These are some of the things I have been up to lately:
The most encouraging things I have seen on TV this week have been the latest episode of The Handmaid’s Tale and a reality TV show about a company of funeral directors called ‘The Casketeers’ on Netflix. Inspiration truly can be found anywhere if you are looking hard enough.
Yesterday Sydney held it’s protest against the religious exemptions legislation. The rhetoric around the proposed legislation is couched in positive terminology with the word ‘freedom’ being thrown about willy-nilly. But there isn’t anything positive in this proposal, and there’s certainly nothing progressive. Oppressing others because you hold the opinion that your own belief system must be superior to that of anyone who doesn’t share it isn’t freedom. It is the very definition of discrimination.
And didn’t we do this already? Like, for real? Didn’t we only just endure a resource squandering, hate mongering campaign aimed at further marginalizing vulnerable sections of our society? Yep, pretty sure that was us. It’s also probably why certain sections of the community are behind the proposed religious exemptions legislation. They didn’t get the outcome they wanted and, God forbid (pun intended) they shouldn’t get everything they want, when they want it! When I visualise the religious right and their arguments in my head they look like Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; spoilt and selfish, stamping their feet and demanding MORE! NOW!
My own personal belief is that most bigotry is based on fear. Fear of difference, otherness. It’s a belief that allows me, ironically, some compassion. Because of that I try to temper my extreme frustration with some rationalisation. I’ve already referenced the Marriage Equality campaign. All of the state sanctioned hate and the fear that was generated. And Marriage Equality WON. But did anyone else actually lose anything? Have we had scores of hetrosexual people flocking to get divorced because their marriage is now meaningless? Has the fabric of our society unravelled into anarchy? I know I probably sound as if I am being sarcastic but I’m not. I’m just trying to make the point that EXTENDING BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS TO EVERYBODY BENEFITS US ALL. So, as a nation, as a society, we didn’t lose anything extending human rights to all in terms of marriage equality. What did we lose by the campaign against marriage equality itself? International respect, millions of dollars, human decency, sleep, security, safety, vulnerable LGBTIQA+ young people and members of society (there are anecdotal reports of people suiciding during the campaign. I don’t have any official data but when it feels like your whole nation is against you and is saying you are unworthy, and you can actually see multiple advertisments every night on television telling you so and your own Government is the one dragging it’s feet on giving you basic human rights then it’s not a long bow to draw, is it?). I’m sure I could add to this list but it just makes me sad.
If you are an extremely religious person with strongly held views that anything other than hetrosexuality goes against your own personal belief system then I’m going to assume no one has forced you to attend any gay weddings (maybe some slight sarcasm at the end there). For the rest of us, we have been able to celebrate some very cool expressions of love and commitment. I don’t have any concrete data for you (you guys can look it up as easily as I can, I believe in you!) but the pink dollar is a REAL THING and even my maths isn’t bad enough to believe there hasn’t been any positive economic flow on from the revenue generated by fabulous gay weddings! Which probably means even the most homophobic amongst us has benefitted indirectly.
Surely we have better things to do? As a nation, we have bigger issues. Bigger problems to solve. But these smoke and mirror games that distract us from the bigger picture are built to divide and conquer us. I’m asking you not to let them. Which doesn’t mean doing nothing and saying nothing. If you are religious and you don’t feel government sanctioned bigotry and discrimination are accurate depictions of your faith then please stand up to be counted. There are many religious leaders and people of faith activitely working to represent their faith in love.
If you belong to a group who knows what discrimination feels like; if you are a woman or a person of colour or differently abled, stand up to be counted. If you have ever been homeless or unemployed or lived in poverty, stand up to be counted. because once you start eroding human rights and LEGISLATING FOR THE RIGHT TO DISCRIMINATE, THE EROSION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AFFECTS US ALL. Can anyone say ‘Gilead’? And if you haven’t read or watched The Handmaid’s Tale then bring to mind the Nazi Regime and you’ll understand my reference. It’s a very slippery slope.
So, why not make THIS the teachable moment? With rallies continuing across the country throughout August, why not celebrate inclusiveness and diversity! Celebrate our freedom to assemble and impact the democratic process! Speak out for human rights and freedom from discrimination! I know, for some of us, the thought of attending a rally or a protest seems daunting. It seems radical. I guess I’d rather be radical proactively than retrospectively. It makes more sense to stop this legislation before it starts than to try to get rid of it once it has been made law. Because we all have something to lose here, whether we know it yet or not.
