The Elephant of Death – Part 2

Over the last couple of months, I have been attending a course on death and dying run by Karuna. It has been an amazing journey in my life, to be considering my own death as a means to help others die with as much peace and dignity as possible. I had originally hoped to blog frequently about my experience doing this course but honestly, it was just too hard. I had much to sort and my creative life took a back seat as I waded through the often-murky waters of my life.

The course was life changing. I thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life before I did this course but now I am not so sure. It has opened up an entire new realm of possibility. Taking myself in deep contemplation to the rim of my own death and dying experience has allowed me to see more clearly all that I have yet to accomplish in life. Not big stuff. It’s more about all the little stuff that I never thought was all that important. Stuff I would “get around to later”. Wading through those muddy waters has certainly helped me reprioritise. Looking closely at death and dying has shrunk the fear. The Elephant of Death is no longer as large as he once was.

Last night I watched Peter Roberts on Australian Story. Peter is an accomplished musician, who gave up his business career to train overseas to become Australia’s only music ‘thanatologist’. He  is a harpist who plays for both ends of the spectrum of life. During the show we saw him playing to newborn babies who were struggling with the complexities of their newfound world. His music has been shown to increase the oxygen levels in their blood, as well as calm them, allowing them to get on with the business of growing and healing. Peter recorded a portion of Brahm’s Lullaby and when a baby is born, a button is pressed in the maternity ward and the lullaby drifts through the speaker system of the hospital to announce the arrival of another precious life. What a beautiful thing. It makes me cry just to think of this let alone experience it.

The show touched on the preparation we give toward new life. The learning curve we undergo in order to welcome new life. But it also mentioned how little we do to prepare us for death. I closed my eyes last night and imagined what it would be like if every time someone died in my hospital, an equally beautiful piece of music was played to signify the passing of a precious life. Can you imagine that? Despite the fact that we may not know the person who has died, it would allow us a moment to reflect on the beauty of life – theirs and ours. It would allow those who believe in an after world, a moment to send forth a prayer or intention for a safe journey for this lost soul. It would allow us to celebrate someone’s life, even just for a moment. A simple sign of respect. The power of thought is incredible. Who knows what collective positive thought might do for someone transiting from this life?

I’m sure many might see this as morbid but as I thought about this actually happening, I couldn’t help but believe that hearing that sound would certainly make me stop and take stock of my life. It would ground me back in the truth of how precious life is, how I must waste not a single second, and how I must reach out and connect with those around me because none of us know how long we are going to be here, gracing this planet we call our “home”.

If I had a hospital, I would welcome birth with the sound of Peter Roberts playing Brahms’s Lullaby but I would also farewell human life with something equally as beautiful and poignant because no one deserves to die without acknowledgement for the life they have bravely lived.

To learn more about this beautiful man’s story, follow the link.

http://www.abc.net.au/austory/

To learn more about Peter, go to:

http://www.robertsmusic.net and click on the picture of his magical hands to gain access to his beautiful work.

What an amazing man.

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The Year That Was

Here we are rolling to the end of the decade. The year has come and gone but not without its ups and downs. In summary, here is the year that was for me.


  • I made it through Year of the Edit
  • I commenced Year of the Novel
  • I finally let go of a story that hadn’t let go of me for years
  • I had my first submitted children’s story published by School Magazine
  • I pulled out my paints and brushes and waded back into the waters of illustration
  • I continued this blog
  • I fell in love with writing again
  • I studied the craft of writing and learned continuously throughout the year – despite my doubts of remaining a writer
  • I attended the CYA conference, which has fuelled in me a desire to work hard and become successful
  • I attended my first SCBWI meeting and met more wonderful writers and illustrators
  • I attended the Brisbane Writers Festival
  • I wrote and stayed sane whilst working full time as a shift working nurse
  • I was supported and encouraged by dozens of wonderful writers and illustrators – I am forever grateful to these people. They kept me writing and illustrating.
  • I made dozens of wonderful creative friends online and in life
  • I discovered that the determination and discipline I so often admire in others, dwells within me also – and is as accessible as my next breath – should I choose it to be.
  • I learned that whilst writing is hard work and often lonely, it is when I am in that isolated and sometimes difficult space that I feel the most connected to a greater power.
  • I discovered that if I allow time to empty my mind of garbage, creativity fills the space. Every time.
  • I realised that if you just sit and write 500 words a day – your day is infinitely  better than when you don’t
  • I accepted that on some days – it was too difficult  to write a single word, and that was OK.
  • I learned to be kind to myself
  • I lost my beautiful four legged mate and experienced how devastating grief can be
  • I gained a renewed relationship with my other four legged mate – a bond that grows stronger and more beautiful each day
  • I realised that all things change and nothing can ever remain the same – and that is OK. That is life
  • I learned that sometimes it’s better to say nothing
  • I realised that all I see in the world is a mere reflection of what is going on inside me
  • I learned that random and anonymous acts of kindness make you smile on the inside – where it counts
  • I confessed to the addiction of  buying writing journals
  • I wrote my goals for 2010 before 2009 actually finished – proving to myself that I still want to be a writer. No matter what.
  • I realised that no matter how the odds may stack against me, I will never stop writing. Not ever

