wings and things

Thank you

IMG_0335Since Anthony died, apart from the next day when we cleared his room, I haven’t been back to the nursing home. I’ve wanted very much to go back but was too nervous that I might disintegrate so I just sent a thank you card in which I said I’d bring a thank you gift soon. I arranged, then disarranged, to meet my mother, Meg, there twice but today we finally actually did it.

I had bought three of those extra long toblerone chocolate thingies and a ribbon to tie them together with. My mother and I met in the parking lot and we walked in together but, just as we were about to turn the corner into the hallway where Anthony’s room was, I began to cry. Meg suggested maybe not today but I really wanted to get it over with – to give the gift, to walk up that hallway, to peek into Anthony’s room, and to give the woman in the room opposite his a hug.

The male nurse who was in charge today accepted the chocolates and gave me a look of such wonderful sympathy but the crying had kicked in so I kind of fled, with my mother just behind me. Back down the hallway past not-Anthony’s-room-anymore to the outside.

There is a little area outside with chairs and I have often wondered who might sit there. Now it was us – my mother and me – I cried and she hugged me. Various staff, coming and going, saw us and came over to have a chat/hug and I gradually calmed down and stopped crying.

It will be easier to visit people in the nursing home next time. I plan to take little Pip in to see the various residents who I have become so fond of over the years.

I have a great big thank you in my heart – to everyone at the nursing home who cared so wonderfully for this beautiful man.

Thank you.





A year and a half ago … Anthony’s 80th birthday


We weren’t a perfect team – Ants, Ming and me – but we were a team, the three of us. And, when I look at these photos (which my mother must have taken because she gave Ants the 80th birthday goblet that I am holding in the photos), I can see the love we three had/have for each other.

I am a bit astounded that I am writing so much about losing Anthony but I can’t seem to stop! The blogosphere is, of course, a perfect place to loosen the ties of day-to-day restraint and I am actually enjoying writing about our wonderful relationship – about me, about Anthony, and about Ming.

I think a love story like this is worth writing about.




An electrical moment

The two electricians who were working on re-wiring the whole house the same week Anthony died were probably a bit nonplussed at my behaviour in the before-and-after days. At one point I came home and wrote the funeral notice at one of our outside tables and, as there was a deadline for later that day and Ming wasn’t home, I came back into the house and asked the two electricians for feedback.

They were on a coffee break in the kitchen and they didn’t mind at all. So I read them what I had written:

Anthony, you are still here with us – with me, and with Ming. You can be seen in all of the camellias you planted, and heard in the squawking of your guinea fowl. You are inside the taste of salmon mornay, and the aroma of the dairy cows. But you are also not here – stained glass of my soul ….

Okay, so it was at that last sentence that I got stuck with an adjective dilemma. I had wanted to say “my shattered soul” or “my sliced soul” or something like that and J. said it was good but G. said it was a bit much so I took this advice and simply got rid of the adjective and finished it with …

… the king of Paradise Road. Beautiful husband. Beautiful father. We love you, Anthony.

I am so grateful to these two wonderful electricians who not only fixed our power problems but also gave me editorial advice, and comfort, during that horrible week.












I have had to see our lawyer, social services, contact our accountant and financial advisor, reply to condolence messages, meet with friends and pull myself together.

During the week that Anthony died, we experienced heavy rain and storms, so much so that our power went out. Man-of-the-house, Ming said we should wait until the sun came back and the power might come back. In the meantime we lived with a lantern until I insisted on calling the electrician. They began work on the water-damaged electrics on Monday and Anthony died on Wednesday (it all seems like yesterday now, but this was nearly five weeks ago).

Due to having no power, I had arranged to stay at my mother’s place for the duration of electrical repairs. This never happened as Anthony went downhill so quickly I ended up sleeping at the nursing home for a couple of nights (this is where my confusion kicks in; was it one or two nights?)

I hate this confusion – my mind feels like mush and I keep forgetting conversations and arrangements and plans made, or else getting mixed up. And when, this afternoon, the insurance assessor came out to suss the claim, I completely forgot who she was and sobbed while I tried to explain the water damage etc. She was so kind.

So many people have been so kind – relatives and friends; blog friends; Facebook friends. All of those kind words have been matched with real and virtual hugs and I am so grateful for this throng of support. I am not the only person in the world to have lost someone they love this fiercely and I so ‘get it’ – the shock+grief.

Apart from the feeling that Anthony is in our hearts in an ongoing way, there is still, also, the fact that he is dead. This is made plain to me in my midnight sobs, my scrambled egg mornings, Ming’s presence, the black and white tiles on the kitchen floor and no Anthony sock-prints any more.

Perhaps my confusion is borne of a temporary inability to face the word/concept that Anthony is, indeed, dead.

