Bad News, Strength, Kindness and Saying Yes


Two years ago, I met a lovely lady from England. Her voice redolent with a gentle lilt, her energy soft and assuring. We talked briefly, and then I didn’t see her again. Last school holidays, she organized a picnic, sending out an open invitation. I took my daughter, and we had the best time! We determined to not leave it two years until the next meet-up.

I became ill last week, and couldn’t lift my head from my pillow. My persistent cough caused excruciating back pain. In the middle of the sickness, I found out an old friend had been diagnosed with stomach cancer. This lady had cheered me on through IVF, held my newborn in her arms, and had been by my side throughout the last fifteen years. She and her husband squeezed the marrow out of life; out every day, travelling around Australia and the world. Taking an interest in everything and everyone they encountered. Still reeling from the shock of the news, there was a knock on the front door. There stood the English lady, a meal in hand. She had found out my address, and made me a vegetarian meal to boost my system. Her kindness and timing were perfect. As I ate a bowl of her stew and dumplings infused with sprigs of thyme and spices, I could feel nutrition flooding every cell in my body. I could feel the kindness behind her gift. I have a mild case of pneumonia, an occupational hazard with my spinal injuries, and the way my spine curves. I need to get better so I can go see my old friend; so I can also prepare wholesome meals  for those that need them.

Today is the anniversary of my fall. There is no guide-book as to how one is meant to feel, nor commemorate the occasion. Anger, sorrow, lamentation, joy and utter gratitude feature heavily. Every year is different. I have gone back to the building, I have gone on long walks or to the movies. Last year, my daughter and I attended the Helpmann Awards. This year, I am weakened by my lungs, coughing and feeling a little woozy. I feel better than yesterday though. In the months I spent in hospital, I assured myself that each day would be an improvement on what came before, and it was. Today is an improvement on yesterday. I got dressed, and am taking my daughter to an appointment in the city. I shall probably get us dinner, and order a cheeky Cab Sav. The night of my fall, I hadn’t eaten for days, and craved fluid. I was frozen, laying on the ground, my blood splayed around me. I craved food, fluid, and warmth. Today, I had all three. Tonight, as I slip into my bed, I will give thanks that I am here. I will give thanks for old friends that extract the marrow out of life and English friends who make me the vegetarian equivalent of chicken soup for my soul. Life is a strange and precious gift.

 

Advertisements

Serena


It was the second anniversary of Serena’s passing this week. I just wanted to get off this crazy ride, for one precious day, but that isn’t how life works. There was an eight-hour school day to attend to. Serena was never far from my thoughts. Even now, I see women who look like her, and have to stop myself from calling out her name. Her legacy is infused within our everyday life. In her last weeks, she would ask about my plans to home school, and would insist that it was the right decision for my child. As a teacher, I valued her input. My daughter loved her ‘Auntie ‘Rena,’ and as evening fell, we lit a candle within the holder I had bought at a party with Serena. It offered the light filtered through trees. She had loved trees. Her mother has planted a Great White Cherry tree (Tai Haka), in her back garden, in tribute to Serena, and it is growing splendidly.

img_9512-0

Whenever I got my knickers in a twist about a mean person, or some trivial matter, she would smile wryly until I too saw the folly of giving the issue such importance. She was practical and no-nonsense. She would just get on with it, and continued to do so until the very end. I learnt so much from how she went about life. Her eyes would light up when she talked about her travels, regaling me with her stories of what she had seen and whom she had met. I swore I saw star dust in her eyes at such times. A scientist once told me he finds it miraculous that we are all made of stars, and is incredulous that we fail to acknowledge it. Serena, you were certainly made of star dust, and are now the brightest star in our galaxy. img_9511-0

Serena’s Anniversary


10420178_10152852631998815_6540409436482229075_n

Another year has passed without you. Always remembered, treasured and in my heart. X

November has been tough this year. Now that Facebook offers daily memories, it has been quite harrowing. I have been able to revisit my status updates from November 2014, which were all updates on Serena. They reveal the confusion, fears and hopes as they occurred. Today is the anniversary of her passing. I can’t believe it’s been a year. I don’t feel as though I have scratched the surface of the cacophony of emotions her passing has proffered. This year has seen me stretching myself, and becoming more adventurous at a time when all I hankered for was to be found in retreat. She was an explorer, having travelled by herself many times. She would have been devastated at what has transpired in this world the past 12 months.

I have seen so many women who look like her walk by, little boys in tow. Her long auburn hair and steady gait has been replicated many times, and its all I can do to not tap these women on the shoulder. I expect to see her waiting at the bus stop; run into her at the park. I expect that she is visiting family in the UK and shall be back shortly. I am comforted by the fact that her dulcet voice is still in my ears, and her memory hasn’t dulled. It never will. Serena taught me to be ever-vigilant when it comes to my health. She has taught me to do what floats my boat, and also to be aware of the machinations of those I let into my boat. Are they helping me paddle, or drilling holes when I’m not looking? I had a dream about her a short while ago. She was teaching me how to fly. She surely is.