Netflix Australia is currently screening a series called The Casketeers. It is about a family of funeral directors, who run Tipene Funerals and it is brilliant. It is an example of the very best that we can offer each other as human beings and the subject of death is handled in such a profoundly life affirming way that you cannot help but be uplifted by it. Find this series and watch it when you need to restore your faith in people and our ability to treat each other with love, dignity and respect. Find this series when you want to focus on what is important in your life and what kind of world you want your children to live in. Watch it. Love it. Live it.
Safe onward travel x
Home sweet home, there’s no place like it! This isn’t going to be the post where I talk about how many different things ‘home’ can mean, in so many ways, to different people. It’s just going to be the post where I am grateful for being in my own home and what that means to me.
I’ve been away. Daughter Number Two and I have been travelling, across the country but also across time. Journeying over land and sea; through hearts and minds as well, even if just our own. On the second day after arriving on the other side of the country I took a walk down memory lane via Google.
It is a walk I take regularly, if not often. Usually not garnering me more than a taste; a glimpse into lives I am no longer part of. Lives of those who still hold fast to a place in my heart. I’ll let that sound how it sounds. A cursory search is enough, usually, to let me let go again. They look good. They are still living. Until they aren’t. And this time one of them wasn’t, and not even twenty years old. I looked at my screen and felt the push and pull of denial and acceptance, imagination and reality, then and now. Like a slingshot, giving me vertigo.
On the opposite side of the country I have a storage shed that I pay for by the week. Over the years it has cost me thousands of dollars, probably more in total than it would have to actually move it all across the country, if I had ever had that much money at the one time. It is full of things I cannot let go of. Although I have become a fan of travelling light over the years there are certain things I will not part with. Books, momentos, photos… SO MANY PHOTOS. I have always loved photography. In the BEFORE. In the NOW. Back before digital cameras and online albums, when photos were printed hard copies we had to wait for but could hold in our hands and we had as many blurred, shitty photos as we did decent ones because film has no mercy and we couldn’t just press delete. Consequently I have a lot of photos. Boxes of them. Thousands of them. And I will never, NEVER be sorry for that or stop paying the shed fees.
So it happened that I had literally hundreds of photos of the young person lost, with their family. Photos I had always thought I would find a way to pass on to them. And I kept them in my shed. Kept them safe. Which meant that a good portion of my time on the other side of the country was spent sorting and packing the photos, before making sure they found their way home.
I feel very deeply the need to witness, to document in words and pictures, to preserve these memories, stories, histories. For my children and children I have loved as my own. Whether estranged by circumstance or stolen by death, pieces of those we love remain and it seems to me to be such a precious honour to have; to be able to pass on something tangible. Or equally important in my eyes, to leave behind something tangible for loved ones. Like crumbs that they can use to either find their way home to whomever they have lost, or if they are wandering, to find their way home to themselves.
There was beauty in the innocence of the images and in the memories of the moments. There was beauty in the fact I had saved all those photos for all those years. There was beauty in having the time to find the photos in my shed and get them to where they needed to be, and being on the side of the country that enabled me to do so. And maybe that’s a thing. Maybe being in the right place at the right time doesn’t always mean being in the right place or right time FOR YOU. Because it certainly wasn’t comfortable or easy for me. To be honest, on top of everything else it was too much to bear. It’s only now, when I am home, that I can see the beauty through my tears. But I never doubted it was right.
There’s a part of me that wistfully wishes sometimes that Daughter Number One had the opportunity to leave more of a digital footprint. She was just on the cusp of this internet age, with dial up and MSN Messenger with the little blob men who spun around as you signed in. I have treasured print outs of some of her Messenger conversations, that her friends were generous enough to share with me. And I have many photos I took over her excrutiatingly short lifetime. Some professional photos plus school photos, and a few candids taken by friends. But never enough, because how could there ever be enough when they are all I have? So I think about the what if’s. What if she had Facebook or Instagram? Imagine! But she didn’t and she won’t. And then I think about how utterly relentless the media were when Daughter Number One died and how much that would have been magnified by the cannabalistic caricature that passes for journalism these days. Even if you want to, you can’t go back.
