Posts tagged ‘children’

I’VE LOOKED AT CLOUDS FROM BOTH SIDES NOW. 

In the last few weeks there has been the twentieth anniversary of the death of Princess Diana and the sixteenth anniversary of September 11. There were many television programs commemorating the anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. I watched some of them. I heard her sons speak of the last conversation they had with their mother; a brief phone chat. Their regret that they had not spoken to their mother for longer. Those poor little boys. 

There were also lots of articles commemorating the anniversary of 9/11. Tales of ordinary extraordinary people. Stories of brave survival and honourable death. Poignant conversations. Answering machine messages. We don’t generally have the luxury of knowing in advance when ‘last’ times come. The luxury of savouring each millisecond and commiting each moment to memory. We usually only recognise them when they are past. The last time we hear someone’s voice or see them smile or hold them in our arms. 

In between the anniversary of Princess Diana’s death and September 11th this year Connie Johnson died. Boy, that chick knew how to live! And how to love! Connie was amazing. Her public memorial service was held in Melbourne today. If you are not familiar with Connie’s life and her work you can read up on her at loveyoursister.org  Please do! Or, you know, google. Look up Connie and what she was about. She left quite a legacy for everyone who loved her, especially her sons. But I bet they’d rather still have their Mum. 

Anniversaries, anniversaries, anniversaries. Whether it’s an hour or a day or twenty years they pack a punch. That’s loss I guess. That’s life. 

Even without working it out exactly I know that I have now lived longer without my Daughter Number One than I lived with her. I don’t need anniversaries to still feel the enormity of that loss. It is the way it is. This cartoon references mental illness but could just as easily relate to grief and loss for me. 

It’s not that I am unaffected now. Far from it. Just that it is what it is. I have lived longer without my Daughter than she lived her entire life. And however wrong that is, , however unbelievable, however fucking unfair, that’s the way it is. Knowing that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a night last week, as I turned the tv off and locked up the house, when I glanced at a photo of my Daughter and a sob burst from me with such force that it bent me double and I found myself on my knees, with tears streaming down my face saying over and over “Please come back! Please come back!”. But however much I plead and beg and cry she is never coming back. And the world keeps turning and the sun keeps rising. 

This year has been another one filled with loss, for me and people I hold dear. But not ours exclusively. Loss is the flip side of love. I try to focus, as best I can, on the love. It’s what there is left to hang on to. When all else is gone love is what remains. 

So I guess this is what I want to say today; love hard. Take the photo, make the phone call, send the message. Connect with the people you care about in any way available to to you! We have the technology! Get the most out of it! Send a video message or record a voice message. Do a video chat! Or go old school! Send a letter, write a card, post a care package. Let those you love know about it. You, your time and energy, are the most important gift you have to give. So invest in the people who matter to you, while you can. As much as you can for as long as you can. Savour it all. 

Safe onward travel x 

Advertisements

LOVE IS WATCHING SOMEONE DIE. 

We are through the first half of 2017, and almost halfway through July now as well. I made it through the 14th anniversary of Daughter Number One’s murder but only just, regular viewers, only just. I am still here, still breathing, still putting one foot in front of the other. 

I don’t try to pretend it is easy. It really hasn’t been. During the first five months of this year two beautiful souls I had the privilege of connecting with died and in June another, most precious, followed. On top of my own personal grief, watching people I love in pain is almost more than I can bear. I say almost because there isn’t a choice. I love them and they are in pain. If the most I can do is bear witness then it needs to be done. But I have been so sad. For me, for them. It all hurts so much. My body hurts, my soul hurts and oh, I’m so tired. So very, very tired. 

In the week before the anniversary of Daughter Number One’s murder we had the bombing in Manchester, at Ariana Grande’s concert. An attack on children. An attack on music. Shortly after came the London Bridge attack, again involving young people on a night out and shortly after that came the Grenfell Tower disaster. Babies and children, whole families, living their lives, losing their lives and all of these events in quick succession hit me like a ton of bricks. The weight of it, mixed with the other losses in my own life. The pointless waste of snuffed out potential. The reinforcement of how tenuous our grip on life is. How quickly everything we have and know and hold dear can be gone. It was crushing. 

