Posts tagged ‘friends’

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 

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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 

ONCE I WAS SEVEN YEARS OLD. 

A couple of nights ago Son Number Two woke me in the early hours of the morning. I had been having a nightmare that something was coming at me out of the dark and, in my dream, I had been screaming his name. He said, in real life, that he couldn’t understand what I was crying out, but that I was clearly distressed, so he woke me up. It wasn’t the first time, it will not be the last. He wakes me up and talks to me for a couple of minutes as I reorient myself and then he goes back to bed. And in the morning he gets up and goes off to school. 

Last Wednesday was Son Number Two’s eighteenth birthday. That seems incredible to me but there you have it. My beautiful Daughter Number One died when he was four years old and he has very few memories of her. Life ‘After’ is life as he knows it. I wanted his birthday to be all about him and I think, I hope, that he felt that it was. The birthday video I made to post to facebook had only one photo of him with each sibling; the rest of an increasingly good looking boy across the years. So many memories as I trawled through photos to pick the best ones. 

And I got things together and I organised his birthday dinner but by the big day I was exhausted from the effort of containing the unfairness of his big sister not being here to celebrate this milestone with him and the brutality of the knowledge that she never got to see her eighteenth birthday. Or any birthday after she turned fourteen. Each night this week brought a nightmare that didn’t really stop when I awoke. 
On his birthday Son Number Two went off to school and I attended to the last few details. I went to visit a friend and while they were sweeping outside I stood in their kitchen with music on full blast and sobbed the kind of heaving, full bodied sobs that leave you unsure if you are going to vomit and bring you literally to your knees – and they did, and they did. But before my friend came inside I had wiped off my face and regained my composure and the day wore on. 

I came home to my Son and one friend, followed by another, then another. We all got ready to go out for his birthday dinner and there were many laughs. The general consensus amongst his friends seems to be that I am cool, as parents go. But they have no idea of how hard my Son’s life has been at times. We have had some adventures though, he and I, and I guess we have both made it this far. That’s saying something in itself even if I’m not sure what that is. What I do know is that he has a solid group of friends who, like him, are loyal smart arses for the most part. But funny as fuck. 
We all prepared to go out and I sent them off to the bus stop and waited for my own lift at the top of my drive way and with their laughter travelling around the corner to me I felt the tightness in my chest and the change in my breathing as the grip I held so tightly once again started to slip. I sent an emergency text to one of my oldest, dearest friends and then my other lovely friends picked me up to go to the restaurant. 


The birthday dinner was a good night out and a jolly good time was had by all. I limped through the rest of the week and here we are, on Father’s Day. 

Once again I feel for my son and all that was stolen from him but more than that, I am so grateful. I am grateful beyond measure for the truly good men who have been in his life. The ones who came to his birthday dinner and clapped him on the back, shook his hand and hugged him goodbye. I am grateful for all of those men who have spent time with him over his life and who have cared enough to make the effort. I am thankful for the beautiful men and fathers I have the privilege of knowing, the true good guys that mean I continue to have hope. Lastly, I am grateful for my Son, who he is and who he is becoming. 

Safe onward travel x 

I MIGHT ONLY HAVE ONE MATCH. 

Over the last six months I have stayed in five different places but now, finally, I am somewhere that I can make my own and settle awhile. It feels good! 

I like being able to have my own things around me and to decide where things will go. Lovely and generous friends have gifted me things I may need and it has been like little mini Christmases each time something arrives. I love things, and people, that come into my life with stories! And they always come with stories! Even if you don’t know their histories you can imagine the journeys they have taken to cross paths with you. They have seen other places, been touched by other hands. 


I looked down at my hands earlier this week; at my chipped, blood red, Chanel nail polish. I thought to myself that they were an apt metaphor for my life, or for me! Imperfect but still vibrant, or something! 
There are many exciting things coming up for me and new adventures with old friends. Some of my lovely ones are coming closer to me and some I will be travelling to see. There is much for me to appreciate and more again to look forward to. When I awaken in a panic for the third night in a row and find a message from a friend on the other side of the world, their thoughtfulness is enough to soothe me, and I know I am a lucky girl! 

Wherever we are or wherever we’re from, wherever we’ve been or wherever we are heading the truth for me is this; we are all just passing through. 
Safe onward travel x 

AM I ON MY OWN? AM I EVEN CLOSE? 


Well, that’s Mother’s Day done and dusted for another year. I know I am not the only one who finds Mother’s Day hard. There are lots of reasons it can be hard for people. Those who have lost their mothers. Those who have not been able to have children but who have deeply wanted to. I don’t pretend to have any monopoly on Mother’s Day related pain. Really, who would want it? Truth be told though, it is not a day I enjoy.

