Posts tagged ‘death of a child’

MAY YOUR GUIDING LIGHT BE STRONG.

Earlier this week a friend was taking me to an appointment and we were on the freeway. The traffic ground to almost a standstill and we were barely crawling along. I googled traffic conditions and the website said that there had been an accident resulting in partial closure of the freeway with no information about injuries as yet. The post was several hours old and I immediately thought that there must have been a fatality. As we crawled past no less than three lots of cars, who seemed to have run into each other in the barely moving traffic jam and were exchanging details, I was transported to another freeway and a rock faced wall. My hands sifting through sandy dirt at the edge of the road and finding a melted section of a car badge. Another freeway almost fifteen years ago.

In the present day my heart rate and breathing escalated and I started to cry. My phone vibrated with a message from a friend asking how I was going and I told her. Fifteen minutes later – maybe? It could have been quicker, everything was moving very slowly – another message from my friend. “No fatality. It’s a diesel spill xx”

Just over seven years ago I posted this post titled “With a little help from my friends”. This week, again, always, I have had much cause to be thankful for the beautiful people who surround my children and me. There has been so much going on, many layers of things. Those people who walk beside us make this life a gentler trip.

So this shoutout goes to ones who are there. The ones who get us. The ones who love us. The ones who pick up the slack and give us a boost. Who take us to concerts and give us safe places to land. Who know what to say and when to say it and when to say nothing at all. The ones who don’t give up or turn their backs. With all our love and thanks to you, because we seriously couldn’t do this without you! Which is really something I can’t say enough.

Safe onward travel x

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THIS WOMAN’S WORK.

Content warning: Violence against women, Domestic Violence, sexual assault, violence against children, suicide.

This is not your regular Mother’s Day post. It’s not even MY regular Mother’s Day post, although it starts about the same. Earlier this week I was at an appointment and the doctor asked how many children I had and I answered her and I cried. Then I had coffee with a friend and there was a Mother’s Day promotion on a card in the middle of the table so I turned it around to face the window. So I couldn’t see it. So it couldn’t see me. Yesterday, on the phone, a stranger told me to ‘Have a happy Mother’s Day’ and I hung up my phone and blinked away hot tears.

It’s a SHIT time of year for me. Mother’s Day is about three weeks out from the anniversary of Daughter Number One’s murder. Fifteen years this year. And the day before that will be three years since her father killed himself. And the day before that will mark twenty years since a beloved friend killed himself – the fun never ends at this time of year.

Then the news broke of Australia’s worst mass shooting in decades; a murder suicide with four of the dead being children. There’s been a screaming inside my head and a dagger in my heart ever since I heard.

For the innocent lives lost and the friends and family they have left behind. The first responders and all who will be touched by this in a professional capacity going forward. To their wider community, in all the various communities they were a part of. My heart just bleeds and bleeds. The devastation and destruction and just incredible wastefulness. Happy fucking Mother’s Day.

I’ve had a post half written in my head for weeks now. The more usual, for me, Mother’s Day one. The one where I acknowledge the Mothers who are without their children and the children who no longer have their Mothers. Where I remember the Step Mother’s and the foster Mothers and all the women that step up in that capacity without deserved recognition. But in thinking about it I’ve realised it’s SO MUCH MORE than that. Because if you are a woman, whether you have had children or not you can be DAMN SURE you’ve been mothering someone! In fact, it’s not just women but girls too. If you are female the chances are you mother someone in your life; partners, siblings, friends, colleagues, parents etc. It’s what we are trained to do. It’s what is expected from us.

To mother, the verb, means “look after (someone) kindly and protectively, sometimes excessively so.” And we do. We do. I know my Daughter stayed silent about the sexual abuse she suffered because she thought she was protecting those she loved. She literally died doing so. It’s why I can’t shut up. It’s why I won’t. Until I literally die.

We use the word ‘mother’ to denote things of import – Mother Nature, mother load, mother ship – but where, exactly, do we pay more than lip service to the significance of mothers? To the significance of women? Unicorn slippers and breakfast in bed tomorrow just really don’t cut it for me!

Let’s get some perspective on this, shall we? Counting Dead Women Australia count every known death due to violence against women in Australia. As of yesterday the tally sits at 23, so far, this year. Which means we are currently SMASHING our national average of one dead woman per week in this country due to violence against women. And this tally doesn’t even include children lost to domestic violence.

Please keep in mind that I live in The Lucky Country. A first world country. A ‘civilised’ nation. And yet I also live in a country where my sanitary products are taxed under a goods and services tax – literally taxing me for being a woman! – even though condoms are exempt. I live in a country that will pay me less than a man for doing the same job. I live in a country where abortion laws vary from state to state and abortion is technically illegal in two.

