life

A letter to Mum…


It’s 0730, around the time I normally call, and knowing I can no longer continue this mutually enjoyed ritual of ours, one week after you passed is surreal.

In the few weeks leading to you leaving, I knew something wasn’t right: and it was as if you somehow knew your time here was coming to an end. You didn’t speak in a negative voice, for you never complained about your life, on the contrary, you were so happy, particularly these last 7 months. But I believe you somehow knew your stroke was pending, and you were at peace with that. You had completed your journey and now it was time to start another. And as I held your hand last week, I knew you struggled knowing you would soon leave me. I told you I would be ok if you needed to go and my words, I believe, gave you peace.

I didn’t want you to leave, but you were so frustrated at not being able to communicate or move your body. Yet you maintained your humour: pulling faces, poking out your tongue, albeit sideways and we could see the joy in your eyes at knowing those who truly loved you, were there, holding your hand.

You said many times how happy you were. You spoke of your happiness at being so close to me, the boys and the pups. You spoke of how you were now free of fear. Fear that came from worrying if they would find you. Once reassured they couldn’t & wouldn’t, your fear dissipated.

You did not harbour hatred for what they did, rather, you released them from your life without bitterness. We both did. We released those you trusted for deceiving and stealing from you. Yet whilst you were at peace with the deceit, you didn’t forget. Didn’t forget how those who were once family, used your money at whim and depleted your once healthy bank account. Your anger centred more toward the fraudulent use of Dad’s credit card and how they had used his card and spent over $5000. This discovery was painful because we knew Dad felt little for them in his final years. Their lack of communication and lack of visits fuelled his feelings – it hurt him, yet Dad did not allow that hurt to define him. Yet when we were heard Susan claim she was the only daughter who received all his love – oh how we laughed at that Mum, for we knew differently. As he, like you, had released her from his life. Yes, on the rare occasions they were spoken of, their audacity, stupidity and hypocrisy gave us endless entertainment.

Yet we took their deceit for what it was and found their blatant audacity in leaving their digital fingerprint across countless transactions the epitome of stupidity. Such ignorance made it so easy for detectives to find and create a fraud investigation. Pages and pages of transactions showed over a period of 3 years, $30,000 was spent without your consent or knowledge. We wondered why you spent so much on cigarettes when you didn’t smoke, and found it highly amusing that you bought sperm in Seattle. We figured that was for when you found that man your searched for with the E Harmony account you somehow created without internet access. Yet what intrigued and amused us most, was the fact you spent thousands, at age 89 years old, to undergo IVF.

Oh how we laughed at that IVF discovery Mum, we laughed at their blatant ignorance at believing their expenditure of your money would not be discovered. And we rejoiced at knowing it had, knowing they were exposed. Rejoiced that one day, their time will come. You won’t see that now, but it will, even if it does take the detective’s estimate of 8 years to come to court, I will see it through for you.

Most of all we rejoiced at being free, being together and being so, so happy. We forgot about them and simply lived happily. You, just as Dad did, would speak of having 2 daughters and 4 grandchildren. You were not sad at seeing their evil words in emails and how they had stated they wanted nothing more to do with you, conversely, you were at peace with that. Just as Dad had been at peace with their lack of presence in his life.

Whilst sorting through your clothes yesterday, I found a t-shirt you wore often. It reads; No Regrets. You definitely did not have any regrets and I love wearing that t-shirt as it smells of you and that makes me smile.

I’m so grateful for our relationship, so grateful that I was always there for you and so grateful you were always there for me. I’m so happy I took you to Europe, Bali and many other destinations we found ourselves in. So grateful we spent the afternoon of Christmas Day watching the world go by at Mooloolaba beach from the comfort of the car. Dogs on laps, we laughed as you did a running commentary of people strolling by. You loved that. You loved it when we took a leisurely 3 hour drive through the countryside to take my foster, Buddy to his new home. We stopped many times to take in the quiet, and simply to be.

Mum, I could write for hours about all the things we did together and : slipping in Singapore, crazy mattress rides in France, accumulating traffic on Austria’s winding roads and drinking vin chaud in Switzerland. Delphine’s oil throwing, laughter filled snowmobile rides, and endless hours chatting, whilst Dad sat snoring happily in an adjoining chair. How we laughed when in unison, we would say, ‘Ken/Dad, go to bed…’.

