knew;

They knew they could hold on for only so long,
But were determined to stay on, to stay very strong.
They reminded me of your fight so brave,
Your fight to hold on, and to save;

To save those last precious leaves of life,
You would not let go, not give up the fight.
So each year I will look at the autumn trees,
And know their leaves have fallen, as it will always be;

And know you are now resting gently,
gently in a place,
Where autumn leaves fall softly,
softly around your face.


It can be devastating when someone you know dies from cancer. Many people find it very difficult to cope with. They say it can help to talk to someone about their feelings of loss and grief. If you have had to deal with someone you know dying from cancer you may find it helpful to call the Cancer Helpline on 13 11 29 and speak with one of our cancer nurses.

Updated: 11 Feb, 2010