When I visit my shed it is like being an archeologist sifting through layers of my lifetime. It is emotionally extremely heavy going. But I try to bring as many treasures home with me as I can. This time around I was lucky enough to bring home DVD footage of Daughter Number One. On the night we got home I sat on my bed and watched. As I watched her Sister walked in. Daughter Number Two sat and watched with me and for the first time in her living memory listened to her Sister’s voice and heard her laughter.
There have been several times in the last six months that I have or almost have called Daughter Number Two her Sister’s name. I have covered as best I can but it has left me feeling so guilty. I never want Daughter Number Two to think I see her in any way, as anyone other than herself or would ever want her to be. Watching the video footage though, highlighted how similar in mannerisms and passions they are. These Sister’s who never got to meet or know each other. That it’s not just my grief or imagination. The likeness is startling. When I was relaying this to My Beautiful Friend she said “Kate. EVERY mother in the world calls their child by the name of their sibling at some stage. More often than not. Often they get Bill, Ben, Dick OHHH what’s your name?! Stop! That’s normal. Completely and utterly normal. And just because Daughter Number One isn’t earthside, doesn’t mean she is any less your daughter. So her name will forever be ingrained in your vocabulary.” She’s right, of course. I have clever friends. I will try to beat myself up a little less.
Earlier this week the long list for the Fremantle International Portrait Prize was announced. This year my goal was simply to enter. I love taking photos and portraits are my passion. Getting my shit together enough to enter = BIG FUCKING DEAL! I entered one image in each category; mobile phone and camera. When they released the long list my name was on it. My mobile phone image of Daughter Number Two has made it through to the next round of judging. Against photographers from around the world, many professionals, my image has been judged as being in the top 30% of over 1800 entries. Which is a pretty sweet homecoming gift in itself.
Safe onward travel x
Content warning: This post was written to commemorate the 16th anniversary of my Daughter’s death. It has adult themes and references to physical and sexual violence against women and children. There are also references to grief, loss, women’s reproductive rights and mental illness. This caveat is provided to allow you to make an educated decision about reading on, with love.
Today is sixteen years since my Daughter Number One was repeatedly raped and murdered. I still have so much disbelief; that she’s gone, the way she was brutally wrenched from life, that so much time has passed; that I have survived this long – well, that most of me has survived. The After Me.
Two weeks ago I was at an event organised in honour of IDAHoBiT; the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. LGBTQI+ issues are important to me. The night before the event my friend said she wasn’t attending, which would mean I would be in a large group of people alone. I woke up on the morning of and OH BOY! Was it tempting to just stay home! But LGBTQI+ issues are one of my things; my bigger than myself things. Feeling like my turning up to be counted matters, which adds purpose and meaning to my life. Then I managed to miss my bus, which meant I would be arriving, alone, to a room full of people, LATE. And again, I thought about turning around and going home. But I kept going. The theme was ‘Visibility’ and speakers from various community organizations spoke to the importance of being visible, both on personal and professional levels.
The speakers and subject were fascinating, no less because just the week beforehand I had made a new friend by entering into a discussion on a facebook post about the anti abortion laws sweeping the United States. She wrote, powerfully, of the inherent risk of speaking out. Exposing yourself. Being visible. She said: “There is always a consequence to speaking your truth as a woman”. She said: “I’m so tired of feeling that I have to hide the truth of my life. But we have to consider the world we live in when we speak our truth, and sometimes it’s just not safe.” “The hate and ignorance are ubiquitous. And these are the views held by people who are in our lives; people who educate us, enforcers of the law, our employers, our clients who we rely on for our income, our families. You don’t always know who they are either. People who…do not value you as much as they do their need to maintain the status quo.”
Both these conversations made me reflect on what I do here and on my What Kate Did Next facebook page. I write pretty openly about sensitive subjects. I share my opinion on issues that are important to me. But it’s still edited. I still pull some of my punches, and I carefully consider what I put out there. Originally, when I started writing here, it was to empty out my head. It still works for me that way. But the longer I wrote the more people contacted me, to tell me that something I had written resonated with them, moved them, helped them. Then there was that one time my words went viral and my views and ‘likes’ on my facebook page shot up. It was completely overwhelming and scary but there was a lot of love that came my way. And again, a lot of people who told me they found something of value in my words.