To all my beautiful writing and illustrating buddies and to the readers of this blog – may 2010 bring you endless joy, success and happiness wrapped firmly in a cloak of safety and love.

See you all in 2010.

Happy New Year 🙂

Namaste

Mending Socks

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It’s been a strange ten days. Even now, I can’t even begin to make sense of it all. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined the emotional repercussions of having my mate put to rest. I feel like my  universe shifted gear. I feel I have been left reeling. I came to consider that grief is like a sock. Unless you are actually in it, you can never really understand or explain the feeling of it wrapped around you. Up until last week, I’d never experienced the euthanasia thing. It’s made me rethink all the basics in life. Integrity, responsibility, guilt, shame and love to name but a few. I admit to loving my animals far greater than I love any human. Perhaps that’s why the pain is close to unbearable at times. When unconditional love slips through your fingers, the loss seems all the more heartbreaking. The perfect love has escaped you.

I always told Ollie that if he wasn’t a dog, I would marry him. Aside from the odd bit of thievery, he had all the prime qualities I would want in a partner. He was loving and loyal. Faithful, intelligent and caring. Not to mention adorable. And he was fun. Beyond all measure.

If only I could find someone with his dog like qualities. Someone who simply loved having their belly scratched, who ate everything I put down in front of them like it were gourmet food for a God. Someone who beamed love at me every time I walked in the room. And someone who wanted nothing more than to please me. What I think is most apparent is that perhaps these qualities are the ones I must work on in myself, in order to attract that which I so desire. He was a teacher. My best. No doubt about it. What I do know through all of this is that I am changed. Through this experience I am no longer the same person.

I turned up to my first shift back at work and folded. Just couldn’t do it. Wasn’t ready. I was sent home in tears. I searched for a grief counsellor but no-one could see me for at least a week. Hard to put all those tears on hold for a week when I could barely manage an hour without weeping. A friend called and I asked her to contact my vet. It was a last ditch effort to pull the pieces together. She came back to me with a name. Karlene Bradley. I rang the number she gave me and was eventually led to a woman who didn’t know me from Adam but who spent over an hour on the phone talking me through the worst of my grief. She was a pet bereavement counsellor. She was an angel. She knew what I was going through because she had been through it herself. She wore the sock. She let me wail and talk and she talked and listened until there was nothing left to say. I was wrung out. She picked up the threads of my frayed spirit and she tugged and she tied and she knotted. She rethreaded my heart strings and the mending began.

From there, I began writing. I poured my heart and soul onto paper. Writing also became my saviour. It wrapped its inky arms around me and welcomed me into the fold. It accepted everything I lay down before it. Never questioned. Never doubted. Just let me be as I was at the time. It led me through the rough. I am so grateful I am a writer. I am grateful to have this outlet that helps me to heal.

I have tried to keep busy in these past ten days. I have surrounded myself with photos of my beautiful boy. It helps just to see him framed in a corner, a lucky dog biscuit pressed tightly between his lips. And I have taken Little Moo on adventures away, for she too is grieving the loss of her mate. From both of us, thank you to all of you who cared, thought of us, called us, emailed us, messaged us, hugged us and supported us in any way. There are a lot of you. And I am grateful to every single one of you. But a big thank you to Karlene. This world needs you. And I am eternally grateful to you. You helped mend me.

Below: How Little Dog and I have spent some days…

Shopping for New Toys

Shopping for New Toys

Having a Girls Day at the Spa

Having a Girls Day at the Spa

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Trying Out a New Bed

Stocking Up on Treats

Stocking Up on Treats

Remembering the True Glue of Friendship

Remembering the True Glue of Friendship

The Missing Bits

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The Missing Bits

There’s a kind of hush all over the house like a great gaping hole has filled with the absence of you. You came to me as a warm wriggling ball that squeezed into the palm of my hand. You fitted me. Always. Our time was too short, too quick and life tossed too many things your way. Cruel things. Things you took in your stride. But you were always like that. The strong one. The brave one. The one who laughed at everything no matter what. And already I miss you though you have barely been gone a day.

