Love and loss, grief and guilt

A stylish bar, 1995. House music pumping, I looked across and saw my friend Tim talking to a girl wearing white leather pants and a canary yellow shirt. Her hair was blond, and fuzzily spiked in all directions, cyberpunk style. Tim came over to me “Do you know who that is? That’s Cheryl Vuillermin”. Cheryl was a bit of a celebrity in Chch at the time, a very successful young fashion designer with her own shop. She was about six years older than us, and lightyears more stylish.

Tim and I went back to her place that night (I was there for moral support and slept on the very trendy retro couch). In the morning she made us miso soup, the first time I’d ever had it. We became good friends with Cheryl and although nothing further happened with her and Tim we hung out regularly with her in styley bars and got to know some others in that scene. A couple of years later, after a trip to Paris she came back, opened a new shop, and ended up flatting with Tim for a year or two. Cheryl named her shop Lumiere, French for ‘light’.

For the next seven years I bought almost all my streetwear from Cheryl, from mid nineties rave gear, to more subdued urban pants and shirts later on. I’d go into her shop at lunchtime and chat about fashion, design, and people we knew.

Cheryl died a bit over a week ago. She was 41, and left a 16 year old and a 4 year old son. She was diagnosed with Cancer two years ago and closed her shop then. Over that time I’d had her details and had always meant to get in touch and see how she was doing. I never quite did though. And now she’s dead.

Another of my friends, Cam, who’s ex partner Bronwyn used to work in Cheryl’s shop saw her sitting in a cafe three weeks ago. He too hadn’t seen her for a couple of years. He was in a hurry though, and just smiled, waved and kept on walking, expecting he’d see her again soon. And now she’s dead.

I feel sad that Cheryl’s gone. And I feel guilty. Guilty that I didn’t get in touch. Guilty that I didn’t try to help. Guilty that I wasn’t there for her. Cheryl was so inspired, she had a creative energy that shone like a light. And she had a darkness that gave her an edge, chic and black, like drum&bass. In the end though the darkness took her.

Cancer’s hard. I always feel that there’s something more I could have done. If I’d just known what to say, or been more supportive, or helped them think more about complementary treatment options, then they wouldn’t have died. I know this isn’t true but but I still feel it nonetheless. I know I can’t save everyone, I couldn’t save Mum, or Andrew, and I didn’t save Cheryl. I know I don’t have the emotional energy to be there for everyone, but I wish I did.

Cheryl was married just a few weeks before she died. She was very much in love, and looked beautiful, radiant and full of light in her wedding dress in the picture on her funeral pamphlet. I know you died in the light Cheryl, and that even though I wasn’t there for you, there were many people who were. Many who fought with you, and held you, and loved you. Goodbye dear Cherry, I’ll remember you always.

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4 Responses to “Love and loss, grief and guilt”

  1. Belinda Says:

    Thank you for those words. Cheryl was a good friend and she frought to the bitter end, to stay alive as long as she could for her boys and to be with Jonathan.

  2. Aimee Says:

    I was sad to hear today about Cheryl’s death – she was just too young! I worked for Cheryl in the mid 90’s. She was very creative and ambitous and this rubbed off onto all around her.

  3. Kaye Lawrence Says:

    I just found my beautiful black Cheryl Vuillermin dress in the wardrobe. I bought it for the ballet in Christchurch in 1991 when I was at university. it cost me a bomb but was worth every cent. Could not part with it. So I thought I would look on the internet to find out what she was now designing. (I’m 41 and was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago). Hearing that she had died at my age of cancer made me wish so much that I had known her – I’m sure we would have been friends. Thank you Cheryl for the most beautiful item of cloithing that I own.

  4. nita henry Says:

    Always in my thoughts my sweet friend Cheryl, we won awards
    together, we cried and laughed together I miss you allot and wonder where your light shines now..to the moon an back love you
    Nita Henry

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