Writing here, I talk about loss and grief and child sexual assault and mental health. I also talk about my Daughter. I talk about how she died but more importantly I talk about how she lived. On Instagram I follow @theaidsmemorial. Their hashtag is #whatisrememberedlives . What Is Remembered Lives. All of these things make the risk of visibility here worth it to me.
With all the anti abortion stuff in the news I have been sharing pro choice posts on my What Kate Did Next facebook page. I do, because I can. My reach isn’t huge but it’s something. Like my posts around LGBTQI+ issues, especially during the marriage equality ‘campaign’ here in Australia, that means that I sometimes lose page ‘likes’ and ‘followers’. Eh. Whatever.
A week after the IDAHoBiT event I was coming home from a night out to celebrate Daughter Number Two’s birthday when I unlocked my phone to find Australia had re-elected a conservative government. The world is a scary and confusing place at the moment. Always, really, but it seems especially so at this point in time. It feels like every vulnerable group in society is under attack and underlying it all there is so much fear. We seem so scared of those who are different from us. Or maybe we are just so scared that all we can think about is protecting ourselves? The thing is though, that we have more in common than we have things that divide us. It’s not for nothing that The Breakfast Club is my all time favourite film. I talk here about women’s issues and LGBTQI+ issues, but they are both human rights issues. Misogyny, racism, discrimination and/or oppression of any kind; it doesn’t just hurt those immediately affected. Ultimately it hurts all of us.
Another topic of discussion at the IDAHoBiT event was the toll it takes, to keep standing up, raising our voices, fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves. How do we protect ourselves and pace ourselves? How do we work together to make the most progress? How can we make the most of our not unlimited resources? For me, one of the things I heard most clearly was when the host said “For those who can, DO! And those who can’t, support those who can!”
And I thought “I can do that!”. For me, being visible and doing what I can means continuing to write here and post on my facebook page. It means being a paid up member of PFLAG and putting my time and energy into LGBTQI+ issues as much as possible. It means continuing to be involved in things that are bigger than myself. When I am tired, it means liking or sharing someone else’s post or leaving out a pamphlet or reaching out and checking in on how someone else is doing.
What does it mean for you? If you can’t commit time or energy to causes that are important to you, maybe you can become a financial member of an organisation that aligns with your values? Or make a straight out donation. Sign petitions. Share groups and pages that support others, like their posts; support their visibility. The next season of the Handmaid’s Tale starts next week. Watch it and take heed. Become informed. Decide what is important to you, which might sound silly but if you decide what really matters to you then you will know where to focus your energy. Invite organisations into your workplaces to educate. Have conversations, especially with your kids, who really are our hope. Write someone a letter. Make a meal, bake a cake. Hug someone. Take care of yourselves too. Give yourself the same care, respect and energy that you extend to others.
Look, I don’t pretend any of this is easy. That it is easy to keep going when times are hard and your heart is heavy. I woke up this morning to reports that there is evidence a head on crash that killed four beautiful little children may have been deliberate. Can anyone say ‘Trigger warning’? I made breakfast and waited until Daughter Number Two was in the shower before collapsing in violent sobs that tore through my body, chest heaving as I gasped for breath. Even if it was an accident, the utter devastation for all who loved and knew them, the impact on the first responders, the senseless loss! But a deliberate act? It is literally too much to bear.
Earlier this week I fell at home, spectacularly. A dinner plate flew through the air and exploded into flying shards of ceramic. Daughter Number Two came running from her bedroom. Son Number Two came to help and I asked him to just leave me where I was for a minute, to catch my breath. So he assured his Sister he had things covered and started to clear up the part of the debris that wasn’t me. After a few minutes he helped me up. Nothing aside from the dinner plate was broken but we have concrete floors and I had hit the ground hard, so since then every joint, especially, on my left side has been painful. I get a lot of muscle soreness anyway, from constantly holding tension in my body; always being on high alert. Migraines that make me vomit; all par for the course. So is the clumsiness really. I’m chronically clumsy but during times of intense stress I am much more so. After my fall I googled it. Anxiety related clumsiness. Sure enough, it’s a thing. So I’m never going to be the one who tells you it’s easy, because it’s not, but if we are going to be here anyway we might as well give it the best we can, right?