As always, during these times, we were offered the very best and the very worst of humanity. Stories of homeless men running to give aid and strangers holding children, comforting them as they died. But the overwhelming aftertaste was of man’s inhumanity to man. These are the things I try not to hold onto. I really try. Consciously. I choose to look for the good and to be better, not bitter. But every ‘Missing! Hasn’t been heard from’ photo on facebook and each confirmed fatality, each snatched glimpse of footage showing billowing smoke and bereft people before I quickly changed the channel, took me back to a policeman’s face and the sound of his voice saying “There is nothing to identify. We’ll have to use dental records”. Over and over and over again. 

I am still sad. I am still scared. I am scared because at some point, in some way, love will equal loss, because that is the deal. And I choose to keep loving. Is it better to have loved and lost? Still, yes, I guess. For me at least. But the loss bit is just so very hard. 

Still, I get up in the morning and I put one foot in front of the other. Some days are slower than others, but I try and I try because the best way I know to honour the dead is by living. All the dear ones I have loved and lost, none of them would want me to not live my life. It would not give them back theirs. 

I have spoken before of the privilege of being adopted by a network of ex servicemen and women of all designations; military, police, fire and ambulance: Their support and generosity of spirit are second to none. A friend wrote recently to share his positive experience with a new medication he was trialling. Traditionally a blood pressure medication, it is said to have the bonus side effect of getting rid of ptsd related nightmares. As someone who routinely screams herself awake this sounded almost miraculous. In truth, after all these years I cannot imagine what life might be like without them. I just know it sounds good to me. 

After using antidepressants for over ten years I stopped taking them four years ago. A doctor said to me that she didn’t think my depression was biologically based, rather a reaction to events. I thought ‘Abso- fucking- lutely’ and at that moment there didn’t seem to be much point in continuing to take them. I only speak for myself. I don’t make judgements about what does and doesn’t work for anyone else. I was under medical supervision. But for me, I have not had any more bad days or anymore good days since I stopped taking them. That’s what I know. 

Four years down the track from that decision, hearing about a medication that specifically targets the nightmares was pretty exciting! So I made an appointment with a gp and asked. The Dr I was seeing had never heard of using this particular medication in that way so she rang a registrar for more information. She confirmed what my friend had been so generous to share. So, I got my prescription. And I don’t know that it will work for me but I don’t know that it won’t. And hope is a fine thing! 

One foot in front of the other until you get to the other side, while sirens in the distance have me listening for the voice that will never come. 

Safe onward travel to all my lovelies, wherever you are and wherever you are headed x 

SEASONS OF LOVE. 

On Wednesday night I was sitting next to my tall, handsome, teenaged, caucasian, heterosexual son who was born and has lived all his life in Australia. I had met him after school and together we had gone to a vigil for the victims of the Orlando shootings.

Hearing what had happened in Orlando was completely devastating to me and the vigil was someplace I needed to be. The weather was so cold I actually picked up a $7 jacket from Kmart on the way there and my son was wearing his beanie and three layers. 

We sat together on the concrete steps and watched the crowd of hundreds gather. The sun went down and candles were lit. There were rainbows everywhere; on flags, on posters, on people. An Aboriginal elder named Kevin gave the Welcome to Country and while he was speaking, with tears in his eyes and a catch in his voice, he said that he stood with us all today, because he also had a child who had been murdered. And I thought ‘Me too, Kevin, me too’. 
We listened to a choir sing ‘Seasons of Love’ from the musical Rent. We listened to the other speakers who all spoke from the heart with messages of hope and love. There was also an Auslan interpreter who signed everything. 

One of the speakers spoke of the importance to the LGBTI community of having a safe place to go where you could just be yourself in security and acceptance and how the senseless carnage in Orlando was so much more horrific for the fact it occurred in one of these sanctuaries. I can’t profess to know what it is like to be vilified, harassed and abused because of my sexuality but as a woman who has lived through violence in my own home and who has felt my heart rate rise on hearing footsteps behind me when walking alone at night I have some empathy and understanding of the importance of safe places to be. I cannot know the struggle of the LGBTI community on a daily basis, despite my many beautiful friends who identify. That doesn’t prevent me from understanding loss, grief, fear or any other human condition. 