Elisabeth Moss, who stars in and produces The Handmaid’s Tale gave an interview recently in which she said hates hearing that someone won’t watch the show because it is ‘too scary’. That she struggles with the idea of that because “This is happening in your real life.” There is no question that The Handmaid’s Tale is confronting viewing. There is graphic violence against women and sexual assault. Yes, it is scary. But what is even more petrifying? Is when you watch it and realise that we are not so far removed from that possible reality. So, please, be scared, be uncomfortable, Watch it anyway and then be OUTRAGED.

Tomorrow and all the other days after that, let your outrage inspire you to action. Speak your truth, shout it loud, share it widely. Support your local woman’s refuge or collective or your next door neighbour who’s struggling a bit. Read, learn, question. And take care of your own damn self.

Angelhands is currently organising a Guinness World Record attempt for the Largest Gathering of Angels. Angelhands provides support to people affected by violent crime. This event will be their major fundraising initiative for 2018 and is being held on Wednesday 27th June 2018. This is PTSD Awareness Day and June is PTSD Awareness Month in the USA. All details regarding this event can be found by clicking through to the Angelhands website here or to the Facebook event here.

Rest peacefully Cynda, Katrina, Taye, Rylan, Arye and Kadyn.

To all of you for whom tomorrow brings sadness, go gently.

Safe onward travel everyone x

YOU’RE ONLY DANCING ON THIS EARTH FOR A SHORT WHILE.

Does anyone else remember Space Food Sticks? They were these weird snack type thing. The consistency of half dried Play-Doh and with a flavour vaguely reminiscent of chocolate? For some reason I thought of them about a month ago and thought I’d buy some for the nostalgia value. But I couldn’t find any at the supermarket, so I googled them. Apparently production stopped on Space Food Sticks in 2014. Maybe there was a public outcry or a farewell ceremony but if there was I missed it. And now they don’t exist anymore.

Next month will be twenty years since a very dear friend of mine died. I know that because I was pregnant with Son Number Two at the time, and here he is, almost twenty years old. I dreamt about my friend the other night. In my dream I was so happy to see him. After all these years Malcolm, you are still so missed.

Last night I spent a couple of hours putting together a piece for my wall that I have been assembling in my head for weeks and, I guess in one way and another, I have been working on for years. It’s a huge Kmart poster size frame with a marriage equality poster from the campaign in the centre. Around that I have put photos ranging from a rainbow flag Daughter Number One had drawn, to a photo of her on her 14th Birthday – her last birthday- with her beloved best friend, to the wedding we attended before it was legal with Daughter Number Two dancing with Son Number Two, to rally’s for Marriage Equality and the memorial service for the Pulse victims. There were photos from the Pride Parade and the newspaper report from the wedding we attended that was one of the first legal same sex marriages in Australia, where Daughter Number Two wore the same gown she had worn to the non-legal wedding a couple of years before. All those times, separate but linked.

A rainbow collage of years and memories and meanings and people but mostly love. I am looking forward to hanging it on the wall, where I can see it and remember and be glad.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, we went to a camp. There was a ‘silent auction’ there. Items were placed on tables with pieces of paper where you could write your bid for the item and the highest bid would win. As we walked around looking at the items I could see Daughter Number One’s name written in her childish hand on item after item. I was appalled! Asked her what she was doing? Didn’t she know we couldn’t afford to pay for these things if she won? Daughter Number One protested strongly. She hadn’t written her name on anything! She didn’t know why it was there!

It turned out there was another girl at the camp with the same name, and, incredibly, a birthday one year and a day different from Daughter Number One’s. After that camp they became pen pals and exchanged letters for years.

When Daughter Number One was murdered there were many people I had to tell but, as silly as it sounds, I couldn’t bring myself to tell her friend with the same name. It felt too wrong. Like I was telling her about her own death almost. I know that’s not logical but that’s how it felt. It’s something I still feel guilty about to this day because it didn’t give my Daughter’s friend the opportunity to attend her funeral. I took that from her and I will always be sorry for that.

But this girl, with the same name as my Daughter, this beautiful, generous girl heard about Daughter Number One’s murder through the extensive media coverage and sent me a card. Over the years she has kept in touch with me. We chat on Messenger sometimes. She’s a pilot now, based overseas. A female pilot, which is pretty fucking special. The other week she sent me a video and the message attached said she hoped I’d enjoy it. It was footage taken by her co-pilot, in the cockpit, of her landing a plane. IT WAS AMAZING! And that she thought to send me the video means more to me than words can say. I saved it onto my phone.

All of the years and the memories and the meanings and the people and most of all the love. And I remember. And I am glad.

WE CAN BE HEROES, JUST FOR ONE DAY.