At the end of this year PFLAG Perth goes into it’s 30th year of operation. It is the longest running PFLAG group in the country and it’s core business is keeping families together. PFLAG are also involved in education and advocacy. If you look at the bigger picture – and I’m always going to be a big picture kind of girl – they work to prevent suicide and homelessness, substance abuse and mental health issues. The flow on effect is huge, so that’s a lot of bang for any buck you feel you can contribute. When you add in the fact that prevention is always better than cure, and for the economic rationalists amongst us, COSTS MUCH LESS, then it’s easy to see how a small, well placed contribution can go a long way. Plus, any donations are tax deductible.
Angelhands, who support those who have experienced extreme trauma, also do good work and are dear to my heart. On Sunday August 18th Angelhands will be attempting to beat the Guinness World Record for the largest number of angels assembled in one location. It’s one of their main annual fundraisers. You can keep up with all the latest news on the links above or you can become a paid up member of Angelhands. Outright donations are also tax deductible. Although a slightly different flavour to PFLAG, Angelhands supports people as well, and they have many of the bigger picture outcomes I spoke of above. Angelhands also works in the fields of education and advocacy.
I initially published this post almost two hours ago. I shared the links on facebook. Some of you read it. And then, due to technical difficulties the finished post disappeared and all I was left with was the draft I had started before I went to bed last night. A version of this post saved nineteen hours previously, with all the work I had done on it today, gone. In the blink of an eye. The irony of the fact that the whole vibe of this post is about doing the best you can with what you have is not lost on me. Not like the finished piece was. I don’t know if I have remembered to rewrite everything I lost. I don’t know if this version of the post is better or worse than the one I initially published. What I do know though, is that this is the post that is here. And that counts for something.
So, that’s What Kate Did Next. She kept going.
I don’t have a magic wand or a time machine. I oh so wish I did! There are SO MANY things I would change if I could but I can’t, so I focus on the things that I can. I can’t bring my Daughter Number One back so I try to live my life in ways that I think would make her proud. I speak out because she can’t and I love because she did. It’s the very least and the very most I can do.
Safe onward travel x
The other night House Rules was on TV, just running in the background while I did other things. Before I knew it the program ended and the next one started and the first scenes of it involved a grandmother identifying the body of her teenaged grandson. As I reached for the remote the memory flashed through my head; “There’s nothing to identify.” I could see the officer, knelt before me, asking which dentist my Daughter Number One had attended. “There’s nothing to identify.” For the next twenty four hours that phrase pinged around my head. “There’s nothing to identify”. On the walk to school. “There’s nothing to identify.” In Coles, grocery shopping. “There’s nothing to identify.” Washing up at the sink. “There’s nothing to identify.” As the days go on it echoes less, and I write it here to diminish it’s power again. But it’s not a memory I can ever be free from. Burned into my brain like her love knot bracelet into my Daughter’s arm.
A friend’s daughter asked why I don’t drive. “I’ve never driven.” I said “I catch public transport. You get used to it.” And all that is true. But I didn’t mention that during any car ride I take, when anyone brakes sharply or swerves or merges into traffic or just does nothing but be on the road at the same time as the car I am in; that I see, time after time, the impact if the cars were to hit each other. In my mind’s eye, in less than a heartbeat, I see the crumpling of metal and the flailing of limbs and possessions in slow motion flying through the car. Time after time. I didn’t explain that I will never drive. That I could never be anything but a liability on the road, reacting to things before they might happen. Because sometimes they do.
Ironing Daughter Number Two’s shirt the other day for school I almost called out her Sister’s name. Almost. The sister she is uncannily like but never got to meet. They are both their own people but still, having Daughter Number Two at high school now and fast approaching the age and stage Daughter Number One was at when she died is more challenging than I had anticipated it being. Mostly because I hadn’t anticipated it. In the first week of Daughter Number Two starting high school I went to pick her up and as I approached the school a girl who looked vaguely like Daughter Number One walked out the school gate and my heart leapt in recognition before plummeting as reality kicked in. Just a moment, fleeting but breathtaking.
