Thursday, December 30, 2010

Flying into the New Year!

Tomorrow we fly back to the USA so Peter can go back to work, Dempsey can return to school and I can get stuck into my blog and study......  The past few weeks have flown and I haven't had time to write much over the Christmas break.....but I have so much to say.............

There's been too many days filled with visitors and too much caffiene....chocolates, hugs and laughter.  And I don't want to leave my Aussie family.  But sometimes we do what we have to in life. 

I had a Christmas surrounded by family.  Is there really anything else in life that can match that?

My special Dad Xmas Day!

The new year is just around the corner.....and another year without my loved ones.  I have so much to write about but hope to commit more time to this space to help others when we get back to the USA.

        Peter, Dempsey and me with our Angel Savannah with us on Xmas Day! :)

We are flying New Years Eve so that should be means we get two New Years Eves which I think means two times the amount of things to do 'new' next year.  New goals, new hopes, a new slate and new beginnings.....stay tuned! :)

Sorry this is such a short blog and not really newsworthy. 

I did receive an email from my beautiful friend Glenna, who sent me these words below she found and so kindly thought to share.  They are from the Dear Abby column last week................

The words resonated with me so deeply and I'm sure with any of you reading who have lost someone.  I hope they can bring you some comfort as they did me!

DEAR ABBY: My beautiful 20-year-old daughter was killed in a car accident. I am writing this not only for myself, but for all parents who have lost a child, and to all of the wonderful people who asked, "What can I do for you?"

At the time there wasn't much anyone could do to help, but after two years I have an answer: Accept me for who I am now.

When Rachel came into my life, it changed me profoundly. Losing her did the same. Her father and I work hard to honor her memory, but we will never "get over it" to the degree of being who we were before. I am different now. In some ways -- I think -- better. I am kinder, more patient, more appreciative of small things, but I am not as outgoing nor as quick to laugh.

I know people mean well when they encourage me to get on with my life, but this is my life. My priorities have changed. My expectations of what my future will hold have changed. Please extend to me again the offer of "anything I can do" and, please, accept me as I am now.

Thanks Glenna!

Wishing you all as Happy a New Years Eve as possible.  Will catch you from the grand ol US of A! :) x

Friday, December 24, 2010

My reflective Christmas Eve!

It’s really hard to not be reflective this time of year.

Tomorrow is Christmas Day, a time when we should be surrounded by ALL those we love. We should be laughing and enjoying gift giving……and too much champagne! We should be hoovering down too much rich cheese and crackers and turkey and sweet stuff. Should be talking too much and answering the phone with a “Ho Ho Ho!”

But some of us have a different Christmas to other families, one where some chairs at the dining table will be empty. And there’s absolutely nothing I can do about that for our little family….I can accept that now…….

Christmas for some of us can make us feel out of tune with the rest of the people we know..........if you’ve lost someone special in your life.

As each year passes, I never know what the day will bring and that’s scary sometimes…………already I’ve been up and down with different moments of longing for Savannah, wondering what we’d be putting under the Christmas tree tonight for her….I wonder what my Mum would be telling me not to buy for her, and how she’d ask what pretty outfit I had picked out for tomorrow.

My sister Tarnia would’ve already baked her shortbread, cutting out the buttery morsels with a cookie cutter into star patterns as she always did, covering them gently with sifted icing sugar!

I wish sometimes life was cookie cutter perfect, but its not! That’s’ the reality, and I can wallow and allow myself to spiral into the abyss of sadness or TRY to see my life as it is……….without my Mum, my sister or Savannah in it. I have to take comfort in my memories of past Christmases and HOPE I will have many more to enjoy. And after some amount of time you do realize that memories are precious. I’ve already made many today to hoard away to reflect on….if I’m lucky enough to be here next year!