Dead, death, dying – these are all words that don’t scare me any more but I am still so confused.



Getting back on my feet

One of the most unsettling things about Anthony’s quick death, after so many years of him outliving his various prognoses, is that I had prepared myself, psychologically and emotionally, for many more years of life. I had made lists of ‘things-to-do-in-the-nursing home’, like sorting out photos, collating everything I had already written about dementia and Anthony into book form, transcribing Ming’s dialogues with his dad, finding a new comedy series to watch, getting my mother to teach me how to make hairpin lace shawls – those sorts of ongoing things.

I had planned, in advance, all of these things … to do in the nursing home, side-by-side with Anthony, so the disorientation I have been experiencing since he died is understandable I guess. When I went to see our doctor for a bit of a debrief, he, too, was surprised at how quickly Anthony died after being given morphine (for the very first time) for his pneumonia. Then the doctor said that he had noticed a deterioration over the last several months and we laughed about how, whenever he said that to me, I would always reply, “Oh no – you just got him on a bad day – he is amazing!” Perhaps I was in denial but I don’t think so because Anthony would always, always, come back.

That night – the night Anthony died – there was a distinct feeling that he was pulling away from me. At the time, I thought I was probably holding his hand too fiercely, too tightly, so I loosened my grip and felt his hand press and release mine until I let go. It was then that I went outside with Ming and Amber to discuss whether to ring Ming if Anthony died in the night. As I’ve already said, this was a moot point because of course Ming wanted me to ring him and, anyway, I didn’t expect Anthony to die that night as I had only just gotten used to the idea that he may only have a few more days to live.

We were only out of Anthony’s room for a matter of minutes when the nurse came outside and said he was gone. The disbelief of that dreadful moment still resonates but I don’t feel guilty for not being in his room when he drew his last ragged breath, because he always knew that I would be back. It is impossible to know, of course, the philosophical wherewithal of that timing. Could Anthony only die once I was out of the room? No – well, I don’t think so.

The fact remains that he died, full stop. Anthony died and the more I remind myself of this resounding truth, the more able I am to find my feet again. During the first two days of the retreat, I kept tripping over these feet and bumping into doors, my feeling of balance askew. But gradually I regained a sense of physical balance and was able to go for walks in the surrounding bush, my legs and feet transforming from a toddler’s to an athlete’s. And my breath came back as if I had just found air after being submerged.

I didn’t want to continue to blog about grief but I can’t seem to help myself. The sharing of laughter and memories and anecdotes with friends and family have been both healing and invigorating. But, at the end of every day, here I am absolutely lost without Anthony’s aliveness.

Walking is going to be my new ‘thing’. I have already found some walking trails nearby and I am going to walk and walk and walk and walk.



The retreat: 3

It was the three counselling + guided meditation sessions with Karen that most helped me to take a hesitant step forward. In the first session, I explained that I felt trapped behind the bars separating my life with Anthony from my life without Anthony; in the second session, I had become curious about the future but was also wishing that I could have had one last conversation with Anthony. Karen suggested writing him a letter in the journal I’d been given on arrival. I did this and brought the letter to my last session, read it out to Karen, and cried.

One of the things that struck me about this exercise was that it was so different from my writing to, and about, Anthony on my blog for so many years; the public speaking Ming and I had done recently; the death notice for the newspaper; and even my notes for the eulogy. This time, I was writing something intensely personal just to Anthony and it is comforting to know I can do this any time. Yes, I read it to Karen but she was like a sort of conduit between the grieving me and the curious me and, once I closed my journal, I felt safe in the knowledge that I had written something very private – just between Ants and me. I am very grateful to Karen for her compassion to me, and her wisdom, and how comfortable she made me feel during these self-revealing sessions.

So this is my last post (for the time being!) about the retreat but I have also written a  recommendation here:

I was so incapacitated by grief when I arrived at the retreat but I came home stronger, wiser and filled with gratitude and, yes, curiosity. On my drive home I got a real sense of Anthony laughing kindly at my antics, and wanting me to be okay.

I’m okay.


The retreat: 2

In the evenings, Karen’s husband, Vince would come home and serve us pre-dinner drinks – mineral water in beautiful wine glasses (the retreat was alcohol-free) and then seat us at the dining table. This table was in itself a visual gift – white linen table cloth, fresh flowers, scented candles. The other guest, J, and I were then served two courses of amazing food – mostly vegetarian/vegan/raw, beautifully interesting and creative. The four of us would chit-chat during the meal as Karen served and Vince washed up. There was a feeling of leisurely calm in the serving and partaking of food and Karen was very happy to share her recipe secrets.

