Thanks for your support, Helen, much love
It was only after her death that we discovered what we meant to Helen Vaughan. To us, she was a valued customer, who was clearly enjoying shopping with us. Our pick and pack team would spot her name and address on another order and say ‘Helen’s shopping up a storm again!’
We always wrote a hand-written note in her order thanking her for supporting a small, female-owned, Australian family business. The loyalty of our customers means the world to us, and Helen was nothing if not loyal!
Every few weeks another order would arrive and we’d smile at the idea of Helen opening another package and enjoying her purchases.
But we had no idea of the full extent of the story. In June 2022, the orders stopped. And then we heard from Helen’s daughter Lisa. She told us that Helen had sadly died from motor neurone disease, MND. And she wanted to let us know how we brought her a lot of pleasure in the last months of her life.
We were so honoured to be invited to watch her funeral service online in June 2022 and there was not a dry eye in the Desiderate office.
Just knowing that we had made a small difference in this amazing person’s life was so rewarding to our entire team. We’re small, we’re dedicated and we’re hardworking. So it’s really touching to know that our products are enjoyed.
And we just have to share Lisa’s message about Helen because it makes our hearts so full:
‘We all miss her ridiculously. I know everyone is a little biased but she was beyond a doubt the best mother ever. She raised us four girls so gracefully and was literally the perfect mum. She also got to display her amazing granny skills in her last couple of years getting to meet her first two grandsons. The oldest will be turning three in a couple of months. We are all coping but extremely sad. She is just so missed! Knowing that she would not be with us long still didn’t prepare us for this feeling of loss.”
A few months after Helen’s death we decided to reach out to Lisa and ask: can we write an article about Helen? Share a little bit of her story? It was a way for us to acknowledge our gratitude.
We were delighted when Lisa said yes. Janine sent our writer, Kate, to speak to sister Victoria as she was still struggling with the loss of Helen. Lisa told us that Victoria would be the one, and so we got together for an interview.
Here’s what Victoria told us about Helen.
Mum was one of four kids and she grew up in Dungog in the Hunter Valley. She was a talented musician and singer and when she was young she played and sang at weddings. She always loved to play and have everyone gather around the piano singing.
Helen was a Christian and her faith brought her much comfort over her life. We kids always admired her strength of faith and conviction in the grace of God. Even in the last years of her life when she was struggling with the symptoms of MND, her belief was unwavering. I was angry with God at that time but mum never faltered. I’m so proud of her for that. It helps me now to think that she’s with her maker, free from pain, eternally happy and hopefully watching down on us.
After Helen married she was very involved in the church, as a pianist and teaching scripture at Sunday school. She was an inspiration to so many people, and she was a very community-minded person. She knew the power of community coming together in good times and bad. If someone couldn’t drive to church she would arrange to drive them herself. That’s the kindness that I’ll remember.
I was one of four girls and she was such an amazing mum. With a 13 year age gap between eldest and youngest, Mum had her hands full. Dad was supportive after the separation, but looking back I can see that we didn’t have much money, although I never felt ‘poor.’ Mum did the majority of raising us on her own. She had limited Centrelink benefits, so she worked numerous jobs to provide for us. She was a cleaner and also sold Avon and Amway, and worked in aged care too. I remember mum had dermatitis on her hands from the cleaning chemicals. To me it was a symbol of her sacrifice for us. Everything went to our food, education, clothes and entertainment. There wasn’t much left over for herself; she always put us first. Mum would always drive us around to our friends' houses and make sure we had a fun social life. She made friends with our friends too and treated them like her own daughters.
When we got older Mum had more time to dedicate to herself. She was determined to go back to school and get her diploma of child care. We were so proud of her. She found study difficult, I won’t lie. The world of computers, email and essay writing did not come naturally to her. She would hand write her assignments and my sister Katrina would type them for her on the computer. But she worked so hard like she always did and got her degree. Working in child care was a delight for mum. She had a natural caring nature and was always fun with the little ones. Mum had a way of making everyone laugh. She enjoyed the silliness of life and kids could see that in her. She finally was creating something for herself and doing a job she loved. She also volunteered by tutoring underprivileged children in her spare time which she found very rewarding. Mum loved being a Granny to her grandchildren Jack 3 years and Milo, 11 months.
It was terribly sad for mum to give up that career — but she did it. Her own mother had dementia so Mum decided to quit her job and move back to Dungog to become Grandma’s full-time carer. Later, she moved back in with my sister and it wasn’t long till we noticed something was wrong.
The diagnosis for MND came quickly
It was not a disease I’d heard of but I now know that it touches many lives. Everyone uses the same word to describe it — cruel. Sadly for such a great communicator, mum lost her speech early on. Part of the cruelty is losing someone, bit by bit. Facebook became a lifeline because we could communicate via Messenger. Even as her condition worsened she always was determined to have fun, mostly by enjoying music, and her Spotify playlists kept her going in many dark moments. It must have been frustrating for Mum to suffer a physical decline, and she had a few brief ‘why me?’ moments. But her mindset soon changed to ‘why not me?’ and she was determined to enjoy life with holidays and family time. All the while she was accepting of her fate and was steadfast in her faith. Now we miss her terribly, and we feel robbed because she was so young and she should have enjoyed more time as a gran. I look at my young sons and it’s hard to accept they won’t be able to know the wonderful person she was.
Helen and Desiderate
One of the things that mum loved in her final years was shopping with Desiderate. She just loved the products and the packaging. She couldn’t unwrap her final purchases herself, but she loved the thrill of getting a new parcel in the mail. She thought all jewellers should ship products in the white Desidearte pouches. And part of her daily ritual was choosing her gemstone rings and jewellery with her nurses. It was a bright moment in her day and each item meant something to her. Now she’s gone, I’m glad she was able to spoil herself as she sacrificed so much when we kids were young. And we four daughters each have her jewellery to remember her by and they are so precious to us.
Helen’s review of Desiderate
We were lucky to get a written review from Helen in 2022 which is very dear to us now:
‘I love, love, love all the beautiful rings I own, they look great on. I have both the blue and pink pearl rings and matching earrings. The pearls are stunning, as are all my other pieces. The Eclipse sapphire ring is a gorgeous deep blue, and the Amethyst Nouveau ring is a real eye-catcher. The beautiful Magic Turquoise looks fab on, and takes me to a beautiful beach day. I also wear a pretty anklet that makes me feel younger, and I have gorgeous chic silver onyx earrings. I am now anticipating my Bold Emerald ring which is on the way to my place. I could go on and on, but I’ll just say that you won’t be disappointed, so treat yourself.”
We’ve named a ring in Helen’s honour
The Helen is a chunky gemstone ring that personifies Helen’s style and spirit. The earthy, natural deep orange tones evoke a sense of stability, calm and creativity.
Some of Helen’s favourites
Helen treated herself to some of our most popular products, including pearls, crystal rings, earrings and more. Now they’re lovely keepsakes for her four daughters, so we love that they’ll be enjoyed for years to come.
Thank you Helen for your support and thanks to Helen’s daughters Katrina, Lisa, Victoria and Jessica for allowing us to share her story.