Tone and my sister's four beautiful children tonight...Alexander, Fraser, Emerald and Charlotte.  Dempsey...oh and me! :)

Tone arrived tonight with my sister’s and his four beautiful children. Tucked behind their back was a plastic plate filled with shortbread…Tarnia’s recipie…..without the icing sugar or the star shapes but made with love and the force of a Dad trying to make this time of year special….to keep some memories and traditions alive for his kids! The shortbread are delicious and meant so much to me to see Tarnia’s girls deliver them, with beaming smiles at how proud they were to have made them. Alexander and Fraser are young men now, gorgeous and happy and seemingly unaffected….I am grateful for that!

                    Tarnia's shortbread and mint slice Tone and Emerald and Charlotte made for xmas

Dad stopped in and shared a beer with Peter and me….it was tradition in our home growing up to have Christmas Eve drinks…..that tradition is still alive and kicking in our house……and I love that!

And then there’s Demps….what can I say. I wish everyone could share in my feeling of appreciation and pure joy at watching her tonight getting ready for Santa! Her excitement tonight is MY Christmas gift this year.

   Dempsey writing out the reindeers name tags! :)

She has been sitting at our kitchen counter, cutting out name tags for Santa’s reindeers….we cut up nine chunks of carrot for his antlered workers and she has meticulously placed them on a concrete pillar outside our door……

     Demps with the carrots ready...

Santa has cookies and milk and Dempsey’s specialty, a home made card, it’s all so precious I can’t help but feel overwhelmed with thankfulness for my little girl……tinged with sadness that her sister didn’t help tonight.

Dempsey, all ready for bed and Santa!

I know tomorrow tears will wake me as they always do Christmas morning….however I’ll cry and smile and love what the day brings. Swept up with the magic of what I DO have………

And to any of you reading who are suffering through your first Christmas without a loved one, I wish you strength… others who are experiencing their second or fifth or tenth or twenty-first or thirtieth Christmas without your special family members…I wish you strength too and hope you can find a few moments during the day to reflect, to smile, and to enjoy enough of whatever it may be you need out of the day.......

Merry Christmas!

With love

Diana x

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas and all its trimmings after you've lost someone................


When I was a little girl, Christmas was a magical time.  My favorite holiday of the year.  My sister Tarnia,  my brother Mark and me would hang pillow cases over our mantle that we’d decorated and covered with messages to Santa....hoping that the jolly old man would cram them full with what we’d wished for.


Mum was always the matriarch, waking early, tying her frilly apron on, ready to shove the fat turkey in the oven…..usually with a glass of bubbling champagne on the edge of the counter.  And by mid afternoon we’d play with our new gifts and stuff ourselves with the turkey, then finish off with some delicious Christmas pudding my Nanna always made.  It was tradition!

     My beautiful Mum and Dad on Christmas day many moons ago.....I have some great memories.................................

As a kid, Nanna’s Christmas pudding's were always extra special because they were filled with pieces of silver…old fashioned Australian coins like sixpence’s that we’d exchange for modern currency.  The pudding was always the best part…..blended with Nanna’s love and plump sherry soaked raisins, dried apricots, cherries and sultanas.  How I loved her pudding!

However Christmas these days is different….and like Nanna’s pudding that was mixed and infiltrated with different flavors, my Christmas has assorted emotions….happiness and sadness, unpredictable moments…..and unique ones.  It’s intoxicating and exhausting, loving, comforting and confronting.  However, I am eternally thankful for all that I have that I can’t wrap up….like love and laughter……yet, I will always feel a squeeze of  pain that those I’ve lost won’t be sharing our Christmas feast and hugs.

Christmas with a child missing will forever be different…..and I know I’m not the only one who will miss their beloved ones who have died this Christmas day. 

   Savannah on her first Christmas, my sister Tarnia gave her the reindeer antlers...Beautiful!

Yes, the special meaning Christmas day once had is a bit tarnished, but it still manages to sparkle and feed my spirit….how can it not? 

Down the main street of our little town, Christmas Carols have been softly piped through speakers along the footpath.  The first time I heard Silent Night I had to blink back tears….the effect peaceful and reflective.   

And watching Dempsey blissfully decorate our tree nourished my soul.  She carefully hung a beautiful bejeweled ‘S’ for her sister, kissed it and found a special spot on the branches.  “That’s for you Savannah!”  She said with a smile!