I left the house early the other morning to go and spend time with a friend. I thought it would be more efficient to do my make up en route so I made my way to the bathroom at the train station, where I was meeting my friend. The ‘mirror’ was a piece of polished metal and I looked at myself with the scratches and smudges and distortions of the metal overlaying my features and thought to myself that I looked the way that I felt. I thought that all of us go through days when we present a (relatively) poised and polished outward appearance while the scratches and smudges and scars we accumulate lie beneath the surface. That anyone looking at us would have no idea of what is underneath, how much it weighs to carry. And yet, we get up, we put on our faces and we go out into the world, one foot in front of the other.

A little while after writing my last post the School Captain of Daughter Number One’s graduating year, that is, the graduating year she would have been a part of had she not been murdered three years beforehand, uploaded to facebook the speech he had given at their graduation ceremony. One of Daughter Number One’s friends saw it and let me know it was there before tagging me so I could read it. There were beautiful references to my Daughter but more than that, the writer relayed a story about her that I had not heard before. In a couple of months it will be fifteen years since she died. Can you imagine what it’s like to hear something about my Daughter that I have never heard before? It is SPECTACULAR! Such a profound gift. To know she was remembered on such a significant day for her peers, to know she is remembered fondly still; priceless beyond all measure.

On my Daughter’s birthday I was looking through some of her things. She had these books – I can’t remember what they were called? Slam Books? I think that’s it – anyway, they are notebooks with questions in them and you pass them around your friends and get them to answer the questions about themselves. Daughter Number One had also answered them herself, several times in the months before she died. Beside each question that asked “Person I most look up to” she had written “My Mum”. It is exquisitely devastating to me, to read those words, but I try sweet girl. Still I try.

Safe onward travel x

FEBRUARY MADE ME SHIVER.

To the Students of Stoneman Douglas High School,

There are not words to convey how sorry I am for what has happened to you all. On a day most associated with love, in a place that should be associated with growth the magnitude of the horror you have experienced and continue to experience is almost incomprehensible.

I don’t pretend to know what you are going through but my heart bleeds as I imagine you going from funeral to funeral, from hospital bed to hospital bed. Even just going from day to day, as you navigate this, your new normal.

This Sunday, my eldest Daughter would have been turning 29. She would have been, but she was murdered aged 14. I don’t pretend to know what you are going through so I will speak to what I do know.

I know that all these years later, my Daughter’s friends still say her name.

You will move on from this. You won’t have a choice. Time rolls on regardless. I hope you can hold on to your outrage but not let it rob you of all that is beautiful in life. None of you have chosen this but you will get to have some choice about what you carry with you into your futures. Or how you carry it into your futures. Honouring your friends and your teachers but also, importantly, honouring yourselves. Take it one step at a time.

I hope that you can ask for help if you need it. I know that you will not forget. More than anything else, I hope that you see the change you are fighting so hard for.

Safe onward travel x

MAY YOUR DAYS BE MERRY AND BRIGHT.

A few weeks ago Son Number Two came home from a movie night with The Boys. He said “Mum, there’s a movie we have to see!”. He went on to explain that he had seen the shorts for a film called’Goodbye Christopher Robin’. He said “Mum, we have to see it, it’s Winnie the Pooh”.

As I’ve said before, Daughter Number One loved Winnie the Pooh and her room was full of Winnie stuff. After her murder my Sons and I decorated her coffin with Winnie the Pooh stickers, messages of love, glitter and their tiny handprints. So, “Mum, we have to see it, it’s Winnie the Pooh” – Of course we did.

Off we went, on my birthday at the beginning of the month. It was a very good movie. Terribly British in a charming way; it had themes of the futility of war, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the mistakes we make as parents, forgiveness, family of the heart and how we carry on. It is the back story of bow Winnie the Pooh came to be. I didn’t have any knowledge of Winnie the Pooh author A.A.Milne outside of Winnie himself and it was incredibly moving and interesting to watch this film. I cried, oh, how I cried. And I unreservedly recommend you watch ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ too. I also recommend doing your own research around A.A.Milne and reading some of his other works.

Well guys, it’s been a year! Christmas is almost upon us and then another year. I don’t know about you but I’m tired. My plan is to spend my time and energy on the people I love, who love me. That’s all I’m sure about. As always I am tremendously grateful for those who travel with me.

Wishing you and yours health and happiness! Safe onward travel x

IT’S EASIER TO BELIEVE IN THIS SWEET MADNESS, OH THIS GLORIOUS SADNESS.

We are hurtling towards the end of the year and soon 2017 will be done.

To be honest, I’m not sure I will miss it. Next week, here in Australia, we find out the result of our criminally wasteful, hate mongering, progress delaying postal survey to see if some of us can have the same right as the rest of us. And still nothing will change, because this postal survey doesn’t actually change anything – except the degree to which people now feel free to spew hate about a certain group of us. Oh, and the millions of dollars less we now have to spend on silly stuff like education, health, the homeless, the environment. All those trivial things which can’t really matter much if we have money to burn on what is essentially ugly confetti at the end of the day.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe they are seeing how many more mass shootings they can cram in before the end of the year because gun control is a less attractive alternative (What. The. Actual. Fuck. ?????!!!!)

