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On Strength

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You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have. Unknown

In many years time I might look back on this year as one of the most intense periods of my life. I returned to work part time after my second child, my husband began commuting interstate weekly for a work project and at times I was struggling to manage the children and the household. I was grateful to have my mum fly over from South Australia to help me child-wrangle for a little while. We had some joyful times starting a vegetable garden and have been ironing out all the little creases from moving house, including dealing with a horrible pre-existing cockroach problem.

Then in March the unspeakable happened. My beautiful mum, a healthy and active 56 year old, was diagnosed with Cholangiocarcinoma, an aggressive cancer of the bile duct that had spread to many other organs.

Within two weeks she had passed away.

Through mum’s diagnosis and her passing and funeral service, we have been living out of a suitcase interstate in hospital corridors and cafeterias. I’m grateful that between her six children, she didn’t have to spend a night alone in the hospital. I was able to spend two nights with her sleeping on a chair next to her bedside, and we were all with her, holding her and loving her as she passed away from us.

We have now returned to Sydney and back to our ‘normal life’. It is like I have been reborn seeing the world anew wearing ‘cancer goggles’. Most people I speak to seem to know someone dear to them that has been affected by or is affected by this wretched disease. My GP said 30% of people die from cancer. I have also found that losing someone gives you membership to a strange club where you find yourself connected to other people who have experienced loss. I know there’s supposed to be five stages of grief but my stages seem to be flying around all over the place like clothes in a tumble dryer. Flying in and out of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

In such a time of loss I have been grateful for my two beautiful children. Kids have a way of making you get up in the morning. They just keep dragging you into the present when you want to hide in the past. They are big electromagnetic bundles of energy that keep you rooted in the moment. There’s nothing like bathing a wilful 20-month old or wiping Weet-bix from the walls to help keep your perspective.

I truly thought my mum would live to 86.  She was at the birth of my children, the first person I rang in any dilemma or crisis, the person I compared op-shop finds with and got excited about crafting pursuits with. She was the matriarch of the family, a mother of six and grandmother of 11. It’s hard to imagine another Christmas without her mediating the chaos and doting on our children.  I miss her fiercely and it’s near impossible to imagine a future without her. She lived an extraordinary life.

Rest in peace beautiful mother.

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