Demps dressing our tree last week.......................

I bet we have different decorations to our other friends….and I’m okay with that now.  We honor those we’ve lost on our tree with photos, angels and a symbolic four letter word “HOPE”…my favorite!  All of these mementos bring me comfort that I’m doing something to honor those I love who aren’t here.  They boost my spirit with sweetness, like the candy coated canes hanging beside them on our tree!  It is gratifying that at least I can do something……..

Some photo decorations my cousin Heather gave me of her son Paul and dear Aunty Ercie who both aren't with us anymore.


There are other things we do in our house and if you are searching for ideas that will bring you a small slice of peace, here are some; clink your glasses and toast in cheers to those who are missing, reminisce and tell a funny story about your loved ones.  Light a symbolic candle in remembrance.  Buy a gift for another child that needs one.  Volunteer at a shelter or for a friend who may be going through a hard time and may need some help this time of year.  Place something of your child’s under the tree, like we do with Savannah’s teddy bear.

Savannah's Pink Teddy bear lays under the tree........

 And the most important one for me is to make a conscious effort to grab the good out of the day, to enjoy, to be present, to be appreciative and outspoken about my love for those important in my life.  I’ll notice the small moments that are rewards and reminders to appreciate the things that can’t be wrapped and placed under the tree… hope, happiness, health and the joy on the little one’s faces as they rip open their gifts, innocent and lost in the magic of Christmas.

Dempsey's letter to Santa this year....made me smile and is a reminder to enjoy and treasure some special things that money can't buy..........................

Sending love and wishing you strength for the days leading up to Christmas if your cup is blue!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Not as strong as you think!

Yesterday, I found out I’m not as strong as I thought I was. Yesterday, I went to a funeral.

I wouldn’t have missed it however. I wanted to be there for my friend Sally who is like a sister to me. We’ve been besties for over thirty years. We grew up together in a small country town. Shared scraped knees, secrets and have laughed until we’ve nearly wet our pants...she’s THAT kinda friend.

We were housemates for five years, were like the bobbsie twins! Inseparable….knowing what the other was thinking… sharing heartache over boys and holidaying together. I know her like I know Dempsey.

                                        Sal and me on our way to Bali, we were both 20 years old.....

Sal is a special girl, with a generous soul… amazing human being! Selfless and funny, with one of those laughs that makes you laugh when you hear it.

Every week when Savannah was sick, Sal packaged up something for her and sent it. Sometimes a book, or a Winnie the Pooh face washer, butterfly mobile or a teddy bear hot water bottle……every single week, a package arrived in our letter box in the USA from Sal in Australia! She will never know the absolute joy she gave Savannah when the big parcels arrived and I’ll never be able to repay her for that.

    A rag doll Sal sent of the many generous gifts she sent to our angel.

When Sal rang to say her sister Ann-Maree had died last week, I had to go for her!

Ann-Maree had cancer, she left an adoring husband, a son, a daughter and three grandchildren……….she was 56!

On average, I get to see Sal every four years, so this opportunity to support HER for once was a no brainer…..I was going.

The church in Melbourne was steel-grey, the courtyard shadowed not just from the mid morning sun, but from the many mourners who flocked there, dressed in their best black outfits. Groups huddled together, whispering and offering comfort to each other. I didn’t know anyone, just Sal and her family who I grew up with.

Then we spotted each other, and like long lost buddies do, we hugged until the air was squeezed out of both of us……”No tears Dee! No tears!” My friend said…..

After swapping laughter, I finally let go of her hand and watched her trail behind her brothers and sisters slowly up the steps into the church.

I took a deep breathe in and followed her.…

A coffin at the entrance to an alter…is there anything more symbolic to remind you to appreciate life?

The church was filled with the hush of mourners and sniffles and faces trying to be brave. Filtering in from outside was the muffled laughter of children, alive, from the neighboring school, playing during their recess break.

And it was during the touching eulogy Ann-Maree’s husband Mark gave I started to unravel.  Below is the poem he read.........

