A Magical Night

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Martin Place Christmas Tree

When you are feeling out of sorts, you tend to let the traditions you hold dear disappear. I was feeling blah, my spinal pain ramping up. We had always gone to the concert and lighting of the Christmas Tree in Martin Place, but this year, I wondered if I should go at all. There was track work scheduled and limited trains to the city. I didn’t want to let my daughter down, so I announced our attendance, and discovered that a dear friend I don’t get to see often was going with her kids and partner. We organized to travel in together. We talked of our dreams for the future, our triumphs and struggles. We found our way to the old GPO building, and decided to grab something to eat before heading out to the concert. Our girls were impressed by the linen tablecloths, and atmosphere, and also the attention they received from the staff. They politely asked for soft drinks, and the adults enjoyed a NZ red. I looked around the table, and saw love, pure and unadulterated love. It was a beautiful feeling. We wove through the crowds and watched the tree light up, fireworks exploding overhead. We walked around town, delighted that David Jones had a fabulous bear-themed window display this year! A cathedral built of lights ran along Pitt St Mall, as did Christmas trees in pots.

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The girls climbed, skipped and sang joyfully, and I paused to take in the scene. This would be up there with one of the happiest nights of my life. All unscripted, unplanned and easy. Everyone happy to go with the flow. Even the long train ride from Central became fun, after we started singing ‘A Good Heart’ by Feargal Sharkey, and the whole carriage joined in! I found him on YouTube, and we went through his back catalogue. I wonder where he is now? Traipsing home after midnight, after a special night with friends, I smiled. It felt like Christmas.

Sydney and the Wonder of Christmas

12289651_1058672524166592_6198241402834796503_n Today, we remember the two beautiful lives lost at the Lindt café in Martin Place on this day, a year ago. I was going to go in with my daughter, to meet a friend and her child. We were going to meet at Martin Place, and would have been in the café that very morning, but my spine was playing up. I stayed home instead. Life can be so indiscriminate. The survivors have been so very brave this past year, as have the families of those who didn’t make it out. How they have carried themselves is awe-inspiring. I pray for you all today. Anniversaries are so very hard.

Life is outrageously busy, with many things demanding our attention. You need to escape once in a while. My daughter and I travelled to Martin Place a few weeks ago, to see the Christmas Tree lit up. Light rain tapped onto our faces as we watched the concert, my daughter dancing and cartwheeling throughout. The tree was switched on, and fireworks rocketed into the sky. Elves arrived, cycling a sleigh as Santa and the City of Sydney Mayor, Clover Moore, reclined.

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Strangers need to gather together. We have a yearning for connection. It felt like the beginning of Christmas on this evening. By returning to Martin Place, people heal it. We honour those who were lost, and remember what the survivors endured. In a world gone mad, watching a child dance is an act of sanity.

Christmas can be tough. I have personally heard stories of alcoholism, child abuse, domestic violence, poverty and estrangements this past week. I wish I could banish all the agony, but I cant. I can provide a listening ear and what resources I have. I can love and extend myself. Everything is made larger at Christmas. Overtures of kindness and gatherings of loved ones… Loneliness and pain. Always look for the helpers. Those who listen and smile. Those with kind eyes and warm hearts. That is where hope resides. I hope that you get to attend a free gathering, no matter what your spiritual leaning. It gets you out of your own head and into the world of people and connection. May you have a peaceful season, floating on a calm and azure-blue sea. I pray that if you need help, you receive it. Let people hear your voice. For some, it has been silent for too long. You have been invisible for too long. Let them hear what you need. If the first person doesn’t get it, blame it on a faulty connection and try again with somebody else. Keep going. I am so glad that I did. I got to see my daughter dance in the light rain. I got to see people smiling and hugging in Martin Place. I got to see hope.

My little girl attended a Christmas party hosted by her singing teacher, Tiah. This young lady has brought our children the gift of song, and our little people have gained not only their voice, but confidence. She is studying at university, and I know she shall make a fine music teacher upon graduating. I am so thankful this whacky, quirky young lady is in our lives.

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We went to an event to benefit the MS society the next day, cornflour mixed with a rainbow of colour.