Through all of these things time marches on. Mother’s Day is on Sunday. The next week is Daughter Number Two’s birthday. The day after is Son Number One’s birthday and ten days after that will be the 16th anniversary of Daughter Number One’s murder. And I iron uniforms and pack lunches and plan birthday celebrations but part of me is just so sad. So tired and so sad. I am always grateful for all of my children. I know how lucky I am. I have so many wonderful friends and people who love me. But this time of year is hard. It is heavy.
I was speaking to the Beautiful Friend, who was talking about her own Mother and her focus for this Mother’s Day; which was to celebrate all that she is and has because of her Mum. Because of Her.
Those words really resonated with me. Celebrate all that I am and have, because of Her. There are things that I wish with every fibre of my being were different and things that I wouldn’t change. But you can’t go back anyway and every step on my path has been one that has led me here. So, even if I am moving a bit slowly at the moment I’m still putting one foot in front of the other. Celebrating all that I am and have. Because of Her.
(Gustav Klimt, Mother and Child)
Safe onward travel x
It’s been a long time, since I last checked in. Months, according to the calendar. Light years if you ask me. So many things have happened and so much has changed. Recent events have been personally shattering and I’m trying to put my pieces back together again and refocus on changing the things I can.
On the 6th of April I attended the birthday celebration of one of the most magic kids I have had the extreme pleasure of knowing. The 6th isn’t his actual birthday, that’s a few days later, but it does happen to be his beautiful mother’s birthday. It’s also my youngest sister’s birthday, but I haven’t had any contact with her for well over a decade. Coincidentally, it’s also the birth date of this very blog, eleven years ago this year. So, I celebrated with the Magic Kid and my Beautiful Friend, and I thought once again that I should check in with you here. Accept the things you cannot change; change what you can; know the difference.
February 25th was the thirtieth anniversary of the day my Daughter Number One was born. We spent a quiet day, had some cake and then two days later Son Number Two and I attended Eminem’s final concert in Australia before he left the country to continue his tour. Our seats couldn’t really have been further from the stage in the gigantic stadium but we were at a great angle to see everything. We arrived early enough so that the crowds were overwhelming but not unmanageable, and I had the upcoming concert to focus on. We were lucky enough to get tickets cheaply, in a presale, and they counted as my birthday present as well as our Christmas present to each other. When Eminem came on for the encore and closed the night with the same song that closed Daughter Number One’s funeral I sobbed. And I looked at my Son and was glad to be there.
We have been through a lot together, that kid and me. In a few months he will be twenty one years old. The other night he went out with friends and was picked up on a motorbike, riding pillion. He knows me well enough to anticipate my abject terror; he didn’t know that would be the mode of transport beforehand. He reassured me as best he could, hugging me goodbye ; it was a short journey and he would message me when he arrived. Which he literally did, sending me a close up of his face, in the dark of night, as soon as he got off the bike. In the roughly fifteen minutes it took, between the time he left and getting his message, I had sent a message to my Beautiful Friend, who rang me. I had gone through Son Number Two’s outfit in my head, ordering clothing items in terms of the protection they offered his body. Leather jacket = ✔, jeans = could be worse, running shoes = ❌. Helmet = ✔✔✔✔. I reassured myself that I had my details in the emergency information on his phone and that the trip was only a short one. I sat with my terror and tried to get my breathing under control.
Son Number Two will be twenty one years old in a few months. He tells me where he is going and when. He lets me know when he will be back. If his plans change then he will tell me that too, because he knows I cannot tolerate surprises. He lets me track him on iPhone’s Find My Friend app, which means in theory I can see where he is all the time. I don’t abuse that privilege. I understand the trust and respect that concession is given in, so I return it. I appreciate it. And he hugs me while I sob and closes the door behind him, to go out and live his life on his terms. Which is how it should be.
At the end of January I was sitting in an airport, drinking a hot chocolate and looking at my wrist. On the inside of my wrist is a tattoo that matches one that adorns one of my dear friend’s and wrapped around it a Christmas present from another; a bangle inscribed ‘nevertheless, she persisted’. Another dear one was with Daughter Number Two and I, and the three of us were there to travel across the country to take Daughter Number Two back to where she lived. I was tired. So tired.
