wings and things

New beginnings

Every day, I smile back at my favourite photo of Anthony which was taken many years ago when he was well. This is the photo we chose for the bookmark distributed to those who came to his funeral, the one I often put into the back pocket of my jeans when I go out. Luckily I have a few spares because I accidentally washed one of them with my jeans the other day and Pip has dog-eared another one with her sharp teeth. FullSizeRender

Another new beginning: today I got to meet my newest great nephew, Archer, beautiful second son of my niece Ashtyn and her husband Gordon. He is such a winner! His big brother, Spencer, is equally adorable.

Archer with Julie


I love them.

But something else new seems to be happening to me; I have regained that curiosity about the future that I experienced fleetingly not long after Anthony died. It’s a very simple curiosity and consists of doing deliberate but simple, rather mindless things that are somehow meditative and calming, like the jigsaw I have begun, and cooking new, interesting recipes. The curiosity comes in the form of the question: “Will I be able to do this?” And because these activities are so simple and enjoyable, the answer is, of course, “yes”.

Small steps I guess – a kind of hop-skip-and-jump into each new tomorrow of Anthonylessness, his smile of encouragement somehow more real now that I have lost the real thing. He was always so proud of me.

Standing on a slippery rock, with imagined wings preventing me from falling, on the brink of a new beginning, almost smiling again.

Beginning again




Every time I think I want a blog break, I suddenly want to blog again. Go figure. Yesterday’s post was so negative it left me feeling uncomfortable and I woke up this morning thinking “Pull yourself together, Julie! Stop moaning! Get on with life! Smell the roses! Enough of your whimpering! You are boring the hell out of people! You know what to do to feel better, so do it!”

The above photo is of my mother at a place called Canal Rocks which is about an hour’s drive south of here. We were away for a couple of days, celebrating her 83rd birthday and every moment was a delight. We ate out, we ate in, we walked through the magnificent gardens of the place where we were staying,  and I went for a couple of long solo walks through the bush and down to the beach. I took my blender and made us raspberry and mint ‘cocktails’. We watched movies, read our books, and I began a new writing project. It was wonderful fun and so refreshing.

But coming back home was not so wonderful despite how great it was to see Ming and the dogs. I wasn’t expecting to feel so flat so my sudden change of mood surprised me and I wanted to go straight back down south. The dull ache followed me into today and I know for sure that writing that pessimistic post yesterday has done nothing to help. I want to delete it (as I often do) but I’m leaving it there as a contrast to what I’m about to write here.

I have discovered so many strategies to help with my grief: cooking inventive recipes, watching comedies, writing in a different genre, reading about topics I’ve never read about before, making cocktails, socialising and catching up with old friends, talking things through with Ming, going for long walks, meditating, looking for an interesting new job, picking flowers from the garden, communing with the dogs, relaxing guiltlessly, and so on. The constant impulses to go and see Anthony in the nursing home, before remembering with a jolt, that he isn’t there anymore, are lessening and so are the nightmares.

I don’t want to write about my grief anymore but I probably will. Instead, I want to write about all of the good things – the wonder of my many friendships; my beautiful ever-extending family (my niece has just had her second baby); the brilliance of my marriage; my funny, wise son; the recipe book I might write; the jigsaw I might buy; the volunteer work I will soon resume; the hilarious moments of life; the dialogues with Anthony that I haven’t written about yet; the beautiful farm where I live; going out for breakfast or lunch; and even the possibility of travelling further afield than I have been able to for years because I was always afraid Anthony might die in my absence. Recently I was able to visit my brother and his family who live four hours south of here and stayed three nights.

The gratitude I have for all of these many things is huge and is actually a lot bigger than my grief and, yes, I am curious about this new life I am embarking on without Anthony’s physical presence. I carry his photo in the back pocket of my jeans everywhere I go and this is a source of strange comfort, and most of my memories are full of joy. And despite what I wrote yesterday about my regrets, I do realise that I did my best.