24 Hours


Yesterday I woke up feeling ill. My specialist has put me on a new medication, and I know I have to give myself time to adjust. It was bitterly cold and the sky was grey. Someone had smeared the sky with charcoal. My stomach was distended as the endometriosis grew, fed by this new drug, which I need. “Look at the big picture, Raphie,” I urged. Always look at the big picture. I felt the urge to scream from the pain, and the desire to clean and discard. I did both. Why the hell do we keep the things we do? Old numbers on scraps of paper, old ways of being. I put an angel who had lost her wings into the pile of donations. I had stored my maternity clothes in a special drawer. I looked at them, and wondered why I had held on so long. My subconscious must surely have been seared every time I went past that drawer, even if I was unaware. As I washed up, I exhaled heavily. A burden had been lifted. I then heard the ‘snap’ of my spine as I was dragged along the ground after my fall. It was as distinct as though it were happening then and there. “Oh my God!” I cried, bursting into tears. I sat with the memory a while. I assured myself that it was natural to have events, sounds, smells and more clamour to the forefront on the anniversary. On White Ribbon Night.

After school pickup, a friend popped in. She hugged me, and said how sorry she was that today was “the day.” It meant the world to have it acknowledged. This lady knows all about “those days.” The pain ramped up, and I was in a holding pattern of agony, fevers and chills. There was to be a meeting of gentle souls around the corner that evening, and I determined that I would go. I didn’t want to be home with my memories. The hostess is a vegan, and she had made this delicious main meal.

Tofu and nuts.
Tofu and nuts.

We laughed and talked about foster kids, homelessness, travelling, art and beauty. We sipped coconut water and made sure room was saved for this.
photo (6)
I didn’t stay late, and I gave my gorgeous friend a tight hug and thanked her. My mind had been summoned to wondrous places, leaving that dark building on a winter’s night. The pain was softened by the graciousness of a nourishing meal and a room full of good people. I went home and hugged my little girl, smoothing her tendrils of honeyed hair. “May your world be markedly different, my darling.”

Celebration, Sorrow, Gratitude and Everything in Between.


lived-to-tell
On this day, and on this hour, almost two decades ago, I was being bustled into a car, my head pushed down. I felt the cessation of life as I understood it. An event out of my control was going to slap me hard, and I would fall to my knees. Today is the anniversary of my being kidnapped. The bitter cold always reminds me, before I acknowledge the date. It was so cold… Life inside the old hospital-where I neither belonged nor felt at home- was contracting in. Within a few hours, the large ward and long staircases were replaced by a tiny bedsit, bars on the sealed windows. A butterfly already held in a glass jar was having her wings pinched by tweezers. Pins were about to be put in.

Tomorrow heralds the night I fell. I couldn’t fly, as my wings were pinned down. “I am embarking on the last adventure,” I reassured myself when my pleading was ignored. “This bastard has merely sped up my departure by sixty or so years. God speed to you, kiddo!” He hated the bemused smirk which spread across my face. I was holding my own. He hadn’t taken my power. He had tortured me in every way possible for several months, day in and out, but he couldn’t take my spirit. I was terrified, but even as I acknowledged my fear of heights, of pain and death, I kept my own counsel. July 25th is White Ribbon Night. I will commemorate those I have lost to violence. I will celebrate survival and hug my little girl. I will be haunted by memories and recall what it felt like to have soft rain tap my face on the way to the Catscan machine the morning of the 26th. I wept and I smiled. It is possible to have great sorrow and great joy coursing through your body at the same time. There is nothing like the anniversary of your kidnapping and attempted murder to inspire both. If you see me over the next few days, I will be the wild creature hugging everyone and throwing back her head in laughter. I will be the sorrowful girl keeping her own counsel and shedding private tears. I am both, and that’s okay.
http://www.whiteribbon.org.au

Winter.


547497_445145718852612_2113422122_n
Winter, it’s here again. Yesterday heralded the changing seasons, brutally and abruptly. The sky was grey, and morning and dusk were shrouded in a fog. The rain poured down, and the wind was icy. No easing into this season. The green and vibrancy of the garden receded and everything appears to be withering in preparation for death. Before I was abducted all those years ago, when my home was a mouldy old icebox of a room, I recall climbing under the grey blanket, pulling it up to my chin, and hugging my knees to keep warm. I remember the cold. The sort that gets into your marrow. I was so cold in the months leading up to the lightning strike. When I woke on the ground, I was shaking from being utterly exposed. I have never liked winter, and as a child would get as close as I could to our gas heater. I remember the delicious comfort when I was wrapped in foil by the paramedics to entice heat into my broken body. Since my fall, I have dreaded winter. Not only for the abysmal memories, but for the ramping up of my physical pain. Spinal arthritis doesn’t take too kindly to frosty mornings.

The anniversary is coming up, and strangely, I will rejoice. Rejoice that I am here, and my book was published. After this watershed, I will celebrate my daughter’s birthday. She was born in winter. The only event of beauty throughout my life’s winter’s. Her birth has replaced the scarred, knarred horrors. She was born at the tail end of winter, and heralded the arrival of spring, of birds nesting and flowers in bloom. I will go for walks in a coat and hat, make soup and celebrate the best of this season. Time brings healing. I know that winter won’t trumpet the end of my life, as I once feared. I wish I could reach through time and space and tell that young girl.