I am so lucky to have so many memories and so many photos of our life together. Ironically, they are now requesting my images – maybe if they’d spent more time in yours and Dad’s company, more frequently, they would have their own images to reflect upon.

I won’t pretend to say I’m not sad, I am, I’m heartbroken knowing I can no longer create memories with you. Yet despite my sadness, I know you were so happy these last months and that replaces all my sadness with joy.

Mum, you were my greatest support.

I will miss you forever…

life

The colour of leaving…


Recently I wrote a short post titled, The colour of leaving & the importance of being present.

And last night, long before the clock struck midnight heralding a new decade, those words reverberated in my mind. Maybe because outside, my son [the inspiration of that post] and his friends were celebrating the end of 2019.

From the sanctuary of my room as I readied myself for sleep with my beloved dogs nestled beside me, I could hear the laughter and the somewhat incomprehensible [and loud] chatter that often partners an over-indulgence of alcohol.

I smiled at this cacophony of celebration and felt immensely grateful, yet also, melancholic. Grateful for being able to listen to life being celebrated in the present moment and melancholic because I was witness to the colours of my son’s life, moreover, witness to hues changing and present colours leaving forever.

The colour of leaving is of course a metaphorical statement that evokes a myriad of interpretations. And for me it is about how the hues that once coloured my son’s life are now awash with vastly different shades.

This is not a negative statement, rather, as every parent will attest to, witnessing your children become young adults who are no longer dependent is a little melancholic.

For when the colours associated with infancy, toddlerhood and teenage years fade, leaving in their wake, colours representing vibrancy, maturity and growth, it is bittersweet and melancholic.

And as I witness certain colours leave, I feel comfort as I bask in their receding light knowing those unique, magical colours are now blending with the new, and will shape the colours exclusive to my sons’ lives.

Yes, the colour of leaving and the importance of being present…

life

Remembering Meg…


At approximately 4am on October 29, 1995, Dr Derek said, ‘I’m sorry, Meg just died’.

I don’t recall what I said, but I vividly remember every detail of that moment seeing her, in her bed in Melbourne’s Royal Children’s hospital Intensive Care Unit. It was if my mind took a snapshot of that exact moment when Meg, my first child left this world and my life changed forever.

And like an old album, every now and then, I dust off my mind and remember.

I’ve only shared the memory of that early morning with a couple of close friends over the years, not necessarily because of the pain recalling that traumatic time caused, it was more about how people would react. I would see pity in their eyes and whilst well intentioned, I simply didn’t want to feel like that person.

I’m not sure why I’ve decided to write about it here, now. Maybe it’s because her ‘anniversary’ recently passed, or maybe it’s because I simply need to write about a time that had a profound effect on my life.

Meg was born with a severe heart condition known as a Tetralogy of Fallot: a combination of 4 defects, three of which included Tricuspid Atresia, Sub-Pulminary Stenois and a Ventricular Septal Defect.

Her prognosis was not positive, however cardiologists advised that her condition could be managed with a shunt, followed by intense medication with a view to perform an operation know as a Fontan when she reached 2 years of age.

At 6 weeks old, surgeons performed the shunt operation, and in the 8 months following, Meg did quite well despite the daily medications and regular visits to the hospital. She was on drug called Warfarin, which causes thinning of the blood and her doses needed to be closely monitored.

Despite the traumatic hospital visits that required injections and echocardiograms, she was a happy baby who seemed to have an uncanny ability to draw people to her. For example, if we were out shopping, people often commented. I recall one lady smiling as she walked toward Meg. When she reached us she said to me, “I’m sorry if this sounds strange, but I simply had to come over and see your baby, it’s as if she’s calling me…”.

It did sound strange, yet this happened often. Meg was not any more beautiful than any other baby, but she had something about her. I sometimes thought she knew her time on earth was short and therefore radiated this, which drew people to her.

Due to her condition, she did not reach the usual milestones. She did not crawl, nor was she able to roll easily as young babies do. She could however sit upright once we had helped her to the position. She loved to just sit and either watch me doing whatever needed doing, or just playing with her favourite toys.

