Tag Archive: grief


Sitting outside

In a cool, spring breeze

Feeling chilly.

Why am I still here?
Now is the time.
Walk back in, and see
My stupid, messy house,

 and dilapidated couch.

I’m not sitting on it.
That’s how my children will see it.

Turn off the television,

Go to bed.


It’s Sunday, a balmy summer evening in Sydney with a cool nor-easterly blowing in. I’m knitting.

I’ve had a difficult few months. The optimism I’ve always had, and treasured, deserted me and I had been wondering why I should even try to continue living.

Last Sunday I took advantage of a rare coincidence of a free few hours and a sense of well-being. I took myself into the city and went to a shop that sells beautiful knitting yarns.

I’ve always been a knitter. My mum taught me to knit when I was about nine years old. It’s one of the most treasured gifts that she gave to me. When she died, all I asked for were her needles and patterns. I have those old patterns, marked all over with her notes and amendments, all her old needles, battered and some bent. Many of those needles and patterns had been passed down from her mother.

I haven’t been able to knit since that awful year when she died and John was so ill. I’d tried a few times but couldn’t do it.

So it was a big thing visiting that shop last week.

Anyway, I bought the yarn: soft, white pure wool 3-ply. For a baby. I’d heard that friends are expecting their first and I figured that not many babies receive a hand-knitted shawl these days. This baby will receive one.

So I began this week. I chose an old-fashioned lacy pattern and it wasn’t until I began that I remembered I’d knitted it many years ago, for another baby. I don’t know where that baby is now but I hope it gave him comfort. My fingers remembered that pattern.

I’ve begun on the rather boring (to a knitter) stocking stitch foundation for the shawl. Next week I’ll move on to the complicated lacy border which will take months to complete. As I knit I remember all the happy things that have happened in my life and how lucky I am.

I’m hoping that as the shawl grows, so will my optimism and calm return; that as I produce something beautiful I will grow something beautiful again in my heart.

When Spring comes, there will be a baby, a shawl, and hope.
Knitting 1
Knitting 2

Call the Ambulance

For almost all of the time that I have known John, he had asked me to promise, and I did, many times, not to call an ambulance if I found him unconscious.

He knows how I think, that I put great faith in modern medicine, and that with love and support and science, any medical problem can be overcome.

He also had a belief that he would be dead by age 48, the age at which his father died. He was 46 when the stroke happened, he’s 53 now.

So I had promised, many times, that I would not call an ambulance.

That Monday morning, when I couldn’t wake him, I was torn. I wanted to honour that promise.

Our daughter was telling me that we needed an ambulance and I explained. Her response: “Well I didn’t make any fucking promises.”
So the ambulance was called. I was relieved, because I know in my heart that I’d have done the same.

These promises we make are made on an intellectual level, at least so for me. At the time of making those promises, I really believed I’d stick to them, and perhaps I would have if our daughter hadn’t been there. I really don’t know.

I have asked John many, many times, if I did the right thing. He always says yes.

I wonder though, what our lives would have been like if the ambulance hadn’t been called.

I certainly wouldn’t have spent a year next to him, unemployed, because I wouldn’t leave his side.

I wouldn’t be watching him live a half-life.

Our children would only have a memory of him as a strong, loving man who looked after all whose he loved and could be counted on, no matter what.

Instead they now live with the reality of their once huge father living in a nursing home and dependent upon strangers for his daily needs.

So their memory of their father will always be coloured by what has happened in the last (almost) seven years, the ongoing pain of seeing him completely dependent upon others, with limited communication and cognition.

As their mother, I wish that I hadn’t woken that morning, or that I’d had the strength to not call that ambulance. I’d have saved them so much pain.

I know though, that I’d have broken that promise, even if I’d been on my own, because of my faith in medical science and because I believe, still, that where there’s life, there’s hope.

And that old bastard just kept on breathing!

I’ve asked John, so many, many times, “Did I do the right thing, calling the ambulance?”.
He always says yes.

And I always wonder, knowing him, if he’s trying to make me feel better.


Today it is John’s birthday, though he didn’t realise it as he doesn’t know what day it is. I organised a birthday lunch yesterday to which some of his friends came. It was a lovely afternoon.

However time is marching by and many of the friends who were once close to him, and whom he’d never have deserted, are falling by the wayside.

This is a note I wrote to one today. He was one of John’s closest friends. I feel that all those close friends who have not been there should read it. I stress that I understand about commitments and this is not intended to those beautiful people who have been quietly wonderful.

“Hi X,
Thank you for your message. I can only guess that someone alerted you to my post as it was put up last Friday, taken down very quickly (to avoid embarrassment) and yet I’m only hearing from you today.
The last five and a half years have been an ordeal for John and I feel very sad and angry on his behalf that his friends, particularly those once close to him, have been absent.
It is embarrassing to have to beg for visits.
From here on in it is up to you. His birthday is Sept 9, put it in your phone if you wish.
I know if this had happened to any one of you he’d have you living in our house, or at the very least be visiting regularly. That’s the kind of friend he is.
I realise time marches on but the man who supported and loved you all deserves more than this.
That’s really all I can say.
In answer to your question, he’s still at the nursing home where he has been for almost five years.
If you visit, please leave a message on the white board.

John’s stroke and its aftermath caused (and still causes) immense sadness to our little family. However once the initial shock was over, the sadness was to be expected.
The abandonment by some friends has caused an unexpected sadness. In many ways this is much harder to take.
It is countered however, by the (also unexpected) love, kindness and loyalty shown by some who were barely known by us at the time of his stroke, and others whom I’ve met since.
I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

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