A Picnic after the Storm.


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Ten months ago, a friend asked her doctor to be referred for a mammogram. She hadn’t felt a lump, and had no other symptoms. She wasn’t in the age bracket where they are offered free of charge. She knew she wouldn’t feel peace until she had undergone the screening. They found a lump, and within a week, she had undergone a mastectomy. She took her kids to school that morning, and myself and another friend held her hands as we walked her back to the car. She was going straight to hospital. I didn’t want to let her hand go. I would have given anything for her not to have to endure what was ahead. In the months ahead, she underwent a course of chemotherapy and then radiotherapy. It seemed like an endless night, and there were many days when she languished in bed, too spent to communicate. The day came when the treatment finished. It had begun swiftly and brutally, then one ordinary day she walked out the door after her last treatment and into daylight. An ordinary day for all but her. Changed forever. She offered me a lift to the train station on the way, and impatient drivers refused to make room for her to turn onto the road. She joked that she was going to lift her wig, and holler, something along the lines of “now, do ya think you could let me in?!” All these silly people, thinking that their time is so important. Unable to wait five seconds to let a good woman in. The storm changes you.

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Her family arranged a surprise picnic to celebrate the end of her treatment. It was held on a thirty degree day in Spring, a slight breeze tempering the heat. Perfect. She walked up, crying. This is for you. We are assembled for you. We couldn’t step in for you on the days when the thought of more treatment seemed unbearable. We couldn’t take your discomfort away. We can do this. Your daughter’s made a glorious cake and cookies, and we enjoyed an Australian BBQ and salads. You got through it, sweetheart. The dark night of the soul has passed. Her message to others is to routinely check yourself.  To have the necessary screenings, if only to put your mind at ease. It is harder to feel comfort in burying your head in the sand, when you have a friend that has saved her own life by not doing so. Cheers to you, my darling. I look forward to enjoying many more Australian picnics with you.

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Christmas Greetings.


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I just reached for my phone, to text Serena. I am going to go see Christmas  lights with my little girl, and Serena would usually come too. I had to remember that she is gone, past the clouds, blistering sun and brooding moon. I remain. What to do with the rest of my life? How about I learn from Serena? Her curiosity was outstanding, and led to her taking snippets from this resource and that. She had a tower of clipping’s by life’s end. I promise to be adventurous and travel far and wide. Not to discover myself, but rather to uncover more. You taught me that.

This Christmas is both challenging and miraculous. A friend of mine who works in welfare brought me this Christmas cake she had baked.

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I took it down to the Exodus Foundation, where I am sure it will be enjoyed. Kindness takes your breath away. It is unprompted and seeks nothing of itself. The people of Sydney are kind. Strangers were handing out tissues yesterday at Martin Place. Nobody was jostling in the long line of people wanting (and needing), to pay their respects. We cried and held each other.

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We then took the children to a department store, where they discovered cheeky cards in the stationery aisle.

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Children laugh spontaneously. Adults laugh in spite of it all.

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Admiring window displays and decorations… We partake in this annual ritual to syphon colour out of a kaleidoscope, taking those we have loved and lost along for the journey. I have made a pledge with a friend of mine to partake in more whimsical gatherings in the new year. “The world needs more whimsy; we all do,” she stated. Being silly for the hell of it. Why not? Fond memories to look back on.

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This year has been tragic, strange and everything in between. Like all years. We have to leave some of our beloved’s in 2014, for  time on this earth has frozen for them. I will always remember this Christmas as the year Sydney stood strong. We were comforted by strangers and the sweet smell of flowers drifted through the city. I was personally grieving one of my best friends, comforted by her strong mother, and my daughter. My daughter; brave and empathic and brimming with love. I will remember this Christmas as the time when another dear friend saved her own life. She had no symptoms, but insisted on a mammogram. She was $30 out-of-pocket after her rebate. “Best $30 I ever spent,” she said, after they discovered she had breast cancer. She had surgery last week, and is recovering, her plucky sense of humour intact. Her messages on the net have been guided by some pretty powerful painkillers, her spirit delighting us all. I let go of a lot of silly expectations I had of myself. The hundreds of cards I expected to write, the numerous gifts I expected to post… My loved ones understood. As they showed compassion to a harried mum who is grieving, I decided to do thus. They still love me, and they know I love them. You can let extraneous stuff go this Christmas and get back to basics. You will still be loved. My friends, there is pain and pleasure in abundance, and certainly throughout this Christmas. They sit ill at ease with one another, though they manage to mingle. May your Christmas be peaceful. Perhaps joy is too much to expect, but I pray it comes your way. Many people have come to my door, mourning the loss of their marriage, career or health. Christmas brings up a lot, especially if your life can’t compete with the commercials. I haven’t met anyone whose life can, no matter how it looks on Facebook. We are all just clumsily doing this thing called life together. Hold on until the new year. I have a feeling that 2015 will burn bright. xxx