I miss waking up next to you.

I miss hearing you snore.

I miss the clack of your toenails against the floor. There are demons inside me, battering away, beating me up. Not letting me off the hook. I feel like I have betrayed you. Took you before you were ready to go. But I couldn’t let you struggle in pain. Despite the fact you were willing to carry on just the same.

In this well of sadness inside me I feel I could possibly drown. Nothing feels right without you. The memories link me back to the life that we shared. Remembering the way you used to stand at the keyboard, your paws on the space bar. My own budding novelist, back in the days when you could still jump. I miss the way you romp through the house on your unsteady legs. I miss finding dead moths and half chewed pegs.

I miss the squeaky farts you did against the polished floor. I miss how you stole Little Dog’s toys with the swipe of a paw.

I miss hugging you. Because you fitted me. Always.

I miss the greatness of your presence that filled the space of this house.

I miss how the house used to feel before.

I miss the sound of your tail banging as I open the door.

I miss your dribbly nose. I miss the press of you against me at night. I miss your head on my foot as I type.

Last night as I lay awake through a quiet, lonely night, I saw you again. You were fit and well and running free. And you were smiling that smile that you had just for me.

Yesterday, when I held you in my arms that last time, and you drifted away, I think you took a little piece of me with you. I can feel it today.

Moo and I went to the sea after you left. And the first dog we saw was a Cav, like you, bouncing along the beach – the way you should have been able to. And then later, an eagle soared overhead and I pretended it was you, unfettered, and free. The way you should be. And I know that in time the memory of your wagging tail whipping buttery love through the air will finally wipe out my demons. And the image of your wide smiling face will replace all the hurt and fill in the hole. And somehow through the grief I will find my way back to our happiness, with you tucked up inside me.  Because you fitted me. Always.

Run, baby boy. All the way home.

The Memory of Scent and a Road Less Travelled

imagesI sat in meditation this morning beneath a gentle sun on a perfect Queensland winter’s day. As I filtered out the garbage of the past few days, what finally came to me was a scent. A memory of  scent. Vanilla cup cakes in my home economics class back when I was sixteen years old. The smell was overwhelming, like I was there in the room with my friends and we had just whipped a batch of steamy hot cakes from the oven. The Home Ec room always smelled of vanilla cupcakes to me, no matter what. So why was I recalling this familiar smell some thirty years later?  I ran with it, stayed with the vision of the classroom, the scent, the feeling of being back at school through the long hot  days of a Caringbah summer. I could feel the coolness of the classroom fold around me after coming in from the playground. And constantly throughout the meditation, the smell of cupcakes.

After, I thought about those days back at school. The gender stereotyping as the girls whipped batches of food and the boys played down the corridor with saws and sanders and dangerous machinery. We crossed paths by our own sneaky means to travel down a road of taboo forbidden by those who had travelled before us. My thoughts wandered along this path of taboo at the end of which stood my father. A pointing finger and “get in the house” accompanied that vision. Memories of being confined to a life where I couldn’t do what “the others” could do. I wasn’t allowed. I rebelled, of course. Got myself into all sorts of mischief  and loved it. Because it enraged my father, mostly. It drove a clean sharp wedge between my father and I. His want to protect me and my need to be independent. I never saw protection in his actions. I only saw control and disappointment in his eyes. I never felt like I lived up to his great expectations. 

The gap widened into my young adult years. At one point I hated him, a thought that shames me now. My hatred was born out of ignorance – as most hatred is. I was ignorant to who he was. What he was about. I didn’t know and I didn’t care. I didn’t want to know either. I didn’t want to be controlled anymore. I only ever saw me in our equation. Never “us”. To see “us” took me years. To understand “us” took most of our time together  on Earth. I remember the day the wall came down. I was visiting him one summer and we’d gone down to the beach – just him and me. It was rare to have time on our own because I don’t think either of really knew what to say. It was a road less travelled. I think we avoided it for years. But here we were, on this day. A day like today – sunny and warm and full of promise. We sat on the rocks and for the first time in years we talked. Not like father and feuding daughter but like friends. Old friends finding each other at the tip of a mountain of regret, conquered and now all behind us. It was the day we moved forward. The day I learned to love my father again. The day I unmasked him as a villain of my own making. The world can only be what I think it is. And I must be responsible for my thoughts, my actions, my love.

In the silence of this morning’s meditation came the memory of cupcakes and the realisation that my father was only ever the monster I made him out to be.I was the one at fault. Not him. But I got the chance to balance the equation, to tread a road with my father that I never thought I would.  To see “us” on equal footing. I finally got to have my cake and eat it too. Strangely, my father loved vanilla cupcakes.