jmgoyder

wings and things

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: https://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Hotel_Review-g488330-d2700910-Reviews-KalyaaNa_Spa_Wellness_Retreat-Bridgetown_Western_Australia.html

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.

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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 – https://www.kalyaanawellnessretreat.com.au/ – in a single post. The experience was surreal and valuable at so many levels.

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The retreat: 1

It is almost impossible to describe the wonder of my retreat experience last week. KalyaaNa (https://www.kalyaanawellnessretreat.com.au/) 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.

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Death

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.

 

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Retreat

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.

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A Ming melody (take 2!)

Many thanks to Kaleb Treacy for helping Ming to put this music together for the funeral of his dad, Anthony.

Kaleb Treacy

Menzies Goyder

 

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I’m glad I believe in Heaven

I’m glad I believe in Heaven, Anthony, because you weren’t so sure yourself but apparently the gates were wide open anyway and there was a big crowd waiting to welcome you. As you walked towards them, your back straightened, and your grin returned, and your voice came back. When you reached for my hand, and looked for Ming, your mother explained that we weren’t there yet, your brothers and sisters embraced you, and my dad introduced you around….

In the twelve days since Anthony died, I have woken up each morning, forgetting that he is dead, and even forgetting that the funeral has happened. The empty feeling inside me is like an icy wind tunnel and I cannot seem to get warm. My mother and I went to the grave-side a couple of days ago and yesterday, Father’s Day, Ming and I thought of going but didn’t. The impulse to go and see Anthony in the nursing home comes and goes constantly as I forget, then remember again. The many, many messages of condolence have slowed to a trickle, the beautiful flowers sent to us are now wilting, and whenever Ming leaves for work I almost say, “Can you go and see Dad?” And yesterday my mother was undone when, after church, she had to head home instead of to the nursing home.

On the day of the funeral, Ming and I had arranged for a viewing – just for the two of us. My only reason for this was totally irrational; I just wanted to make sure Anthony was really dead. And even when I kissed his cold forehead and lips I kept expecting him to open his eyes. He didn’t.

Ming and I had picked wormwood from Anthony’s favourite hedge to be used instead of rosemary sprigs, and a melody Ming had composed played as people placed these on the coffin around the branches of camellia trees we’d also picked that morning.

My feet seem to have grown bigger because they fit perfectly into Anthony’s ugg boots which I am wearing now. I keep watching the funeral dvd over and over and over again. So this is the grief I have anticipated for so long, raw, relentless, like a terrible storm.

But gradually, softly – away from that person sobbing – I am picking myself up. The special camellia tree Anthony bought me began to flower the day after the funeral, the dogs are constantly by my side, and Ming is here.

I’m glad I believe in Heaven.

 

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