I have never really thought about the idea of sustenance before but Karen (a qualified chef) provided us with such amazingly healthy food that we came away from that dining table sated, even comforted somehow. Having not eaten much of anything since Anthony died, it was a luxury to be fed in such a kind way. I kept wanting to hop up and help with the dishes etc. but soon learned that it gave Karen and Vince a lot of pleasure to serve us. I felt like a queen!

After dinner, I mostly retired to my suite and watched television and/or cried for Anthony. The resort had an extensive dvd and book library so, as a movie fan, I was in my element. It was absolutely wonderful to know that, once I’d retired, I would not be disturbed and that private space of grief, and movie distraction, and tears, and sleep helped me recover. Plus my bathroom had a big spa bath and I made the most of that as we only have a shower at home.

I realise that these posts are a bit disjointed but it is impossible to describe KalyaaNa – – in a single post. The experience was surreal and valuable at so many levels.


The retreat: 1

It is almost impossible to describe the wonder of my retreat experience last week. KalyaaNa ( is an extraordinary place run by an extraordinary woman, Karen.

I arrived at 2pm last Tuesday and was greeted with a hug, shown around the premises and made to feel comfortable and at ease immediately. Having never been to a health retreat, I wasn’t sure what to expect and was surprised to find that I was the only guest. Karen told me that another woman would be arriving soon. She showed me to my suite – a beautiful room with an adjoining spa bathroom and told me that if I wanted to be left alone to just put the ‘do not disturb’ sign on my door.

That little sign was respected throughout my stay and my tight grip on privacy loosened over the ensuing days. But that first night I asked for room service because I wasn’t ready to face even a little bit of socialising. Karen brought me the most amazing salad as an entrée, then the best laksa I’ve ever tasted. My stomach was still clenched so I couldn’t finish the laksa but it re-awakened my taste buds!

The next morning I emerged from my room and met the other guest, J. at the dining room table. Karen asked us to pick out a juice from the menu and then proceeded to make it with fresh ingredients. Then J and I had to choose what we’d like for breakfast and, again, there were a lot of choices. I almost always went for the poached eggs because Karen somehow knew how to turn this simple meal into art.

That same day, I just relaxed in my suite and watched Foxtel (a novelty!) until my first scheduled meditation session with Karen.



It’s a month now since Anthony died and I still can’t quite believe it. I know that if I go into the nursing home there will be somebody else in his room so maybe that will confirm things for me. I have such strange impulses like wanting to dig up the soil on his grave and open the coffin just to make sure he really is dead. Just before the funeral, Ming and I viewed his body, not to say goodbye, but (for me, at least) to make sure that he wasn’t just sleeping. I realise that these impulses are totally irrational but they persist nevertheless. Time will fix this eventually.
I want Anthony back so much that the feeling of longing is inside every breath I take and hold. Remembering to breathe normally is something I am now re-learning. I want him back the way he was on the Friday before he died – eating, smiling, squeezing my hand, watching television.
Anthony had been ill with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia for so long that, until now, I had forgotten his robust energy, loud laugh, barbecued steak, and the way he used to love looking at himself in the mirror. He didn’t know he had Dementia but he did know he had Parkinson’s Disease, but he would always reassure me that he was getting better. And I would always agree of course.
It was so fast – Anthony’s death. The aspirational pneumonia was loud in his gurgling breath and his forehead was so hot to touch. I vaguely remember wetting a small towel and placing it on his forehead to cool him down. His eyes were slits and I wasn’t sure if he could hear me saying how much I loved him. I hope he didn’t hear the fear in my voice….
There is no relief for me that Anthony has died because he was never a burden of responsibility for me and those last five – nearly six – years in the nursing home were filled with joy and fun. Our love for each other was so gigantic, I struggle to find words to describe it – it was like some sort of massive water slide, or maybe even a parachute jump, a leap into an unknown that I now know.
I said, in the eulogy, that nobody ever had a bad word to say against Anthony because I had forgotten how he broke my heart when I was too young to understand why. I remember calling him a ‘selfish pig’ at one point. Before we were married, he admitted that he, too, had fallen in love-at-first-sight, but he was 41 and I was 18, and he respected me.
But Anthony’s mother, Gar, knew. She would say little, suggestive things to me and hint at the promise of a relationship with her son. Her last words to me “Look after Anthony,” just before she died, had a resonance unfelt for many years.
What does a person like me do now? The absence of Anthony in the here-now is like an icy wind-tunnel and I feel fractured/split/injured. And, yes, I want him back, I want him back.
The love of my life has died and I feel so lost without you, Ants. But I can also feel the warmth of your smiling encouragement, and we have Ming – like a clone of you – the most beautiful gift we gave each other.
It’s a month now since Anthony died and I still can’t quite believe it.




I am off for a little retreat so will be off-line for a bit. Once again, many thanks for messages to Ming and me. I still can’t quite believe that Anthony has gone.