Reflections on Grief – 5 years on

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On the 19th November it was 5 years since Mum passed away.

I  wasn’t able to follow my usual routine of placing a rosebud at the site of the accident on the highway and then at the memorial garden in the cemetery this year. Instead I was hours away visiting a friend on the anniversary of her death, and somehow it seemed pointless to do those things either earlier or later than the actual day.

Time really is a healer. I said last year that I felt the rawness of pain of her death had faded and that process has continued over this year. I still miss her dreadfully and I still long to have a few minutes with her to hug her and feel her hug me back.I wish she could meet her great grandchildren, I wish I could share the highlights and lows of my life with her. I wish I could ask her for help to make things. I wish  I could ……. so many things.

I still see her in my mind’s eye and can even feel the last hug she gave me sometimes.

I’m not forgetting her.

But death is a natural part of life….. here in the west it seems like we somehow think we can escape it and are surprised and horrified when it comes. Not that I’m not saying that my family and I weren’t distraught at her sudden and unexpected death. There was no chance to say goodbye….. no warning…. it came out of the blue and decimated us. As a Christian I don’t fear death itself ( I freely admit I fear the process though).  However it is something that we will all need to face.

I do not want to trivialize the feelings of those who have lost loved ones and never get over it. Please don’t think I am, but we are not meant for our lives to stop when that happens. I believe it is such a tragedy when someone grieves so hard and long that they give up on the rest of their life and shut out everyone else around them. Is that what the loved one who passed would want?

Our earthly lives are finite and we must accept that and not waste the ‘span of our years’ . There are no guarantees as to how long we will have….that is why it’s so important to make the most of it and enjoy each moment (well maybe not every moment-there are many that I certainly haven’t enjoyed! ). I know Mum enjoyed most of her moments. She loved Dad and us. She loved  to travel. She had many friends and was involved in many interest groups. She helped others often and was trying new things. In short she was making the most of her life.

This 5 year mark seems to be an important point in my grief. I will never stop missing her and loving her but the buffer of time is now between the grief and my life.Dad's 80th

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Happiness is Home Made

DSC_0812I grew up in suburban Sydney in the 50’s and 60’s. My mother was a country girl whose parents carved out a property in the wilds of the New England area of NSW. Grandad was a sheep farmer and Nanny had grown up in Mosman and gone to Art School before meeting and marrying this boy from the bush. I am in awe of how she survived going from the fairly bohemian lifestyle of a student studying under Julian Ashton to living in the bush miles from the nearest town.

When Mum was 8 she was sent to live with her grandparents in Gunnedah so she could go to school and from then on she mainly lived firstly with them and then with a maiden aunt until she married Dad. Coming from her background she was a frugal and good country cook. We always had homemade biscuits and cake and good plain meals. Dad grew vegetables in the back yard and we had a lemon tree that Mum made great lemon curd from. The only time we had lollies was on surprise night ( Dad’s pay-day) once a fortnight when he would bring home a family packet of something like chocolate covered honeycomb which would be shared out piece by piece around the table at the end of the meal that night. On the years that we had a birthday party Mum would make the party food including things like honeycomb, caramels and toffees.  When apples,pears, peaches, apricots and tomatoes were in season we would have an early morning trip into the Sydney markets to buy boxes of fruit and then we would all assist her to preserve them in the good old Vacola perserving jars. She was also an excellent and prolific jam and chutney maker. Needless to say I learnt to cook at a young age too.

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When I got to high school and went to Teacher’s college I was surprised to learn that quite a few of my contemporaries didn’t have a clue how to bake. I learnt to spin wool into yarn on my first prac teaching block at Berridale at the base of the Snowy Mountains and enjoyed spinning and knitting as I still do – along with dying the wool, weaving and felt making.side of hat showing decoration

My wedding present from my husband was a Vacola Preserving Kit much to the horror of some of  the guys from his work…until he told them that I had requested it.In the early days of my marriage I became interested in baking bread as well as making jam and chutney etc.

We never had much money so the fruit and vegetables I preserved and the jams etc were an economical and welcome addition to our menu. If you’re a vegetarian or squeamish skip this next sentence….. I even remember making some brawn from  the head of a pig that arrived with the rest of the meat when we ordered a half a pig from the butcher. Mind you I couldn’t bear to eat it myself but my husband loved it.

