Scattering postcards around Paris in memory of her late mother has made Rachael Chadwick a media darling, an author and the head of a growing and successful project. Of all the things to see in Paris, these postcards must have made for an interesting surprise to those who found them.
When she chose an original way to express her grief, in no way did she foresee the impact she would have on total strangers. Or the way that the 60 postcards she wrote in tribute to her mother’s life would change her own.
In her native England, Rachael has become a celebrity, her story widely published. She appears in the April issue of Glamour magazine. Her book, which has received favorable reviews and is considered inspirational, was published in February.
“Hello,” her story begins. “I’m Rachael and I am invincible. At least, I thought I was, until Saturday February 11, 2012—the day my mother died of bowel cancer. It wasn’t a long battle—far from it. Sixteen days was the horrifyingly short amount of time from her diagnosis to her death.”
Grief overwhelmed her and for almost a year she couldn’t find a way to cope with it or to share it with others. As the date of her mother’s (Vivianne’s) 60th birthday approached, Rachael found her dread increasing. Then she was struck by the realization that “I needed to step up and fight my grief. Mum was such an inspiring woman, passionate about everything she did, from her job as a teacher to simply finishing the crossword. I knew I had to do something special for her birthday.”
Her mother’s last gift to her had been Eurostar train tickets to Paris. So Rachael decided to take her first trip there and instead of sending postcards home about her visit, she would leave 60 postcards with a single message:
“I am Rachael from London, visiting Paris with my friends for the weekend in memory of my mother who passed away in February. To remember her & to celebrate her 60th birthday I am leaving 60 postcards around Paris. I am going to document this weekend in a blog & I would love you to be part of it…..” She included a plea to contact her and included her e-mail.
Rachael and her friends left the postcards in places as varied as the grilles surrounding parks, bookstores, metro stations and buses, hoping people would find them and respond.
The first response arrived three days after her return to London, from a young woman who had found a postcard at a bookstore in the Latin Quarter. “Paris postcard found” was the subject line.
After that, many more followed. Some were messages from people who found inspiration in her project. Others wanted to share their own grief with her.
For Rachael, the messages triggered a profound change: her grief began to lift.
The blog chronicling her weekend in Paris, together with the e-mails, launched early in March 2013 and immediately raised interest from various publications. Soon after that, Rachael got a book deal.
In her own words, “This book simply covers the journey of 60 Postcards in Paris, parallel with the journey of losing mum and leading up to where I am now. It is not a morbid read. Not at all. It’s honest about the bad times but filled with comedy moments, tales of friendship, meeting new people and happy memories of Mum….”
Now 60 Postcards is on Facebook and Twitter, and people can become part of the 60 postcards team by sending a photo of themselves holding a postcard and answering the question: If you had only one postcard left in the world, whom would you send it to? @60Postcards
“My goal for 60 Postcards is to have a real drive on the blog, sharing stories from others. Perhaps book two will happen one day, but I have no way of knowing right now,” she explains to Girls’ Guide to Paris.
“The final goal (within five years) is to have a 60 Postcards creative hub/café, buzzing with workshops encouraging people to get creative, talk about loss freely, create tributes of their own amongst writing talks, live music and so on. It may have seemed like a dream when I first thought it up but I am now determined to make it happen.”