As we travelled home after the vigil on the train a pretty Aboriginal girl started speaking to us. I don’t know why she chose us to speak to, there were no outward indications of where we had just been. Just one of those serendipitous things I guess. “Hey, how about what happened in Orlando? So bad, hey? If I could tell them, I stand with them with pride! You know! Corroboree style – ’cause I’m Aboriginal, see?” And the doors opened and she got off the train. Same same. Love is love. 
In amongst the rhetoric flowing from Orlando has been the assertion that ‘making this about the Gay thing is missing the point’. To that I say ‘No’. Just no. There are many issues arising out of Orlando but that it was a Gay hate crime is undeniable. Most of us in Australia have been proud of our gun laws in the wake of this tragedy. That’s cool, we should be. But to sit in complacency really would be missing the point. In this country we, at a legislative level, discriminate against the LGBTI community. That is truth. That is fact. That is shameful. While ever we collectively do so we need to take our share of the responsibility for anyone who believes that members of this community are somehow ‘lesser’ citizens. And we have to take our share of the responsibility for the actions arising out of those beliefs, because we have laws that support them. After the Orlando shootings one of my friends who lives elsewhere made the link between the shootings and marriage equality. He spoke about “we in the civilised world” and my heart dropped with the realisation that the description did not include us. I felt a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach that came with the acknowledgement that we are part of the problem. We are part of the problem. 

As my son and I sat and listened the other night I pondered the places we have been together. On both occasions I have been honoured to speak at the invitation of Angelhands about my daughter’s death my teenaged son has come with me. Listening to other speakers quote statistics and discuss issues around violence against women. Physically flinching at times but not turning away. He didn’t sit with me when his friend’s grandmother died. When we went to her funeral he sat by his friend. He did not turn away then either. 
I started this post by making note of the fact my son is tall, handsome, teenaged, caucasian and heterosexual. He was born and has lived all his life in Australia. I mentioned all these things at the start because I realised when I looked across at him listening intently to the speakers, that despite the many hardships he continues to face in his life he has much to be thankful for. Just by virtue of the above facts. Along with that comes the ability to be part of the solution.

In the cold night air one of the speakers asked us to link hands and led a rousing chorus of ‘We Shall Overcome’ and my son sang along. When I told my son about the vigil for the victims in Orlando I did not have to ask him twice. Before we arrived at the vigil and continuing after we left my son was involved in a heated online debate about gun control.
As a mother I don’t take much credit for the impressive qualities of my children. In truth, a few months shy of eighteen, my son is more his own person every day. That being said his sister Sam had been to several Mardi Gras parades and peaceful demonstrations by the time she died aged fourteen. So I know without question, because the evidence is there, that it has always been important to me as a mother to share with my children the beauty of our commonalities even while celebrating our unique differences and to teach them the importance of standing up for what you believe is right. Even in the face of objection and derision. Especially in the face of objection and derision. The importance of speaking your truth. One of the wonderful and magical things as your children grow is the realisation they teach you just as much about life, if not more but maybe I have passed on some things of value. 

As proceedings at the vigil came to a close Kevin the Aboriginal elder took the microphone and said “I love you’s all!” and I thought ‘Me too Kevin, me too!’. My son and I stood up and he said “I cannot even imagine what it must be like to be persecuted just for being who you are” and as I nodded he continued with “but what an AMAZING community!” I couldn’t agree with him more! 
On Saturday the 25th June 2016 my son and I will be at a Rally for Marriage Equality in Perth, Western Australia. The Rally starts at 1pm and is being held in the Murray Street Mall in the Perth CBD. There is a page on facebook if you need more information. We hope to see you there! 
Be the change, beautiful people, be the change! 
And travel safe x 

TWO LITTLE BOYS. 

Speaking to The Love of My Life today, we were talking about how my Daughter Number One, Sam, died. 