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Over the years our interest in the so-called ‘alternative lifestyle’ grew and we even had 2 milking goats along with chooks (hens) in our largish suburban backyard in Goulburn when we found that Luke was allergic to cow’s milk. We then bought 500 acres of bush a few miles out-of-town and built a mud brick shed that we moved into and lived in for a couple of years. I was mixing mud whilst pregnant with my youngest son. I loved using the slow combustion cooking stove that we had there- in fact I still wish I could have one again all these years later.  Over that time we had a petrol generator that we used at night for lighting and to run my trusty Kenwood chef with the grain mill attachment and the  mincer and sausage maker attachment. I made all our bread and we had our own chickens and goats for  eggs, milk and meat. I also made my own soap and attempted some goat cheese (not very successfully). woven table runner

Those years were my most productive in terms of home-made produce but I always maintained the interest and desire to produce things. When we established the Chamomile Bed and Breakfast in Hervey Bay our guests always loved the homemade jam and chocolate mud cake etc that I provided.

Over the last 6 months or so I’ve got right back into making things. Even though I live on my own and so don’t use much myself I decided that I could share my excess with friends. I am gaining such a sense of groundedness and satisfaction from producing jam, chutney, cordial, sparkling fruit drinks, bread and now cheese- and I think from their comments that those I’ve been sharing with are enjoying it too!  Although there were a few doubters about the elderflower cordial….  until they tried it :)

As I’m typing this I have a cheddar cheese and some camembert air drying before the next stage in their production is due, I’ve got some kumquat cordial steeping until it’s ready to strain and bottle and I have the recipe for some biscuits sitting on the table ready to go.

There are many kinds of creative…. some create art works or music, some invent things or some like me create more homely things. Whatever you create though I am positive that it is much harder to be depressed when you are doing something creative.

I truly believe that happiness is home-made.

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How do I present myself to others in a positive way ?

I’ve never had a huge amount of self confidence.

I’ve never been the life of the party or the cool girl who people wanted to hang around with. Instead I’ve always felt like I live around the edges of the groups rather than in them.

Even when I was in my late teens and early twenties I didn’t think I was very attractive ( I look back now and wish I still looked like I did then-talk about not appreciating what you had till it was gone! )

With age is supposed to come wisdom and I guess I’ve developed a bit of that over the years.With the Lord’s help I’ve worked on some of the rough edges and I don’t think I’m as judgemental as I used to be. I’ve learnt that even if I do have stong views on how things should be done that I have to back off and let others do things their way. I try to wait till I’m invited to do so before I give advice. I know that I still have a bad habit of jumping into conversations immediately I think of something rather than waiting till the other person is finished – got to work on that one more!

I certainly think I have a better dress sense now than I used to. I have some dear friends who tell me that they like and appreciate me. Of course a broken marriage doesn’t help…. no matter how much I know there were lots of factors involved, I still feel at times that it was because I wasn’t worth loving.

I know that God loves me, but I still often feel like He can’t love me as much as He loves others – once again my head knows how untrue this is but my heart still holds onto the lie.

I’m not writing this for sympathy and for people who know me to rush to validate me….. although it’s always nice to receive that assurance even if I then go on to dismiss it.

There are two factors that have led to this navel gazing

1) In a couple of weeks I’m going to a class reunion (I was going to go to the last one but couldn’t as I was in hospital at the time)
2) I have to write a profile of myself for something

I’m sure 99% of people heading to meet up with former classmates experience the insecurity associated with this experience. Especially after 42 years. I had a fairly decent figure back then. My beautiful auburn hair was slightly wavy and fairly long. I wasn’t burdened with the back, shoulder and rheumatoid arthritis health issues I have now. The world was full of promise for me. Even though I’ve done some interesting things and had some wonderful experiences my current world is much more limited. I’m feeling nervous and hoping that I won’t spend the evening sitting by myself staring into a drink.

The second one is even worse. I don’t know what to say about myself. How do I start….. I guess saying ‘Hi my name is Kathie and I’m 60, overweight,divorced and got some disabilities’ isn’t really going to tell the story of me in a very positive way!

