Soon I will be trekking across the country again. This is a trip that I didn’t know if I could make happen and by myself it would have been completely outside the realms of possibility. Luckily for my children and I, we have the great gift of our family of the heart. The people who love and support us in so very many ways. There are some days they make cross country travel possible and some days they make getting out of bed possible, but there is not a day that goes by that I am not grateful they are there. Cheering us on, lifting us up, lighting our way.Not long ago the psychologist I first worked with after Daughter Number One died sent me photos of her gorgeous new puppy. Last week I had a phone call from the friend who rang me every day that I spent in a mental health unit years ago. Someone I’ve only ever met once in real life. Who I met through a friend I had met on Plenty of Fish. The other morning I had a message from Daughter Number One’s friend who shared her name; that is, until she recently got married! This trip, to pick up Daughter Number Two for the school holidays was made possible by, in no particular order;Another lovely soul I met through the same Plenty of Fish guy as above – THANKS GLEN MY FRIEND! The incredible mother of Son Number Two’s beloved Hope, who has been Daughter Number Two’s guardian angel on earth this year, One of Daughter Number One’s treasured school friends, who also recently made a beautiful bride, An extremely dear friend that I have really only known two years but feel like my heart has known forever, A newer friend still, who I met through the friend above, who regularly thrashes me at word games, A special friend who has had much travelling on many levels this year but has still made time and space to connect with me,A lovely and glamorous friend who has moved houses recently and mountains always,A friend who comes from my life before, before Daughter Number One died, who continues to fight the good fight for vulnerable children, The one I bought from eBay, despite their pricelessness,My dear ones who always give me a safe place to land,My favourite former housemates,My high school friend and regular bridesmaid, The sister of Son Number Two’s Best Friend and the Best Friend himself, who I trust to keep an eye out for Son Number Two when I am not there to do it, Son Number Two himself. This list above is just of people who have helped in concrete and measurable, practical ways. It is by no means comprehensive! From different periods of my life, across varying distances and on many levels we have a wealth of people checking in, supporting and encouraging us and believing in me on the days that I can’t. Every kind word said, every good wish expressed, every ‘I hear you!’ counts. I do not walk a day where I feel like I am doing this alone and the responsibility and privilege of knowing people are genuinely invested in us keeps me wanting to show up for them. With this support I am growing into the best version of myself I can be. More steady on my feet than I have been for a very long time. All these threads; old friends, new friends, dear friends, true friends; weaving themselves into this safety net/ security blanket that gives me enough confidence to fly. This week, literally. In my own ways I try to pay these gifts forward, in whichever way I can. Last week I attended Angelhands’ Guinness World Record Attempt and as often as possible I send the message, make the phone call, post a card, pay a visit; reaching out my hand to let people know that I am there and I that I care. For me, that human connection has been the thing that is worth sticking around for. As challenging as I often find social interaction – and I really do, in numerous ways – the not insubstantial effort is worth the rewards. Even as I sit here now, doing the things I didn’t think would be possible, it still feels surreal. It is overwhelming me a bit to grasp the reality of having such a huge wish come true. The joy, the utter relief, the continued anxiety of waiting for the next step to fall into place; I am looking forward to the pace slowing a bit so my head can stop screaming so loudly “WE DID IT!!!! WE REALLY DID IT!!!! THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING!!!!”. We have the capacity to change people’s lives every day. Even our own. Especially our own. What you put out into the world matters. It counts. Sometimes in ways you don’t expect, many times in ways you will never know about. But in absolutely real ways that can make all the difference. Never underestimate the power of the little things. To my Dearest Hearts, my beautiful people, for every thing that you do and are, THANK YOU. I hope, even if just a little, you understand how incredibly huge this is and what we have accomplished together. We did it, guys. We really did. Safe onward travel x
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
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
Son Number Two and I moved into a place we can call our own this week. It needs some work but it is a step in the right direction. Since moving in we have been offered a bed, a bicycle for Daughter Number Two, a vacuum cleaner and a landline telephone, amongst other things. It is heartening, the kindness of strangers.
I am always grateful for the beautiful people I am privileged to call friends. People who pick me up when I am down and love me generously. Those people, my friends, know me though and know that I love them back. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement; a two way street. Although I am always and eternally grateful for my gorgeous family of the heart (and particularly to the phone charger fairy this week) this post is more focused on the kindness of strangers.
I watched a documentary the other night called ‘Craigslist Joe’. According to Wikipedia:
“Craigslist (styled craigslist) is a classified advertisements website with sections devoted to jobs, housing, personals, for sale, items wanted, services, community, gigs, résumés, and discussion forums.”
In the documentary, available on Netflix, Joe – the protagonist of the piece – decides to spend one month over December, thirty one full days and nights, living entirely from things he’s sourced from Craigslist. Food, accomodation, transport, any extra clothing in addition to the one set he is wearing – everything. He has his laptop and phone to access Craigslist and connect with the people he comes into contact with there. And off he goes! I won’t spoil it for you. You need to check it out for yourselves. It is safe to say though that my belief in the inherent goodness of the majority of my fellow man remains. I have to believe, given the opportunity, most of us choose to do the right thing. I’m a big believer in paying it forward and random acts of kindness as well.
