Sunday, January 23, 2011
The day my life changed within an instant...
Until now, I haven’t had the desire to write, be creative, smile, breathe, laugh or be content. My life changed within in instant on Wednesday 29th December 2010. The day was like any other normal day.... I woke up, caught the bus into town to work, only to realise I wasn’t rostered on and I had the day off. I sat at Gloria Jeans and had a coffee while listening to Kanye West’s new album, before ringing my friend Noella. She came to pick me up, we spent a few hours down at Maroubra beach, watched ‘Entourage’ and settled into the afternoon and watched the movie ‘Australia’....
Until now, my life was going along fine... Only a few weeks earlier, I had just graduated from the top media school in the country and received a $20,000 excellence award scholarship, my only sister Jade just got married to her childhood sweet heart after 15 years in front of our family and her friends, and I had scored a much sort after co-producer job at ABC Local Radio in Sydney... Life was going good for a girl from the country. I felt fulfilled, and grateful for all the opportunities and joyful times I had experienced within the past month.
It turned out that Wednesday 29th of December wouldn’t be another normal day. When I woke up to that quiet normal Sydney morning, I didn’t think for a second that my life would change later that afternoon. As I sat on that couch in Maroubra watching ‘Australia’, I received a phone call that would change my life forever. Around 4:45pm, my sister rang me to tell me that my mother had been rushed to the hospital back home... 15 minutes later, I found myself answering a phone call from an Atherton Doctor informing me that ‘They worked on my mother for half an hour and tried all they could but they were unsuccessful in bringing her back to life and they were sorry for my loss’.....
At this very moment, I felt as if I was shot in the stomach. How could this be? How? Why? No? My mum? How is this possible? The few minutes I was on the phone to this woman, to this idiot of a woman who couldn’t bring my mother back to life, was indescribable. I had no words for her. I didn’t know what to say, I was in shock. Instead I cried, screamed and swore. In hindsight, I don’t hate her, she was only doing her job, and what a f**ked up bit of the job it must be for her.
My dearest friend at that moment, Noella Green caught me and held me as floods of tears and screams left my body. I was shaking, my stomach sick and my throat dry reaching, my breath shallow and my head faint. As I sat on the floor with my best friend rocking me, I have never felt such sorrow and pain in my life. The next 24 hours were a blur. I was in Sydney alone with only my friend, without my family, all who had been calling me non stop as the bad news travelled fast. That night I waited, tired, eyes heavy and stinging from the nonstop tears with no sleep, I waited for my 6am flight back to North Queensland. Wednesday December 29th 2010 would be the day my life changed forever.
I left a wet, dark Sydney on Thursday December 30th, in what would be my last day in the city I had called home for the past 8 months. As I sat on the plane in the emergency exit, exposed to what seemed the whole plane, I sobbed more than I’ve ever sobbed before. My heart literally hurt as I cried my way home across the state.
The next 2 weeks would be a blur. I have never been so overcome with grief in my life. My mother was one of 7 siblings in her family and the first to go out of her brothers and sisters. To return home to these equally heartbroken family members was like nothing I have experienced before. My only goals on my arrival were to be with my sister, my little brother, my dad and my family. I knew if nothing else would get me through this process, my family would.
The last time I physically saw my mother before her passing was the day after my sister’s wedding on Sunday 12th December when she waited with me at the airport while I waited for my flight back to Sydney. We bought hungry jacks and chatted about Jade’s big day and how lovely it was. My flight was called out over the loud speaker and she kissed me goodbye and told me she loved me and to call her when I flew into Sydney. The last time we spoke was on Boxing Day when she rang me for a yarn. We laughed and chatted about our Christmas days and she rang to see how I was doing. She said goodbye and then started a conversation again, to which I then joked and said, ‘Mum, you can’t start a brand new topic after you already said goodbye’... After I said this, she jokingly said, ‘Shut up, I’m going then, love ya and catch ya ring later’... That was the last time I would ever speak to my mother.
From these conversations only a few weeks earlier to me in Atherton surrounded my grieving family, we made our way to the Hospital to see my mum. Seeing my mother in the hospital without life inside of her was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. The decision to physically walk into the morgue to see my mother’s lifeless body was a heart wrenching decision to make but one I had to do in order for the process to be real. I didn’t want to, I wanted to have the memory of seeing her smiling face, with tears in her eyes of my departure in my mind for ever, not the memory of her calm, lifeless face. It took 2 of my fully grown cousins to hold me up when viewing my mum in that cold room. My legs felt like Jelly and my heart was broken. I stroked my mother’s hair and told her I loved her as I watched my father, brother, sister and family in the room, sob alongside me. This is a process and experience I would never wish on my worst enemy!