C.S. Lewis said that grief is a lot like fear and this is so true, and fear is a monster of a thing but somewhere in the Bible it is said that perfect love casts out fear, and this is also true. Someone else said that grief is love with nowhere to go and, even though I understand this, I’m not sure if I agree entirely because I still love Anthony and this is how I am tackling the fear monster.

Ah – I feel better already!




The un-final scene

Several hours before Anthony died, we were all there – relatives, hospital staff, friends, nursing home staff, my mother, Ming, his partner….

…. and all of the people, including me, even including the doctor-on-call, and our own doctor, who didn’t know know Ants was dead until death.

When our doctor arrived, I threw myself into his arms in a hug of despair and grief. He accomodated this hug and proceeded into the room where he confirmed that Anthony was really dead.

I did go back into Anthony’s room several times and touched his face. I didn’t scream but I did sob because the shock was so terrible because Anthony’s death was so quick. For a year or so, I had been trying to prepare myself for this inevitability; after all, Ants had had numerous TIAs (mini-strokes) and had become bed-ridden.

The un-final scene of this kind of experience is a kind of bedlam of regret: why wasn’t I kinder, more creative, more caring, more understanding, more able to listen?

I really want to make a difference somehow but atm can’t even be bothered reading or writing blogposts – too sad. I really appreciate comments and feedback but please understand that I need a bit of time to get my heart back.

Because …. I don’t know anymore; it was an un-final scene, a mysterious legacy, the most beautiful man in the world of kindness, forgiveness, generosity. I wanted to smash the people and illnesses that attacked him but he wouldn’t let me; he just wanted peace.

Perhaps that is what bewilders me most; there was no warning that this would be our final scene, Ants, and that’s why I will continue to explore the idea of our un-final scene.





I wrote about hope yesterday in such a hopeless way that I deleted the post and now can’t remember what I wrote anyway. After a couple of days, including this morning, of feeling a sense of absolute hopelessness, I read a few blogs and articles and have regained a sense of hope and purpose.

Ming has an extraordinary capacity to reassure and comfort me in my grief and, whenever I am crying, he says, “Keep crying, Mum, and I will keep hugging you; stop trying to stop crying!”

Nevertheless, I am sick and tired of my own grief. Anthony is dead and I have to move willingly into a new world without him. The “look after yourself, Julie” advice given to me over many years, from many friends, finally seems sensible to me now – pragmatic and even useful. Who knows?

I don’t think that hope just happens automatically, and I don’t believe that hope is genetic; I think hope is something that we, ourselves, create if we are willing to do so.

So many people, in so many circumstances – much worse than my own simple grief of losing my elderly husband – have created their own hope and I really want to be part of that somehow.





Ten weeks

It’s ten weeks since Anthony died and, in a few hours, it will be exactly ten weeks, including hours and minutes. I know it was evening but my memory of that moment of death, when I was out of his room, is blurry. I was outside with Ming and Amber and, when the nurse came out to say he was gone I thought she meant the doctor had gone.

Many people assume that once someone goes into a nursing home, it is the beginning of the end of a relationship but not for us. Most situations like this are between child and parent and, yes, in terms of age, Anthony could have been my parent but he was my spouse. Of course I understand the heart-break of losing a parent, but losing a spouse is, I think, a special category of loss.

I am so lucky to have had such an amazing marriage. I didn’t realise this until many of my friends’ marriages collapsed and became complicated and unsaveable. The enormity of our love (Anthony’s and mine) only strikes me now, in retrospect and I wish I had appreciated it more when he was still alive.

When the doctor said it might be days, not weeks, I steeled myself for Anthony’s impending death, never, ever thinking it might just be minutes. So the shock is still fresh and raw and uncomfortable and my dreams are full of better-and-worse scenarios.

Time is the best, and most obvious, healer and I am learning how to just wait for time to pass. I really want to function normally again, to get a job, to cook good food, to stop crying because I don’t want this 10-week thing to hit me again and again and again.