‘You know’ he said ‘in the future there will be cars that people can’t die in. Someone is probably working on it now, something to keep the occupants safe, so that car crashes can’t happen. And then people won’t die in cars’. And I thought to myself that that would really be something. No more fatalities on our roads. 

But then I thought, it wasn’t actually the car that killed her. The car was just the weapon of choice of her murderer. My Daughter was killed by another human being, it wasn’t a car accident, it was an act of murder by a trusted adult known to her. A man who drove at high speed into a rock wall on an expressway and ended her life. 

Then the news today that a father has driven off a wharf with his two little sons, aged four and not yet even one, after posting a suicide note on facebook. Koda and Hunter died, trapped in a car, drowning. This was no car accident either. And although the coroner will have the final word, and as much as I feel for their mother – and oh I do! So very much! This club doesn’t need any more members – I am not afraid to say that the man the media is reporting as a loving father and active member of the community is, now, a murderer and surely whatever else he may have been fairly PALES in comparison? Seriously. 

My heart bleeds for Hunter and Koda’s mother, extended family and friends. But mostly it bleeds for two little boys who are now gone, just like that, for always. 

Cars that people can’t die in would really be something. But so would an end to Domestic Violence. Fuck, why stop there? Let’s get rid of people killing other people, full stop. Because, enough already. 

Rest in Peace Koda and Hunter. And say hi to Sam for me x 

  

TWO STRONG HEARTS.

After another flight and a train trip up the coast Son Number Two, Daughter Number Two and I arrived at our station to be picked up to begin The Wedding festivities. That train station has changed since I knew it first. The overhead walkway and the stairs are at the opposite end of the platform than they used to be. This is the station from which I used to commute to my all girls, Catholic, junior high school and to Sydney to attend ATYP as a teenager. The station sits in the suburb where I attended the local public, co-ed high school, which is where I met my two very dear friends, one of whom was getting married this weekend. This was the station I alighted at on the day Daughter Number One was born, scared and unsure if the pain I was feeling were contractions. Across the road from the station sits the small unit where I lived during my first pregnancy.

We arrived and the night was dark and cool. It had been a long day. It was late. We were met by my high school friend’s child bride (she is ten years younger than the rest of us!) who collected some take away before taking us to the venue. The Child Bride looked fantastic and it was so very good to see her again! There we met up with my other dear high school friend and her daughter. I think I’ve mentioned before that we three high school friends each have daughters born in the same year; very cool indeed! When Daughter Number Two lived with me we would regularly meet up with our daughters even though we lived a distance apart but Daughter Number Two had not seen her little friends for three years. It was a subdued reunion as my friend’s – let’s call my friend Comet for the purposes of this blog – daughter was unwell and Daughter Number Two had had a very long day but for me it was lovely to see them together again. Comet, her Shooting Star, my Son Number Two and Daughter Number Two and I sat down and had dinner together after exhorting the Child Bride to go home to her family to get some sleep before the big day.

Comet and I finished dinner and I helped her in continuing to decorate the reception space. When we’d gone as long as we could and thought that what was left was manageable the next day we headed to bed ourselves. When we awoke in the morning I opened the door of our cabin and looked across the grass to the building opposite. On the verandah of the hall like building opposite was a TARDIS!! Seriously!! Very cool indeed. So, I got Son Number Two and Daughter Number Two dressed and hauled them over there to take photo’s, as you do. The preparations and decorating for The Wedding continued into the morning and then it was time to get ready for the ceremony. I dressed Daughter Number Two in the dress that I’d ordered from the internet for her and it was as perfect with her colouring as I’d known it would be. Son Number Two put on his good jeans and a smart shirt and I dressed myself in a pastel rainbow jumper, a flowery skirt and these really cool, really cheap black boots that a friend of mine had helped me pick out several days before. Comet had decorated the ceremony site and the pathway leading to it with candles in jars and rainbow windmills. It was a beautiful bush setting with flowers and the sound of bird life in the trees. Then this lovely song started and from two different paths that converged into one the Child Bride and my dear other high school friend (we’ll call her Lovemetender), who I was seeing for the first time since we arrived, came walking towards the assembled gathering. Lovemetender was holding their eldest daughter’s, Priscilla’s hand and the Child Bride held the hand of their youngest daughter, Lisa-Marie. I had only ever met Lisa-Marie once before, on the day she had arrived home from hospital after her birth three years earlier. The two brides and their two beautiful daughters walked down their paths and then met in the middle. They walked to the front of their assembled guests and stood together in front of the celebrant.