My mum’s funeral was surreal. The week leading up to it, felt like time had stopped. My best friend and rock, Nathan flew up from Brisbane and was with me early that morning. Before his arrival, I sat at the front of my sisters the morning of her funeral listening to that Kanye album again, played ‘Lost in the world’ and sobbed my heart out once again at the reality that Saturday January 8th would be the day I would say goodbye to my mother, the woman who gave birth to me, who loved me, who took care of me and told me every time we talked that she loved me.
Friends and family came far and wide, from interstate and overseas to pay tribute to a woman who they had all grown to know and love. Over 450 people attended my mother’s service. I sat at the front of the non denominational chapel and heard the sound of ‘Pink Floyd’s’ ‘Wish you were here’ song begin, a song I had chosen for her to be carried in by all of my cousins who all donned traditional ochre on their foreheads representing ‘One Blood’. The sound of Yadaki (didgeridoo) and clap stacks played by my uncle and brother took over as the song was faded down and mum was bought to the front for all to see. Her purple coffin chosen by us (her favourite colour) was draped in Aboriginal material bought down from a family member in the Northern Territory along with our murri flag; The Red, Black and Yellow.
Sitting there for the next hour, I cried, I squirmed, and I screamed. The pure disbelief that I was at MY mother’s funeral. Nathan sat beside me, held my hand and talked me through it, my sister to my left sobbing doing the same. This was like nothing else I have experienced. Without their love, without their genuine care for me, I would not have had the strength to sit through it all. As the service ended, my cousins side by side, all held my mother with such pride and respect and lead her out to the Hurst.
My family and I walked behind mum, past the blurred faces in the chapel and those spilled outside of the doors and beyond the car park. As I watched the boys put my mother’s vessel as she would always call it, into the back of the Hurst, I grabbed onto my chest and wailed. My mother would often speak of death and how black women and men ‘Wail’ when they feel such grief’. I never understood what she meant by wailing until that moment. It’s a feeling and a sound that comes from the pit of your stomach. It’s an emotion that could be best described between crying and screaming, all in one. I threw my head back and wailed as I watched them drive her away slowly, and then push my way through the crowd following her until they drove her past the gate and out of my sight.
Even though I know she wasn’t there, and even though I knew her spirit had left her body, I still had an attachment to her body. That was the body that gave birth to me, the body that I hugged and kissed, the mother who physically was there for me until she took her last breath. With them taking her away to be cremated was the last straw for me. I sat on the grass with my best friend behind me and took shallow breaths in between the tears and sobbing. Strange family members and old familiar faces came up to me offering their hugs and condolences there at the service and later at the wake, but the truth was, I didn’t want their hugs or kisses or condolences, I just wanted my mum.
Fast forward nearly a month later to today, Sunday 23rd January 2011, and here I sit on my bed in Tolga, at my mother’s house, now mine, typing this message. I have now taken on the responsibility of raising my 13 year old little brother, Eika. Tomorrow he will start his first day of grade 8 at Atherton State High School. My mother would’ve been so proud to see him in his uniform. I will be awake at 7am to make him breakfast and pack his lunch, and get him ready for his first day of High School. I wish nothing more for my mother to be here with us for every first that we all will go through for the rest of our lives but reality is, she isn’t physically, but spiritually I know she is looking over us.
This Thursday 27th January will be her 50th birthday, also the day we as a family are wanting to scatter her ashes at her beloved ‘Harveys Creek’. I miss my mum more than words can say. On that normal Wednesday, she lay down on the couch and went to sleep and didn’t wake up. Her cause of death is unknown and put down as natural causes. Although it hurts me to my core that she isn’t here with us now, I take great comfort in the fact that she passed away peacefully in her sleep without any suffering or pain.
My life has now taken a different path. I gave up a good paying dream job at the ABC/Triple J radio in the city and made the decision to move back to the country, a place I haven’t lived in for nearly 10 years to raise my little brother. Although it is hard, I am taking it all one day at a time, and am leaning on my friends and family for support, love and comfort. Nothing and no one will ever replace my mother, but if I can raise my little brother right and see him through high school, I know my mother’s memory will live on through us each day.
My goals in life no longer revolve around my career or making money. My path has now changed dramatically in a short period of time and my goals are now to raise my little brother to be the best human being he can be like my mother always wished for him. My mum believed that everything happened for a reason, and I know that without a doubt she will guide me and my family for the rest our lives.
This is by far the hardest blog I have ever had to write, but these words are nothing to the pain and anguish I feel every day. I wrote this blog because writing enables me to record and release the feelings I have inside of me that are sometimes harder to speak.
They say it all gets better with time, but I am still waiting for those brighter days. It’s true what they say,’ you never miss someone until their gone’...
Until next time, cherish every moment you have with your loved ones...
One Love, One Life.... XO