Most of us, we lucky ones, have enjoyed a long weekend of family and fun and chocolate. I was doing just that, spending time with Daughter Number Two and her male counterpart, when I saw a post from one of my facebook friends. It said that one of their two little daughter’s preschool teachers – someone who she says ‘helped form our beautiful daughters into the girls they are today’ – was driving home from Easter celebrations with her own family when there was a car crash. Two of the preschool teacher’s children died. Just like that. Life spins on a dime. There is a ‘Go Fund Me’ page to help the family. It is here:
It could be any of us, driving home over the long weekend. If any of you can help, even just because it wasn’t you, then please do. That goes for any occasion the opportunity arises to do something good for someone else. Just do it. Most of the time you will never know how much your kindness means but let that not deter you! Just remember all the times in your life someone has been there to catch you and hold out your own hands to someone else.
Safe onwards travel x
Hey guys, this is the speech I gave at the wedding. As I waited to speak on the day it suddenly occurred to me what an extremely long time it had been since I had done any public speaking at all, like, over a decade at least. Which was when I began to get very, very nervous. Anyway, it seemed to go alright, so, enjoy!:
William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116
“Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.”
Looking around this gathering of the Happy Couple’s family and friends it is easy to see many kinds of love. The love of parents for their children and children for their parents, of siblings for each other, the love of extended family, the love of friendship – we are surrounded by it!
What I think William was saying in his sonnet is that love seeps into our very souls and stains us and that love becomes part of who we are. Love gives us shelter in life’s storms and love is the light that guides us home. At the end of the day, when all else is lost, love is what remains.
“Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments”. Every relationship has it’s challenges but love is what prevails; over time, over distance, during disappointments and trials. Love endures, love connects, love strengthens. For ten years the love between the Happy Couple has endured. They have a lovely home, a strong partnership and two gorgeous daughters that stand as testament to their love. It doesn’t get realer than that. Their love has brought together this gathering and our love for them will support the Happy Couple and their family as they go forward into the future.
I’ll close with the words of another poet who is close to my heart:
“You must be my Lucky Star
‘Cause you shine on me wherever you are
I just think of you and I start to glow
And I need your light
And baby you know
You must be my Lucky Star
‘Cause you make the darkness seem so far
And when I’m lost you’ll be my guide
I just turn around and you’re by my side”
Happy Couple, you have found your lucky stars in each other, which makes you very lucky indeed. Thank you for the honour of sharing this day with you.
This morning I received an email from the legal firm representing Baby Daddy in a little difference of opinion we are having. The email came from an underling of the actual representative, who bluntly asked for Daughter Number One’s birth date with just her first name. There were a few things that bothered me about this. One was that this person is a stranger to me and did not know my daughter so I felt less familiarity and more respect would have been appropriate. Secondly, Baby Daddy and I actually got married on what would have been Daughter Number One’s 17th birthday. I met him less than twelve months after she died; even if he couldn’t remember which birthday I married him on he knew how old she was when she died. So, you know, do the math, genius. But he WOULDN’T. EVER. BE BOTHERED. Because all she ever was to him was an opportunity for exploitation; whether he was throwing her death at me to score points in an argument or spending the compensation money received from her death. He is a class act.
It’s funny the things that go through your head. Aside from everything else I lost in that car, on that day, there were the other incidental things that I kept discovering as time went on. My little niece’s shoes. She lived with us at the time. Not her only shoes but a favourite pair. She is in high school now. Son Number Two’s comfort teddy blankie. The one he’d had since before he was born. That was a bit of a blow. Luckily I had a spare but although it was the same, it wasn’t the same. It hadn’t been as well loved, it wasn’t as worn and soft from use. For weeks afterwards looking for things and then realising.
It is over a year now since my beloved Nana died. Even so, because she died during Easter last year it is almost as if I am now having a delayed reaction to the anniversary. I miss her.
The other day facebook told me the police officer involved in the case was having a birthday. A few days before that it had been pictures of his son’s birthday that pictured him with both his son and daughter. Star Wars themed. Very cool. He’s not a police officer any more. He was very decent to me. He still is. We are facebook friends. I wish him well. Life is weird.
Tonight I will spend time with the Love of My Life and a young friend from an older time as well as go to see more recent friends and meet their new four legged baby. If I’m very, very lucky I might be able to wrangle a motorbike ride, which would be just the therapy I need probably. That and the company. Just keep swimming, right?
Safe onward travel x
Less than four hours after my last post my Nana died. But before that, oh boy! The lady knew how to live.
Live, laugh, love. Do it now because the laughter is what you remember and the love is what remains.
We love you Nana. Thank you for waiting for us. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for letting us love you.
Please give my Daughter Number One a hug from me.
Take it easy now x