The celebrant opened the ceremony and welcomed everyone. I knew that I was up next and as I felt my throat constrict with unfallen tears of the happy persuasion I remembered that it had been a very, very long time – literally decades – since I had done any kind of public speaking. I wondered if I would be able to speak at all. It was such an honour to be asked though and meant so much to me, so I took a few deep breaths and when my name was called I stepped forward. My voice shook and it took effort to raise it to an audible level. I concentrated on Lovemetender and her bride and spoke the words I had written specially for them, to them. And they smiled and it was ok. I watched as my friends said their vows to each other and toddler wrangled simultaneously. I watched as the sand ceremony involved their nuclear and extended families. I watched as they signed their certificate and had photo’s at the end. There was so much love there and I was lucky to be a part of it. Seriously, there was laughter, tears, family and friends. There were two people madly in love committing to spending their lives and raising their family together. You don’t get much realer than that.

In all honesty I can say it was the best wedding I have ever been to and I’ve been to three of my own! On the day that would have marked the 25th anniversary of my own child bride wedding my lovely friends posted a video of photo’s of their special day set to music. I’ve watched it many times since then and the exquisite beauty never gets old. I see again in those photo’s how the Child Bride looks at Lovemetender, how they look at each other with such love, and I know in my life I have never had anyone look at me that way and chances are I never will. And watching their video I finally realised why there are so many people against gay marriage; they are afraid gays do it better!

Love to you all x

10535577_10152333077668097_1676967434299892536_o

gaymarriage

Sleep in Heavenly Peace.

I am a bit lost today. Suspended in my disbelief and cast adrift with no safe port in which to shelter. Ten years ago I had a beautiful, funny, clever, loving fourteen year old daughter. And by the end of this day ten years ago, she was gone.

It does not seem possible, that I could survive a full decade past my Daughter’s death, yet here I am. It does not seem possible that as vibrant as she was, she could just be gone. And in many important ways she isn’t.

She is there in the hearts and minds of her friends. Of my friends. Of her siblings. She is there each time I tell her story. And I appreciate all of that. But I can’t hug her or hear her voice or see her on stage and that hurts.

I am thankful, always, to those of you who travel with me. I am grateful for the fourteen years I had with my Sam. The last words today I will leave to one of Sam’s friends, because I couldn’t have said it better myself;

By: David 2:37pm Jun 1

There is barely a day that goes by that I don’t think of Sam. I may rarely speak of what was, but when I remember time stands still just for a moment before I’m swept away as the march of life moves on.

Lie in eternal peace, as the living linger. We will remember in quiet places, what you gave us, and give us.

The Clearer your destination, the more you’re Slip Sliding Away.

The stars from Daughter Number Two’s night light dance across the ceiling. I have packed a lot into the day but as usual night time does not equate sleep.

My friends and I took three of our children to the beach at dusk. The wind was bitter and the sand cold beneath our feet. The water, though, felt as warm as a bath and the children ran in and out of the waves, laughing with delight. When it grew almost too dark to see them we called them from the water and wrapped them in towels. We walked up the beach, past a couple fishing. Their fire was crackling and flickering on the beach behind them and when we passed them again on the way back the kids stopped for a minute at it’s warmth.

Then we packed my friend’s car and headed to Son Number One’s house for the weekend. We drove through the darkness and listened to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin and talked and laughed. At my Son’s home I hung a photo of the four of us on his wall, a portrait I’d reclaimed from Nana’s room. I hung Nana’s paintings on his walls and it was a good thing to do. I gave my little Daughter a bath and tucked her into bed. Now I lay beside her, listening to her sleep and I watch the stars dance above my head.

Tag Cloud