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Messy and chaotic, vibrant and as joyful as life itself. We were scheduled to be at Martin Place a year ago, but at the last moment, we weren’t. I remember resting in bed, my spine in spasms, when I heard what had happened. More responsibility to live a good life in honour of those who were there. Life is precious, and can end in an instant. The trick is to fully live whilst you are here.

Redemption

I know quite a bit about addiction. I have had experiences with it, seen people I love go through it. Some survived, others did not. I loathe drugs. I would love my daughter to live in a world without illicit drugs. Ten years ago, two young men were picked up and arrested in Bali. In the early hours of this morning, they were executed. Monday night, I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking of this, their last full night on earth. When you know the end is coming, and when, those hours must have stretched. Their homes in Sydney were not far from where I grew up, their high school nearby. Throughout the past decade, they have touched many lives, and have changed countless prisoners’ hearts. I was feeling quite sick last night, and couldn’t attend the vigil in Martin Place, a source of immense frustration. I wanted-needed-to be there, amongst others who regard the sanctity of life. I slept fitfully and as dawn broke, news came of their execution. I couldn’t breathe. By noon I was diagnosed with pneumonia. With a heavy heart and heavy lungs, I offered up prayers for these two men and their families. At the end, only an artist and a minister  faced the firing squad. They had long ago transcended being prisoners on death row. Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, you will be remembered. Your redemption will be referred to in the coming difficult days and weeks.

My daughter’s Godfather posted the following, the words and sentiment perfect and heartfelt.

http://www.billcrews.com.au/index.php/2015/04/29/chan-sukumaran-death-what-we-can-learn-from-all-of-this/

Christmas, 2014

I didn’t quite know what to do with Christmas 2014. Miracles have transpired this year, though also much tragedy. The answer came in the form of the beautiful Donna. She delivered boxes, which filled up my garage on the 23rd. My daughter and I had a ball sorting through them, making bags to give to Street Pax, putting together personalised hampers and two carloads of goods for The Exodus Foundation. It gave me a focus, in the midst of great sadness. My little girl was thrilled to be an elf.
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We went to St Mary’s Cathedral, and witnessed the spectacular light show.
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The atmosphere was reflective, given current events. Families celebrated together and children made new friends, unafraid and full of excitement.

She dipped her toes in the fountain.
She dipped her toes in the fountain.

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As my daughter busied herself with decorating cookies for Santa, my thoughts turned to Serena on Christmas Eve, and the precious mother and young sons she had left behind. I would have called in on her, but she wasn’t at home. I needed to go for a drive, and found myself at Martin Place, where the Salvation Army were having their carols.

Martin Place
Martin Place

The atmosphere was defiant. There were more people than usual. We all needed to be there. I met a lady who asked for directions. She was in her sixties and told me that she had invited her friend to accompany her, but she was too frightened to come. “I am glad you weren’t,” I smiled, squeezing her hand. We watched as the Salvation Army performed with their timbrels.
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Afterward, we walked up Martin Place, past the Lindt café. A food van was parked, and the area was teeming with the homeless and those on the periphery. They smiled at my little girl, and we stopped to talk with them. Tears sprang in my eyes. So many people. The hidden and forgotten in our society. Thank God for those whom refuse to discard them. They are people, as worthy as you or I. The true meaning of Christmas was found here. My daughter asked questions, and it made her more determined to do good in this world. I have been in refuges, and know of many who are but a few pay slips away from here. In the midst of it all, we managed to visit a few friends.

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Love is what its all about.

I received some heartfelt gifts.
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This beautiful print from Luke Clenton Photography. He is incredibly talented, a friend’s teenage son.

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I cried when I received this, a montage of Serena and I. Oh, how I miss you.

Christmas Day, we went to Ashfield Uniting Church, and heard a profound sermon from Reverend Bill Crews. I opened a bottle of champagne at home when a friend called in, then we spent Christmas night with a dear family.

I also spent time with this bloke.

I also spent time with this bloke.

A turbulent Christmas was salvaged by love. Overtures of kindness from strangers in Martin Place, through  to cuddles and cards from friends. Foster kids living on my street gifted my daughter a gorgeous teddy bear. There is still light, and there is certainly still hope. We just have to build upon it.

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Wherever you are in the world, and however you celebrated this season, we are all connected. As we reflect on 2014, and prepare for the new 2015, let’s keep the kindness up, not forgetting ourselves. We have to be replenished before pouring benevolence onto this suffering world.

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