Last year I had cancer. It’s still surreal to say that. Last year I had cancer. In one of my ovaries. But I was lucky. Treatment was definitive, with a surgery, my second for the year. After the first operation, for ‘women’s issues’, where they discovered the cancer incidentally, my only real concern was my upcoming holiday time with Daughter Number Two, which necessitated being able to fly across the country twice and care for her, for the month she was with me. After being told the cancer I had was a good one to get, slow growing and unlikely to have spread, my only questions were about the timeline for the surgery, making it clear that if it was going to interfere with Daughter Number Two’s time with us, then it would need to wait. The doctor assured me she would do her best in terms of scheduling the surgery, but that I would need a six week post operative check up before I would be cleared to fly and, given the timeframe, there was no room for any complication of any sort. Ok, whatever, let’s just get it done and over with so I can go and get my girl. And it really was only when the Oncology nurses would speak to me in a certain tone that I would be reminded that it was actually cancer I was dealing with. Anyway, the doctor scheduled the surgery as soon as she was able. It all went smoothly and my post operative check happened just before I went to pick up Daughter Number Two, just after Christmas.
We’d spent four weeks packing as much love and laughter into every moment as we could, but here we were again, at the pointy bit, sitting in an airport, about to take her back. And we boarded the plane, and crossed the country and that was that. Except it wasn’t, because life can spin on a dime and change in a heartbeat and you can NEVER know what is around the next corner, good or bad. So after two weeks we boarded another flight for home and the three of us who were there on the forward journey were there to make the journey back. ‘Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end’, right? So, I have fewer internal organs but Daughter Number Two is home fulltime now and it seems like a more than fair trade.
Which is how it came to be that Daughter Number Two and I were watching Ricky Gervais’ After Life on Netflix together. I had already watched it, but wanted to share it with her. Despite the uncomfortable nature of the subject matter but mostly because of it, the masterful story telling and nuanced, layered characters make After Life compelling viewing. Gervais’ characters are always so multidimensional. In a world where every day we are encouraged to consider everyone who isn’t exactly like us as ‘bad guys’ to our ‘good guys’, Gervais reminds us we all have the potential to be both. And that even when circumstances are outside of our control we still have choices, and we make them. By action or inaction, we make them.
My bedtime routine consists of scrolling through Twitter and falling asleep to paternity test clips, either Maury or Paternity Court, on YouTube. Judge all you like, but whatever gets me through the night is alright. After Life has created a huge buzz on Twitter, well, everywhere really but like I said, I drop in on Twitter most nights. There’s been lots of discussion about Gervais’ character, Tony’s, last scene with Julian. One of the things that has bothered me about discussion of that extraordinarily impactful scene is how the character of Julian is actually referred to by some viewers. The adjectives used. But his name is Julian. He and Tony discuss the fact that they are both grieving and Julian makes reference to the fact that Tony’s grief is more socially acceptable. And OH! How I felt that, down to my very soul. How quick people are to judge and assume, even when others are in the most horrifically heartbreaking of circumstances. When really, we all of us, are shades of grey. There’s been much made on the interwebs of Tony’s final gift to Julian too, and once again Gervais leads us all to the water but doesn’t try to convince us of how it tastes. If anything, for me, his muddying of the waters only increases it’s ability to reflect our own humanity back at us all. Truly powerful viewing that has people talking about grief and loss. Highly recommended.
Speaking of Humanity, since After Life is only six episodes long (thankfully a second season has been confirmed!), Daughter Number Two and I have moved on during the school holidays to Gervais’ Netflix stand up special Humanity and then, of course, to Derek. Two episodes in Daughter Number Two declared“Nothing better happen to my boy Derek! He’s just a sweet, little cinnamon roll!”. It was interesting watching Derek post After Life, seeing how concepts had evolved and grown but each production mentioned stands easily on it’s own merits. The writing is truly exqusite, not least for the many facets of each character that are revealed. In one conversation Daughter Number Two and I were having she referred to the writing being ‘Show, don’t Tell’ and reminded me that there’s always something to learn if you leave yourself open to lessons.
So, I’m still here. Still putting one foot in front of the other. Still learning. Still loving. And I wish the same for you.
Safe onward travel x