On behalf of Esther’s brothers and sisters, myself (Miriam), James, Josiah, Asa and Jemima, I want to share some memories of Esther as we grew up together. Esther was born on 3rd December 1998, during quite a difficult time: my dad had TB and so my mum had 5 children under the age of 10 to look after-as you can imagine, the house was quite chaotic! After mum had had 3 boys in a row, she was shocked to finally have a girl- so much so that she threw her neck back in shock and couldn’t move it for 4 days! Personally, I was relieved to finally have a sister, although I hadn’t bargained on her being so pretty, and found myself at times jealous of her beautiful blue eyes and tanned skin!
Esther and I shared a room for most of our childhood and one of my earliest memories is of her aged 2 or 3, posing in the mirror, wearing makeup, listening to her CD walkman, with about 6 handbags on her arms! I think most of us would agree that she could be described as a bit of a princess! Esther loved fashion, and performing arts-she always wanted to be an actress. She loved baking cakes, especially cupcakes, and there will be cupcakes for everyone later, in her memory. As a true Childress, she loved swimming in the sea in Dorset, and we spent over 30 holidays there with her in a caravan in Durdle Door. But one of the best things about Esther was her laughter-it was infectious! Each of us can recall several times eating dinner around the table, when Esther would laugh uncontrollably with drink in her mouth, and she’d spray her drink all over us!
Esther spent most of her childhood playing with Asa, as they are only 18 months apart-we used to call them twins. However, when Jemima was born in 2005, the two sisters shared a great bond, and more recently described each other as best friends. Esther went to three schools, but her favourite was St. Mary’s in Hornsey -some of her teachers and friends are here today, and letters and prayers from her school friends are on display in the foyer. Those of you who were here on her baptism day will remember that Esther didn’t enjoy secondary school quite as much. In fact, she began to change, and admitted truanting from school a few times with Asa! They would go to central London,ducking down when their bus passed our road. One day they decided to admit it to my mum, but argued that they’d spent the day reading the Bible in the park, hoping that would avoid a punishment! When my parents threatened them with losing all their electronics, they never did it again.
During this time, after a stressful first year of secondary school, Esther started getting a pain in her leg on one of our Dorset trips. We thought it was growing pains, until a scan revealed she had bone cancer in her right leg. Since September 2011, Esther spent 16 months in and out of four different hospitals having 7 different types of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, a metal knee, and an operation to remove tumors from her leg. Sadly, all of these treatments were unsuccessful in stopping the cancer’s growth. The cancer spread, as they predicted, to her lungs, and despite a clinical drug trial, continued to spread until she was given just days to live at the start of November. Amazingly, she was determined to live to see her 14th birthday, go on holiday, and survive Christmas Eve, Christmas day and Boxing day! In her last two weeks, she struggled to breathe, weakened daily, and she knew that she didn’t have long. She was strong enough to dictate a will on 17th December, with instructions about the charities she wanted to support. Her last three days were very difficult, but she faced them with typical courage. She died peacefully at home on 27th December 2012.
During her time of illness, Josiah in particular got to know Esther better and they became quite close. He would stay overnight at the hospital with her, and took her shopping in the West End several times. He became an expert in Esther’s taste in fashion, shoes and handbags! Joe took the last 3 months off work, and other than my parents, became one of her main carers. Esther was desperate to have a dog, and begged and begged for several weeks until my parents finally gave in! She bought a cute white puppy called Hope, who is here with us today. In her will, she left Jemima in charge of her.
Esther was always open about the fact that before she became ill, and became a Christian, she could be quite self-centred and quite a difficult personality to get along with. For us, as her brothers and sisters, we saw this change dramatically over the past 16 months. In the summer of 2012, Esther became a Christian; she asked Jesus to forgive her sins and was baptised on 30th September. Her whole attitude to life was transformed, and she became a thoughtful, selfless individual whose example we each want to follow.
Esther lived her last year of life to the full, and taught us that every day is a gift. She appreciated every opportunity to go out and have fun, savoured every meal, and enjoyed every present. We will never forget our last family holiday to Lanzarote last month, where Esther was able to enjoy jetskiing, parascending, a camel ride, a volcano tour, and ate food cooked over a volcano. When talking about the trip she said, ‘I did many things I never thought I’d do in a lifetime.” In keeping with her sense of humor, she laughed for days about a funny incident during the camel ride. You’ll have to picture this. There was one seat on either side of the camel’s hump for the camel ride. A very large lady sat on one side of the camel, and the tour guide struggled to find enough sacks of rocks to balance her weight on the other side. It was a hilarious sight, and Esther laughed for days about it!
She maintained her sense of humour, courage and strength despite her suffering. We are inspired by her willingness to think of others, even when she was in pain. It gave her great joy recently to raise money for the homeless-many of you will remember her sitting at her table after church selling Christmas decorations. She raised over £700, with which she bought sleeping bags, gloves, hats and scarves for homeless people in Central London, and on 3rd November took them to the Strand herself in the cold. There will be an opportunity after the service to donate money to three causes that Esther really cared about-the homeless outreach, Water Aid to build water pumps for villages without access to clean water, and Christian Aid, who provide mosquito nets to protect against malaria. It struck Esther that for just £5 per net, a needless death could be prevented. Any money that is donated today will be split between these three worthy causes.
If we were to say what we most remember and cherish about Esther, it is her faith, and her trust that she was always, in her words, in God’s hands. In her will, she instructed us to ‘let people read my testimony’-for that reason it is printed on your Order of Service and we encourage you to read it and reflect upon it. In closing, Esther ends her testimony with a prayer that we wish to echo:
She thanks God for her life and for her friends and family who have supported her, but most importantly, she thanks God for sending His son Jesus Christ to die for her.