Tag Archive: Stroke


Today it is eight years since John had his stroke. The week has also included Valentine’s Day.

John and I didn’t usually make a big deal about Valentine’s Day but that year he planned a weekend away. So we went the weekend before.

We had a beautiful room in the Blue Mountains looking straight down the Jamieson Valley. The weather wasn’t brilliant and the valley was full of clouds and fog. All part of being in the mountains.

We sat on the balcony on the Sunday morning and watched as the weather cleared and the glorious vista came into view.

John reminded me that I used to sing the lullaby “Down In The Valley” to our children to put them to sleep. I had completely forgotten because the children were by then young adults and it had been so long ago. It was lovely sitting there and being reminded.

Ten days later I sang that lullaby to him in the ICU so that the sedatives could be kept to a minimum. One nurse said, “keep on singing, it works.”

If he hadn’t reminded me of it the week before I doubt that I’d have thought of it. It’s a bittersweet memory for me.

Here’s a link to the song for those of you who don’t know it.

I’m walking this month to raise funds for stroke awareness and stroke rehabilitation. I’ve commoitted to 300km for the month of November, an average of 10km per day.

Today, my birthday (I’m 54) I walked 11km.

Walking.We all do it, every day.I spend most of my time figuring out how to do as little as possible.

However, doing the walking over the last eight days I’ve been thinking.

Life is a lonely walk at times, no matter how many people join you and no matter how much love surrounds you.

I had a wonderful day, with the added bonus of discovering a beautiful new walking path very close to home. It leads through parks down to my favourite beach.

But there was a big hole in the day. John didn’t share in the celebrations.

I’ve finally realised that that I’m doing this walk on my own. This month has become a metaphor for the long, lonely walk. Not just mine, but John’s.

If you would like to donate to the cause of stroke rehabilitation, here’s the link:

https://strideforstroke15.everydayhero.com/au/julie-2

We’re all doing the long, lonely walk.

Cheese

I was eating some rather smelly washed-rind cheese this evening.

I’m rather fond of the stuff, every now and then.

I remembered a time (back in the day) when I had bought some and it had stunk out the car in the time taken to transport it from shop to home.

John was rather cranky, I laughed at the crankiness.

Because cheese is delicious!

A few hours later I understood the crankiness because the car was still stinky.

This is a memory that only I now hold. John has forgotten it.

It is now only mine.

I remember the crankiness, laughter.

And the understanding.

Seven Years

Yesterday marked the seventh anniversary of that cataclysmic day.

Seven years, where did that time go? That’s what people say when they speak of their children growing, time passing, growing old.

John’s stroke was always going to be the five-year project, something we’d get through, overcome. Some lessons have been learned since then:

You can’t put a timeline on a brain, or a body.

Friends will appear where you least expect.

Old friends will react in their own way and there’s no judging because they are also feeling the loss.

New friends come along and you feel that you’ve known them forever.

And John doesn’t know who they are.

Our beloved children have grown up and are making me (us) proud, and I don’t really know how that happened.

Some very dear people of whom I thought badly have turned out to be the best friends of all.

Thank you.

Knitting

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.

Spring Weekend

He’d be asleep now,
It’s 7:43pm and it’s dark.

Spring.

I have flowers in the house,
Picked from the garden this evening.

All around I can hear neighbours
With friends over,
Smell their barbeques
And listen to their joy.

That used to be us,
Boy at the barbie,
Me inside,
Organising the salads.

Spring.
So many flowers.
So much love,
And
Joy.

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It was six years yesterday.
A time to think about all that has happened in all our lives in that time.

This time of year is very, very difficult.
It begins with my mum’s birthday on Feb 13 and ends with our wedding anniversary on Mar 13.

In between is Valentine’s Day (our last weekend together) and the anniversary of the stroke.

Six years ago I was full of optimism and absolutely sure that John would come home, no matter what. I thought that that all mountains were surmountable.
I thought I could anticipate any obstacle.

Since then the unanticipated obstacles have appeared.

I’m proud of the way my little family has climbed over them but I worry about our ability to continue to climb over and keep going.

Life is becoming more and more frenetic. The old life appears from this distance to be so serene, yet I know that it wasn’t.

I don’t visit as often as I once did, and this is a source of anxiety and guilt.

We have a wonderful friend in Sandra, who visits so often and makes John’s life as good as it can be. We are both so lucky to have her. She has picked up where I leave off.

Beauty keeps me going, and I hope it keeps our children going too.

The beauty of an evening sky, the rain today, my little puppy Piño and our old dog Max. I try to pass the joy of this beauty on to our darling children.

And beauty reminds me of love.

The love John has for us,
The love we have for him.
The love of all of our friends.

Love and Beauty.

Unending Love

I heard this poem today, Valentine’s Day. Sort of sums it all up for me.

If you wish to see Gregory Peck read it, dedicated to Audrey Hepburn, here’s the link:

Unending Love

I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times…
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs,
That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,
In life after life, in age after age, forever.

Whenever I hear old chronicles of love, it’s age-old pain,
It’s ancient tale of being apart or together.
As I stare on and on into the past, in the end you emerge,
Clad in the light of a pole-star piercing the darkness of time:
You become an image of what is remembered forever.

You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the fount.
At the heart of time, love of one for another.
We have played along side millions of lovers, shared in the same
Shy sweetness of meeting, the same distressful tears of farewell-
Old love but in shapes that renew and renew forever.

Today it is heaped at your feet, it has found its end in you
The love of all man’s days both past and forever:
Universal joy, universal sorrow, universal life.
The memories of all loves merging with this one love of ours –
And the songs of every poet past and forever.
Rabindranath Tagore

Photograph

I came across a photograph
While fossicking through a drawer.

It’s just a licence photo,
One of those ones
We all love to hate.

You look like a tough guy,
But I know you’re not.

You never were.

I realise
That the memories are slipping,
Sliding,
Disappearing with the ocean’s breeze.

And I need
These little discoveries

To remember you

As you were.

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