You can shed tears that she is gone

Or you can smile because she has lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come backOr you can open your eyes and see all that she’s left.

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her

Or you can be full of the love you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember her and only that she’s gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she’d want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on......Anonomous

My knuckles were white from holding the pew in front of me, and I tried my best not to unleash my tears by tying knots in my pink scarf. It didn’t work! Memories of Tarnia and Mum and Savannah’s funeral caved in on me. I wanted to flee but felt trapped. And I learnt in that moment, that I shouldn’t do funerals! I’m simply not strong enough yet.

But Friday wasn’t about me; it was about Sal, and celebrating Ann-Maree’s life!

After the touching service, in the courtyard the wind was howling, blowing dresses and tangling hair and sending a message to me, reminding me to breathe. Sal found me and we cried, I hugged her tight, told her I loved her and that I would see her at the Wake.

But sometimes when you are overcome with grief, you have to do what you have to do. I staggered to the safety of my car in my six inch stilettos, slammed the door and collapsed in tears. I couldn’t go to the Wake, I wasn’t strong enough. I couldn’t face everyone…...Sal!

Weak I know.

I started the car engine, grabbed some tissues and drove the two hours home……

 Sal and me when she came to visit the year before Savannah died.  She held Savannah in her arms for most of that visit!  Love you Sally Belle! x

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Opening Pandora's Box!

Do you ever wish sometimes you could avoid places, things or people that have a painful memory attached? I know I do.

Somedays, I pick my battles…..if I’m feeling strong then I’ll attempt whatever the task might be. And on days when I’m feeling kinda fragile, or like when I don’t want my happy mood ruined, I don’t do those things that I know will bring me unraveled.

Well, on the weekend I had one of those days, where I had to face some memories that I knew would be challenging and drag my mood down…..but it couldn’t be avoided.

We’ve had our old furniture, and ‘stuff’ (it’s the stuff that always gets me) stored away in an old barn, down here in the country. But the barn has been sold so we had one day to move it all out. I knew it would be like opening Pandora’s Box…..and it was!

We drove the hour away to a muddy block, littered with puddles and weeds where the old grey barn is….where our past had been stuffed into cardboard boxes, what's inside has been scrawled on top with black sharpies.  There were beds, a billiard table, mirrors, an old notice board, pinned with dusty photos of mum and Tarnia and Tone's wedding and…….Savannah’s stuff!

     One of the mirrors I dusted off from our old Sydney house.

And one of the things that struck me was how we do things all the time not thinking of the future….not aware of the fact that time doesn’t stand still….things change like the fashions and people die. And when we boxed up all our 'stuff'' we had no idea that Savannah wouldn’t be returning, enchanted with all her baby toys, plastic colored blocks and other things we carefully wrapped and stacked away. We thought we were coming back for it, all of us………………

Peter and Tone unlocked and pushed the heavy tin door open, a musty old smell hit me first and then there it’s was…our old life, right before my eyes. I took a deep breath in, knowing it was only a matter of boxes until I found something of Savannah’s.

And through grief, you do become resilient, strong sometimes, and sometimes that strength crumbles, over something as small as a crib blanket in a mouldy old cardboard box, nothing cushions those blows, not even the many feather filled ones I saw scattered around the barn that belonged to our beautiful cream sofa…ten years ago!

Under a tarp was more 'stuff'. Years ago, Peter had spent hours in our garage in Sydney when I was pregnant with Savannah. Meticulously building a beautiful wooden change table, cradle and high chair. He would rush home from work and disappear into the garage, shaving away the wood and shaping it into furniture with all his love. It was difficult to see her things and reflect on the unfairness of how our world has changed in that time……but that’s grief, and I was ready for it.

   Savannah as a beautiful baby taken on Peter's change table in Sydney.

You do learn to grow around your grief, to mould your life into something different.’ But unlike the spider webs that had grown and covered a lot of our things in the barn, that you can gently brush away….you can’t wipe away the webs of grief…..they don’t go away, ever. Grief continues to weave and intertwine in the corners of your life……you just learn to acknowledge it, pick your battles and embrace it some days. Like I did on Sunday.