Sadly though, her time away from ICU was short-lived. At 8 months old she went into heart failure, which revealed a shocking diagnosis: mitral valve regurgitation that required immediate open heart surgery to replace the valve. To say this was a major setback is an understatement, this diagnosis was catastrophic for it meant there was little chance of the future Fontan operation being performed. However the medical team did not reveal this to us at the time, I guess it served no purpose, for whilst this diagnosis left little hope for Meg’s future, there was still a fragment of hope that we all, medical team included, needed to hold onto.

The following day Meg underwent the 6-hour operation to replace her Mitral Valve. The risk involved in performing this procedure on someone so young was high, and there are no words to describe the emotional turmoil we felt during those 6 hours.

Later, after being told all had gone well, we were taken to see her in the ICU. And whilst the medical team had prepared us for what to expect on seeing Meg post surgery, I saw past the numerous tubes and beeping machines that enveloped her, and simply saw my sweet, beautiful baby.

She spent the next few weeks in ICU, gaining strength with each passing day. And in the months following her surgery, she began show small signs of improvement and there was a glimmer of hope that she may grow into a beautiful woman, whose life would be filled with love and laughter.

This was not to be.

On October 28, 1995 I noticed Meg’s colour was bluer than usual. Her breathing was very laboured and she was not able to sit upright. I have vivid memories of that morning and my reaction. It’s been said a mother’s instinct is intensely strong and now, when I look back, it was that instinct that delayed my trip back to the hospital. As I sat on the lounge room floor nursing her and looking into her beautiful blue eyes, I knew. I knew if I took her back to the hospital, she wouldn’t come home.

But I made the call and Dr Fong said he’d send an ambulance, but I decided to drive her myself.

On arrival, she was re-admitted into ICU and placed on a ventilator. Throughout that day she fought hard, yet in the early hours of the following morning we received a call in our hospital accommodation. I will never forget those six words.

“Jen, come quickly, Meg’s taken a dive…’

Strange wording, yet the team in ICU had become friends, with staff adoring Meg. It could be said the wording was not professional, but it didn’t matter to us as we hurriedly dressed and raced downstairs to the ICU.

Walking into her room was like walking into a nightmare.

The floor to the left side of her bed was smeared with the remains of a blood bag that had been accidentally dropped. Dr Derek stood beside her bed, the frayed edges of his jeans stained red from remnants of the broken bag. The buttons on his white, collared shirt had been incorrectly fastened, making his shirt look oddly ‘uneven’. He’d been the doctor on call when the buzzers went off, dressed quickly, and as a result misplaced buttons.

Again, I do not know why or how I’ve remembered this tragic time in great detail, as I wrote above, it really is as if my mind took a snapshot and it’s now stored in my memory forever.

Across from Derek was a female doctor I’d not seen before, she was frantically working on Meg and I could hear her saying, ‘fuck, I cant find it…’. Alongside her there were a number of other medical staff calmly, yet methodically adjusting tubes and checking monitors.

I walked around to the right side of her bed, gently kissed her forehead and placed my mouth to her ear. I clearly remember my words. “It’s okay Meggie, you can go if you need to, I’ll understand…”. I do not know why I said those words, and for a very long time after her death, I blamed myself. If only I’d asked her to fight harder, would she have still been here today?

I now realise that was not the case. I loved her deeply and maybe deep down in my heart saying those words was some kind of acceptance. I don’t know, I really don’t. I only know that my heart broke into a million pieces when a few minutes later, Dr Derek spoke those six words I’d never wanted to hear.

At that moment, my world fell apart. And in the months that followed, the grief I felt was indescribable. But the old adage, time heals, is true.

A few months after she died, I remember reading a story about a man who’d lost his teenage daughter. His words resonated and they are words I have carried with me and lived by.

When tragedy strikes your life you can be one of two things: bitter or better. I choose better”.

Today, 24 years later, I have put the pieces of my life back together, knowing I am a better person for having had that beautiful soul in my life. Meg taught me many things and I’m so, so grateful I had the honour of being her mother.

Remembering Meg: a gentle, wise and magical soul…

Note: There may not be many who do read this post as I lost all of my followers last year due to a massive faux pas when trying to upgrade my blog. But it’s not about who reads it, it’s more about documenting digitally, knowing it will be here when I need it.