SIGH. If only we could use our powers for good.

Guys, I’m exhausted. The last few months have been intense. Good things and bad things, both, but intense and I’m weary.

Son Number Two graduated high school recently. This is a good thing. I am incredibly proud of him. I know how far he has had to travel and the obstacles he has had to navigate. I didn’t finish high school. I was pregnant with Daughter Number One by age seventeen. I went back to tertiary studies after having children but I didn’t finish high school. Son Number Two is the first of my children to finish high school. His graduation was a big deal to me, for his sake and for mine.

I don’t think I anticipated just quite how much of a huge deal it was to me until we actually attended the ceremony. Son Number Two had to be there early for a rehearsal so he’d gone ahead with his friends. I was attending with one of my friends. As soon as we entered the ceremony room tears started streaming down my face. Luckily the lights were low and I held on to my friend tightly as I struggled to compose myself. I managed to contain any sobs but the tears quietly snaked down my face for a long time. Before proceedings had even begun; before the graduating class was even in the room. Eventually, my tears slowed, then stopped. ‘Ok’ I thought, ‘I’m ok, I’ve got this under control.’ And I did. Right up until one of the speakers asked us to think back to when our students had started school.

I do remember when Son Number Two started school. He started school eight months after his big sister was murdered. My little boy’s world had been blown apart and at that stage we were still lurching between the inquest and other court proceedings. There was no security. There wasn’t even much familiarity. Everything and everyone Son Number Two had ever known had either been brutally ripped from his life or changed almost beyond recognition, including me. He was so small and so defeated. I remember standing beside his desk – was it an orientation or the first day? I can’t be sure. What I remember is the sheet on the desk and his downcast eyes as he said ‘It’s too hard. I can’t do it.’

It was too hard, because everything was too hard. Over the years I’m not sure things got easier. Times changed. Schools changed. Six times over the course of his educational career. It’s only really been in the last several years that Son Number Two has had any confidence in his abilities or discovered there were actually things he enjoyed about learning. He was lucky to have some help along the way, someone who cared enough to see his real potential. Someone who, one way and another, inspired my Son to start living up to that potential. Like me, he has very good friends. Son Number Two took the road less travelled but he got there in the end. I am so proud of the young man he is and so excited by who he is becoming.

I was completely overwhelmed throughout the graduation ceremony. My head was pounding. We were seated near the door so after Son Number Two had sauntered from the room like a rock star my friend and I went into the hall to wait for him. We found him as he and his friends went to get a photo together at the end of the corridor. The entrance to the building was at the other end of the corridor and, as we waited, the corridor started filling with people spilling out of the ceremony room. I could feel my throat closing over and my chest getting tight so my friend and I elected to head outside for some air.

Son Number Two finally emerged. We took some photos and exchanged hugs and wished him on his way. I was staying at my friend’s place so my Son and his friends could celebrate at ours. As soon as I got into my friend’s car the sobs I had been containing broke free. Noisy and ugly. We made the short journey back to his place where his daughter had dinner waiting for us. I went to get changed into less formal wear and then walked out to the back patio to sit with my friend. As I walked through his back door the nausea I had been trying to suppress all evening overtook me and I walked straight past my friend and threw up in his back garden.

There were so many conflicting emotions. My focus had been my Son but the empty space where Daughter Number One should have been felt emptier that night. As proud and happy for him as I am it is bittersweet for me that he is the first of my children to graduate high school. And I fruitlessly wonder how much more of his potential he would have realised, or how much sooner, if things had been different. I let the anger wash over me and let it go. It is what it is. And really, as far as he has come, it is still only the beginning for my Son Number Two.

I haven’t really been able to hit my stride again yet. There are lots of emotions at this time of year and this year has been a long one. Not the longest, to be sure, but still. Lots of first times. Lots of last times.

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I took this photo and the one below at Stockton Beach on the east coast of Australia, mere months before my Daughter’s murder and around a year before Son Number Two started school. In the top right of the photo of Daughter Number one dancing in the waves is a corner of the shipwrecked MV Sygna. You can see it clearly behind four year old Son Number Two here.

Last year, a few days after the anniversary of Daughter Number Ones death, most of what was left visible of the MV Sygna slipped into the sea during storms. Apparently there’s only a tiny bit there to see now. Soon enough you won’t be able to see it at all.

There are only so many days left of 2017. Try to fill yours with love. This too shall pass. All of it. Make memories, take photos, go gently with yourself and others. Travel safe x

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