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Chaplain's dream lives on in book

A picture of her daughter Rebecca rests in the corner of the room as Nanette Esam reflects on a life well-lived, but tragically cut short.

Rebecca Anderson was a youth pastor at her church and chaplain at Eastern Hills Senior High School for more than nine years. In 2013, while on a family vacation, the 36-year-old passed away unexpectedly when her heart stopped.

Such was the outpouring of grief in the community, that a memorial was built at the school where she impacted several generations of students. One student wrote on the memorial “her heart was too big for her little body”.

For those close to her it was obvious, her life and career were going to be passion driven.

Bec loved Jesus above all else and apart from working with young people, she enjoyed writing.

Nanette and daughter Nicky Ford remember with fondness how prolific Rebecca was, writing poetry and even a book. Bumpel Swivet is a children’s book about two friends who go on imaginary adventures around the world from their home backyard. The origins of the name are a mystery.

“She wrote it about 15 years go,” Nanette explained. “When she first gave it to me I talked to her about publishing it, but it didn't happen. After Bec passed, I was determined to get it published.”

The text for the book was mostly complete, but still needed illustrations. Nanette tried in vain to find an illustrator.

“Then Nicky said to me ‘Mum, why don’t you do it?’,” Nanette said. “So, I got myself an art teacher and she helped me work on the illustrations. I based two of the characters on my grandchildren Lachlan and Emily.”

Emily beamed with pride when asked about the drawings. “Last year when my school had a book fair, I just dressed up as myself!” she said.

The book launch in July - on Rebecca’s birthday - was a special moment for the family.

“It was so surreal,” Nanette said. “I wanted it to be professional, not half-baked. Good or not at all. The response from people has been incredible – it’s still not real to me.”

While 2016 marked the final year group of students who Rebecca cared for and supported at Eastern Hills SHS, Bumpel Swivet ensures the beloved chaplain will continue to impact many generations to come.

“Rebecca left a legacy at EHSHS,” Nanette said. “We’re all very proud of her.”

Part proceeds of Bec’s book go to chaplaincy. Bumpel Swivet can be purchased on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Book Depository.