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Audrey’s story: the key of generosity

30 June 2017 Stories of hope

Audrey Henshaw was a gifted woman who journeyed through life with a song not only in her heart, but in her voice and at her fingertips. A passionate and talented pianist and singer, Audrey graced many stages and performance venues over the years and inspired countless music students.

Her remarkable musical talent was evident from a young age. When she was only 14 years old and living in New Zealand, Audrey was awarded the Special Certificate in pianoforte from the Associated Board of The Royal Schools of Music, London, whose Patron was His Majesty King George VI. At just 16, after spending some time studying pianoforte through London’s Trinity College of Music, Audrey was admitted as an Associate of the college. Her success was a great incentive and Audrey further pursued her pianoforte studies through the college and at the age of 19, was awarded the Teacher’s Diploma and admitted as a Licentiate of the college.

Audrey was an only child and devoted her time and energies to her music. Her parents, Hugo and Georgina, doted on their daughter and encouraged her in musical career in whatever way they could. Audrey adored her parents and the three of them were a tight knit family.

Audrey’s family made the decision to immigrate to Australia. Again, Audrey took the opportunity to further her musical career, majoring in singing at The Sydney Conservatorium of Music and gaining qualifications there. She was an outstanding performer and went from strength to strength. Doors opened up for her and at 27 years of age she travelled to London, with her mother, to spend a year studying singing at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London where Audrey performed before Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She and her mother came back to their home in Concord West in Sydney where Audrey set up a home studio, flourishing as a performer and teacher.

Audrey threw herself into her work but a great blow came when her father suffered a debilitating stroke. She and her mother took on the role of caring for him and Audrey’s career went on hold. Her father died when he was 84 and a few years later, after also suffering a stroke, her mother died. For the first time in her life, Audrey was alone with no family around her. She had inherited their beloved family home in Concord but it meant little to her without the warmth and life of her dear parents.

Throughout her life Audrey had been cared for and attended to by her devoted mother so that she could pursue her musical studies. Now, at 52 years of age, Audrey realised she needed to sharpen her domestic skills. She became a very astute and careful shopper, spending hours researching products, services and prices before deciding on her purchases and investments.

Her love for God and her active Christian faith had always been the backbone of Audrey’s life. She cared deeply for those who were less fortunate than her and began to be actively involved with Wesley Mission, becoming a financial supporter and participating in many events such as the Spirit of Mission dinners, Easter lunches, concerts and combined church choirs. She also became a member of the Wesley Mission Society for Future Care.

She didn’t expect that one day she would be a recipient of that care. For the most part Audrey was fiercely independent and looked after herself well. She had formed close friendships with some Wesley Mission staff members who would help her with shopping and transport needs from time to time. After suffering ill health herself, however, she became concerned about her future. She was acutely aware that she had no immediate family or highly trusted friends. She decided to ask her friend and Wesley Mission staff member, Roger, to become her Power of Attorney and Enduring Guardian, should anything happen to her. When she needed to have a series of small operations in 2011, Audrey also asked Roger to be her next of kin.

In September 2012 Audrey suffered a sudden and serious stroke. While she regained her speech and memory fairly quickly, Audrey never regained use of her left arm and left leg. She was very much bedbound from then on, despite the best efforts of Physiotherapists, Doctors and Nurses to get her back on her feet.

Roger and others at Wesley Mission worked to find Audrey permanent accommodation at a high care residential facility. Hopes were that Audrey could become a resident at the new Wesley Rayward Carlingford centre. While in respite care Audrey came up with an idea that gave her great happiness in her time of illness: she wanted to donate her beloved grand piano to Wesley Rayward Carlingford. This instrument that had brought her such pleasure over the years could be put to good use for others!

Audrey passed away in November 2013 while in respite care before she was fit enough to move to Wesley Rayward Carlingford. She would have loved Wesley Rayward Carlingford and her legacy and memory will live on there as the uplifting sounds of her grand piano echo through the halls.

And Audrey’s influence and spirit of generosity will continue to be felt by the broader Wesley Mission family through her gracious support and money bequeathed to Wesley Mission in her Will.