There are obvious reasons for that and for those of you following along, here’s one more:

In a few days it will be Daughter Number Two’s birthday. She will be nine. The day after that it will be Son Number One’s 22nd birthday, but he is much younger than his years in some ways and however old you are it’s nice to feel people appreciate having you around, particularly on your birthday. Thirteen years ago I was decorating a Thomas the Tank Engine birthday cake with my beautiful first born Daughter for her brother’s 9th birthday and then ten days after that she was dead. Each and every year since Sam’s death my eldest son’s birthday has fallen into the chasm of grief that opens between Daughter Number One’s birthday and the anniversary of her murder. Every. Single. Time. And since Daughter Number Two rocketed into the world her birthday is consumed by the same black hole.

It’s not like I forget the dates. I know when they were born! I was there. It is just that the dates kind of sneak up on me. Every time. So last Friday I was speaking to Daughter Number Two on the phone and I said to her “It’s Friday tomorrow, so there’s only one more day of school before the weekend!” And she answered “Yes! And you know what the next Friday Is!” And I, her Mother, said no.

“Next Friday is my birthday!”

Fuck. Fuckity fuck fuck. “Oh yes! Of course I know that!” Fuck. Really? Already? But there has to be more time, surely. I have to have more time than that! I need more time!

When I was awaiting Daughter Number Two’s arrival into the world I was so excited she was due after the anniversary of her sister’s death. It would give me a positive focal point past that dreaded anniversary, I thought. But best laid plans and all of that… Daughter Number Two made her grand entrance six and a bit weeks early, completely overshadowing her eldest brother’s 13th birthday the following day, a fact from which he has still not completely recovered.

It’s not like I don’t try. I do. I knew the birthday’s were coming up. I knew I had preparations to make. I had thought a little bit about what to do this year. I just hadn’t done anything yet. But there has to be more time, surely. I have to have more time than that! I need more time! Except now there wasn’t any time left and to have any chance of getting anything to them in time for their birthday’s I would need to get something into the mail to them the very next day. I said my goodbyes to Daughter Number Two on the phone and sat on my bed berating myself for my failings as a mother. ‘What THE FUCK is WRONG with you Kate? You are their MOTHER! You know when their birthday’s are! How can you drop the ball EVERY. FUCKING. YEAR??!!’

Since detailing my shortcomings didn’t seem to be getting me very far I decided to focus on what I actually do have and what I actually could do, better late than never. Limited time, limited finances and limited capacity to think of anything in the face of my guilt and shame made it an uphill battle. Until it hit me; what I have in abundance! Where my wealth of riches are found. In my family of the heart. My beautiful and amazing friends.

So I wrote a post on facebook asking for help in making my Son and Daughter’s birthday’s special. I asked if anyone would be willing to send them a card, because I thought having more than expected mail would be a fun thing! And so many of my lovely people came through. People who have their own shit going on. No one particularly financially wealthy but all incredibly rich in heart and generosity. I know I have told you before here but it is a point I cannot make too often; I have the very best friends. Where ever I go and whatever I do, I never walk alone.

I had already asked for their support earlier in the week when I spoke at a workshop run by Angelhands. It is always a honour to be asked and I hold on to the hope that sharing my experiences will somehow, someway, someday help someone. My friend Ann was also there and I always get much of value listening to her speak. Ann was recently appointed an ambassador for Our Watch. They are lucky to have her. We are all lucky to have her.

On the day I spoke at the Angelhands workshop I had posted on my facebook saying only that it was a big day for me and asking people to keep me in their thoughts. As always my beautiful people had my back. Son Number Two and another lovely friend physically came with me. The kindness of the comments on my facebook post and even just in the acknowledgement of their ‘like’s’ – ‘I see you, I hear you’ – was a reminder that my friends stand with me. Always. How lucky I am.

After I managed to get something in the mail to my children I had time to reflect on why this happens each year despite my best efforts. I realised that if I don’t actively acknowledge the birthday’s are fast approaching then the anniversary cannot be fast approaching either. Because there has to be more time, surely. I have to have more time than that! I need more time!

Because I remember what we were doing and that my Daughter Number One was still alive this time thirteen years ago. Because I didn’t know that those would be the last times we ever did things together. Because there has to be more time, surely. I have to have more time than that! I need more time! But there isn’t. There is no more time. And that is that.

I am so thankful for all the kindnesses I receive. I try to pass on these kindnesses, to pay them forward. It doesn’t take much, as I said in my last post, to change someone’s day. I can’t pretend that it’s completely altruistic on my part; making someone else feel better makes me feel better. It really is more blessed to give than to receive. But a win-win can’t be a bad thing!