How DO you put onto paper who you are?

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We don’t stop playing because we grow old: we grow old because we stop playing. George Bernard Shaw

I’m having a bit of an identify crisis at the moment!

I turned 60 this year and due to lack of finances stopped dying my hair (gasp! horror!) which means I now have totally silver hair and it seems that since that happened people now categorise me in the old category. I mean immediately that the colour grew out I started getting asked if I had a seniors card and as I look in the mirror I don’t think that my face etc have changed that much…just the hair.

I know it’s a common problem that people these days don’t want to feel or look old and some go to great lengths to try to deny the passage of time (which I personally would never do even if I had the means –  is anyone really fooled by plastic surgery? However if that’s what you choose to do so be it. I’m not trying to offend anyone here)

The problem is that I’m in that in between land of not wanting to hang around with the oldies but not wanting to pretend that I’m younger than I am either. I think this is more of a problem when you’re single, as if you are half of a couple you have that built-in company and can go places and do things together.

Maybe this is a bit more of a problem in a smaller community too. For instance my Dad goes out to dinner every Monday night with a group of single acquaintances who enjoy spending an evening together and I know some of them are my age…..but honestly I wouldn’t want to be part of a group of 60 -80+ year olds on a regular basis in that context. I do socialize with a number of older people through my craft groups and church and throughly enjoy their company. One of my best friends is 81. I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy mixing with people of all ages. Just that I am really feeling the lack of like-minded friends of my age group who still think young. There are a few couples that I mix with who are around my age and have similar attitudes, but not many and they are busy so I don’t get to spend as much time with them as I would like to. I had a wonderful time on the long weekend when I was a volunteer at the Black Stump Christian Music and Arts festival . I had an absolute ball on my time off checking out the different  musicians and groups. Two of my young single friends were there too and it was lovely being able to meet up with them and enjoy time with them. One of the highlights of the festival for me was dancing along when the Outback Hippies were playing. As I looked around there were people of all ages dancing and singing along too and it was one of those magical moments you wish could go on forever.

Most of my younger friends are busy with their families and I am so privileged when they include me in their activities. I also have a number of young single friends , most of whom live away from where I live. I am so grateful that they are willing to spend time with me when they can. It says a lot about what wonderful people they are that they make time for me.

I guess a lot of  the problem is that I haven’t fully come to terms with living by myself. Don’t get me wrong…. I enjoy the benefits of not having to consider another person’s likes and dislikes, of cooking or not cooking what I like when I want to, of only having to please myself – but at this point in my life I think I have come to the conclusion that the disadvantages maybe just outweigh the advantages. I have a number of friends of all ages and of course they all have their own lives to lead. I don’t want to be a needy burden to anyone. My health also means that at times I am not up to doing things and going places.

But…. I still long to be able to have the possibilities and energy and options that I used to have…..

I don’t think I need to turn into a little old lady in attitude and action but I guess I need to come to terms with the fact that I AM getting older.

Me in March this year

Me in March this year

Me 4 years ago

Me 4 years ago

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Communication problems in the technological era

I’ve just been through the painful and frustrating process of changing my phone and internet provider.

The area where I live doesn’t have good reception if you are on the Vodaphone or Optus networks-especially at holiday times and I’ve persevered with only being able to use my phone in certain parts of my unit and the painfully slow or nonexistent internet access until it all got too  much a few weeks ago. I’d finally had enough of multiple tries at connecting to the internet. Wasted hours of waiting for photos etc to download on Facebook. Constant dropped phone calls and endless traipsing around the unit trying to get more than 1 bar on my phone. It was driving me crazy!

Then began the painful process of trying to work out which provider and plan I was going to use now. A process that wasn’t good for my self esteem at all. It made me feel old and technologically challenged …. When looking at the various options on the webpages I couldn’t even understand what they were talking about !

Eventually after speaking to various friends, phone calls to different providers and a few hiccups I was able to make a choice and get started.

Everything was fine with the internet for a few days and then suddenly nothing – the computer didn’t even recognise that the wireless thingy was on! My phone was working – making calls well and sending and receiving data  ok but I couldn’t send texts with photos attached …..