I did grab a few things of Savannah’s that I couldn’t give away, throw out or leave behind. A small set of plastic dogs she loved that I remembered her playing with. I gave them to Demps, whose face lit up when I told her they belonged to her sister. And a soft fluffy mint green blanket that Mom had given me for Savannah. I still remember my delicate newborn swaddled in it. Dempsey saw it last night, hanging on the back of a chair here. She asked me a hundred and one questions about it! Asked me why the one Nannie bought for her wasn’t the same color and didn’t have the same toy figures printed on it. “Can I have it Mummy?” She asked. I told her I thought her sister would love that!

   Savannah's dogs....they are living in Dempsey's bed now :)

So today I washed the blanket, it’s flapping outside on our clothes line in the breeze……the plastic dogs I found scattered in Dempsey’s bed, she’s sleeping with them….. and the rest of the 'stuff' .....well, it's been re-stored in a shipping container or at the dump.

I had to let go of my child, say goodbye forever, but if some little memories can bring me a bit of peace, or comfort to Dempsey, then its silly not to hang onto them or to challenge a day where I know I will confront my emotions head on.

Savannah's blanket today flapping in the breeze on our clothes line.

As Peter slammed the barn door and we left grubby and tired after the purge, I did wonder where we’ll be and who will be with us when we next open those boxes. But until then, I’ll continue to highlight the things I value like memories and mementos that are simply priceless to me!

PS; Hours after I posted this I had to add this picture I just took tonight as I put Demps into bed...I told her I had a surprise and gave her Savannah's blanket...she grabbed it and wrapped herself up in her pink blanket my mum gave her and also her can see the happiness and comfort in her eyes....things like this pull at my heartstrings but also warm my soul so I had to share... :)


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thankful...Happy Aussie Thanksgiving! X


I’ve been surfing the web from Oz, checking in on my favorite blogs today. Most of them are from USA and almost all of them are talking about Thanksgiving and being thankful! I’m not an American, although I do feel a special affiliation with the Land of Liberty.

It’s been our home for the past ten years, and a lot happened during those years. Savannah spent her last months there….and Dempsey has blossomed into our precious girl in the days spent on their shores. So yes, America has been our glue some days, super glue,……that helped hold us together as a family, provided compassionate doctors and nurses we leaned on, and friends that were and will always be a huge factor in  surviving my grief. And when we did come unstuck, it was the people that were with us, in the grand ol US of A that were like thick mortar, keeping us cemented through some of the hardest days I’ve faced.

I’ll always feel like an adopted daughter of America….even though we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here in Australia.   I can’t relate to how special a day on the calendar it is to Americans! I can however, relate to how some people would’ve felt yesterday with empty chairs at their table that should’ve been filled with loved ones who have died.

We did enjoy one Thanksgiving while Savannah was sick. Peter bought a fresh turkey and I spent most of the morning standing at the sink, peeling potatoes and carrots to roast. Dempsey was only sixteen months old and we didn’t know it then, but Savannah only had two months left with us. That Thanksgiving Day threw us a curve ball though, with me clumsily tripping over Peter’s tool box with Ugg boots on….breaking my right leg in three places!

Needless to say, the turkey went uneaten and I spent the rest of the day in the ER, trying to escape back home to Savannah who was on hourly med’s and didn’t understand why some burly men in paramedic uniforms had kidnapped her Mummy on a steel gurney.

                       Savannah a few weeks before she died...I still had my plaster cast on....

However, camouflaged in the heavy plaster cast that stretched from my toes to my thigh, was a blessing that I couldn’t see that day…….

A friend pointed out that ‘maybe’ the Universe had other plans for me – that I was meant to be incapacitated and the broken leg wasn’t really an obstacle after all but a gift…..and as hard as it was to realize back then, everything 'sometimes' does happen for a reason! You see, I couldn’t move, couldn’t leave the house for weeks, couldn’t do anything but lie next to Savannah on her hospital bed or on our couch beside her. It turned out to be a very very special time during those final days of her short life. A coincidence?? I believe there’s no such thing.