I have been doing a bit of reading on love languages recently. There are, apparently, five main ways we express love; words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. I like to think I am fairly fluent in all of those but that doesn’t mean there is not room for improvement. The more opportunities to practise, the better. Love is my religion. My reading has also been useful for reflecting on the ways that others around me show me I am loved. Acknowledging that to them and to myself is important. Especially when I don’t feel loveable.

I love and I am loved. At the end of the day it is all that counts. So, just do it, while you still have the time.
Two days before the anniversary of Sam’s death this year is the eighteenth anniversary of the day a man I loved deeply committed suicide. I still miss him enormously. He was my friend.

The day before the 13th anniversary of Sam’s death is the first anniversary of her father’s death. While I know he suffers no longer my heart breaks at the thought of how hard this day will be for his wife and his sons. Selfishly I mourn another piece of my Daughter gone forever from this world.

Then comes the 13th anniversary itself. And I inch ever closer to having the time spent living without my daughter become longer than the time I had to spend with her and, truly, I don’t know how one bears that. I just know that there doesn’t seem to be a choice.

Hard days. Hard days. I’m not going to lie. It is the love of my children and friends that holds me upright and in that way I am truly blessed. That is what I hang on to. At the end of the day that is what matters.

Life is short. Love hard.

Safe onward travel x

THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTNING.

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Yep, me again. I have more time on my hands and no less things on my mind at present so you’ll have to bear with me for a little bit folks!

Last night there was a fantastic storm with crashing thunder and lightning that made the dark into daylight. It was fabulous! Although I felt for the dogs – one in particular – and the goats – one in particular – who may be bothered by the storm I have always loved storms and after the incessant, oppressive heat it was glorious just to stand out in the open air and watch the show.

It is the wildness, the unpredictability, the raw energy that I love for all the same reasons I love the ocean and turbulence on a plane. I was speaking to a friend and he said he had been in a number of storms whilst sailing and loved it, surviving being a fantastic feeling once you get to harbour. His statement was interesting to me because although I agree with him for me the exhilaration is absolutely in the storm, not on reaching the harbour. I really do like the reminder that there are so many things bigger than I am but also the recognition that I am a part of the whole and just as fierce and free as any other untamed force.

I find myself standing on a precipice again today and that same mix of apprehension and excitement. In a little over a week the next phase of my life will really be able to begin and I am so looking forward to it. I don’t do limbo well and waiting for things to happen drives me spare. One at least likes to have the illusion of thinking one is in the drivers seat! I do try to live in the present moment and some days I am better at that than others but for me the stark reality is always that life is short. Make the most of what you have while you have it because tomorrow is never promised. So, I don’t have any problem jumping. Once I commit to something I am all in.

My sailing friend very kindly also said that if he was all at sea, figuratively speaking, and I was standing on the deck ready to face the storm with him he would find it heartening, which was gratifying to hear. I like reciprocal arrangements! Once again I am lucky to have my crew, two of whom get a special mention in this post for their unflinching support, without which my steps of late would have been much more faltering.

It is rather awe inspiring and extremely humbling to watch beautiful people support me so comprehensively. Completely without hesitation and calling me silly in the face of my own. I am blessed indeed.

When I awoke this morning the sky was grey and there was drizzling rain. Now it’s blue skies and sunshine as far as the eye can see. Which is the way it goes. Sunset, sun rise. Rain and then sunshine. There are positives in all of them if that is what you are seeking to find.

Safe onward travel x

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DO YOU NEED ANYBODY?

As I said in my last post, I am not going to be the one who tells you it’s going to be easy. Because it won’t. Sometimes it will be a night so hot that your clothes stick to your skin and the heat presses down on you like a weight. Sometimes you will be looking for that funny picture you saved on your phone for a friend and you’ll come across a photo of a boy, peacefully asleep in his bed on Christmas night and it will hurt so much to see it that you literally cannot breathe. Sometimes the pain will be so overwhelming you will cry yourself to sleep, the tears burning like acid down your cheeks.

Then the morning will come (even though the mourning is still there) and you will pick yourself up, slowly, and dust yourself off, slowly, and keep on living. If you are lucky, like me, you will have the most gorgeous friends beside you. The ones who hold you close in their hearts and give you a safe place to rest. If you are that lucky then you will count your blessings even while your heart aches. Because what else can you do?

My Young Friend was going to bed the other night and said, as he often does, ‘Love you Kate!’. I responded in kind and he asked ‘Getting sick of hearing it?’ And I said ‘No’ and asked him back ‘Getting sick of saying it?’ And he smiled and said ‘Never going to happen!’.

Which is what I’m counting on x

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