Back to the shop I went.

At last it looks like things are back on track. I’m able to write and post this blog, I’ve sent a photo message to my son and at last everything seems to be working smoothly.

If I was on Skype you’d see me doing a happy dance .

 

 

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Encounter with a Stranger

Circular Quay

It started off simply enough. I had to catch a bus from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital to Circular Quay to meet my sister after my appointment. I wasn’t sure if the bus that I was about to catch went all the way to the Quay or if I had to change so I asked the woman sitting at the bus stop if she knew. We started chatting and as the conversation went on much to her surprise she found I not only knew where the little country town where she had grown up was, but that I had done a 4 week prac teaching assignment there back in the 70’s.

The conversation continued and as we talked about why we were at the hospital and shared more of our stories I mentioned how wonderful the people in my church have been over the times I have been out of action over the last few years, and that my relationship with God was the thing that had kept me going through the trials I had experienced. She was blown away that I was a Christian and proceeded to tell me how over the previous week she’d had 3 random encounters with Christians and each time she came away feeling that it wasn’t an accident that the conversations had taken place.

We boarded the bus and continued to chat. She was concerned that I might miss my stop so didn’t get off at the stop she had been going to, but rode with me to mine. As we stood on the pavement I told her that I’d be praying for the situation she was going to be encountering today and as we said goodbye we hugged and she said with tears in her eyes that I would never know how much our conversation had meant to her.

So Leah I have been praying for you since Tuesday and especially for the situation today. I know the Lord has his hand on you and am so glad that a simple question about where a bus went lead to our encounter. You touched me and you never know we might meet again.

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Highs and Lows

I’m currently part of a trial into a new drug for the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis. As part of this trial there are certain things I have to record each day on a mini computer thingy (don’t you love my understanding of electronic hardwear?). Apart from things like what time I woke  up and what time I took my tablets I have to try and record more subjective things like how long the stiffness lasted in the morning ( hard to assess and remember)  rating my greatest tiredness level and rating my highest pain level over the day.

Having to pay so much attention to how I’m feeling on a daily basis has really made me aware of the highs and lows I experience each day.

Take today for instance.  When I woke up  after a restless night I was horrifed to see that it was 9am. Definately a low!

I had to be at church by 9.30 ish as I was on the music roster this morning . Not only was I absolutely exhausted I had to throw together some things to take to a surprize BBQ birthday lunch for Shane after the service was finished. I skipped my shower as I figured I might go in the water later in the day if it wasn’t too rough ( we were told to bring our water gear ) then tried desperately to work out what to wear, butter a couple of slices of bread and grab a sausage and a drink from the fridge and get into the car and to church in time. Naturally when I’m  in a hurry the normally simple task of deciding what to wear becomes a huge problem and i ended up looking a bit crumpled as I hadn’t got around to ironing my linen skirt ( that’s what happens when you procrastinate). All in all I was feeling pretty flustered by the time I got there. More lows.

I love being part of the music team and the service nearly always lifts my spirits so I was feeling much better by the time we were finished. High.

We met up at Narrawallee Inlet for lunch-its a beautiful place and the picnic area is lovely with free electric BBQs to use. It looked like it was going to pour but turned out to be a gorgeous afternoon. I chatted and enjoyed the chance to relax with friends. After a while Shane and Emma’s little boy Jethro wanted to go to the beach so I had the joy of taking him there where I wrote his name in the sand and we drew pictures of flowers (he’s only 2).  I love the fact that Jethro knows my name and I get to spend time with him and his baby sister Annie . More highs.

As the afternoon wore on I went with a couple of others to the beach and the other Cathie and I squealed and laughed like teenagers as we gingerly ventured  into the water. It was cool but glorious once you were wet. The sky was deep blue, the ocean shades of blue and green then becoming clear as the waves ebbed and flowed on the sand. An eagle soared effortlessly overhead and it was one of those magical moments you can carry in your memory forever. I am so grateful that God made us able to appreciate the beauty of His creation! Absolute high!

Now as I sit at my computer typing this the exhaustion and discomfort are with me again . Lows.

Highs and Lows. The lows are made more beareable by the highs.

Services-Narrawallee-Inlet

 

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