For those last seven weeks I got to spend nothing but time with her….because of my broken leg. ….so when I think of Thanksgiving, I don’t think of turkeys and steaming sweet apple pies, but of that special gift of precious time with our daughter.  We never thought she would almost not survive Christmas with us that year.

Yesterday I did think of others, of some families I know who would’ve been suffering, of a sweet teenager in Spain who is missing her Mom and of the many people who’ve visited here trying to find comfort on their journey of grief……….

                               My sister's twins Emerald, Charlotte, Demps and me tonight!

Today, I’m thankful for the little things….like my sister’s twins who are having a sleep over with us tonight, wrapped up in their jammies…..thankfully they are alive! I’m thankful for the succulent roast lamb dinner we devoured tonight…..when there are so many people starving. For the rain that pounded our roof a few hours ago, providing much needed water to the local dairy farms…..and for some memories that will always be mine, of a Thanksgiving we had with our girl, a broken leg and the precious gift of time we should all be conscious of and thankful for!

                                Our roast lamb dinner tonight I'm thankful for!

                                The heavy shower of rain we got today!


Happy belated Thanksgiving...there's so so much to be thankful for! x


Monday, November 22, 2010

LOVE is actually all Oz! :)


Yes, we do have internet in Australia…despite being ‘down under’ and in the ‘outback’ as some people may think.  :)  I’ve just been too busy to blog.  Too busy with visitors that uplift my spirits and loving time from my family and friends….I’m in a bliss bubble at the moment, an effervescence pool of love!

It’s funny, before we left L.A I watched an old movie called “Love Actually.” During the opening scenes, Hugh Grant states – “Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaking suspicion... love actually is all around.”

It’s true; you can see unconditional love at an arrivals gate of an airport. After clearing customs, as we walked exhaustedly through the exit of our terminal at Melbourne Airport, in wrinkled clothing, with our baggage carts piled high with luggage, and Dempsey dragging her suitcase, Savannah's ashes safely in my bag.....I made a mental note to look around and watch strangers that were greeting their loved ones.

There were two little blonde girls, with a bright colorful sign with red crayon colored hearts for their father “Welcome Home Daddy” it said. They stood at the end of the barrier with grins and anticipation on their faces, checking each time the door slid open to see if their dad was next. There were two women hugging and crying, really hugging….I wondered what their tears were for? I noticed a young couple kissing, arms entwined, lost in each other. These were just a few travelers and their waiting loved ones I had the privilege of witnessing. The scene made me reflect on the power of love…….

There was no one there to greet us, just the warm Aussie sunshine, fresh air, and an empty rental car….and home, we are home! It is such an overwhelming feeling of thankfulness, a warm feeling that generates energy....a haven.   I luxuriate in love, like a warm bubble’s difficult to describe in words.

                                 The daisy's in bloom in our front yard

Peter stacked our car full of luggage. Dempsey was almost buried in the back seat, swamped by suitcases. But, she didn’t complain for the two hour trip south to our home away from home. And when we got there, to our little cottage, with the high cream picket fence and daisy’s blooming in the front yard, it was my time….my time to be hugged and showered with love from my family.

                      My first baby Oscar....we got him in 1995, funny, he's survived everything!

And I got my present, hugs from my dear Dad, Brenda, Tone and my sister’s four children. Even my fat old fluffy Persian cat Oscar was there to greet us. Dempsey and my sisters girls raided the dress up box.....and the boys had so much to say!

Yes, love is all around..…and it feels wonderful and warm, indulgent and powerful… I can do anything because of it.

                              Demps, Emerald, Charlotte and me playing dress ups!

The kids, oh the kids, they’ve grown so much, but the love is still there, an absolute bond that has been created that I don’t think will ever be broken through what we’ve all been through……..

The night we got home I lay my head on my pillow, the sheets cold and crisp and smelling of sunshine from the outside clothes line. I fell asleep with a smile….love is actually all around!   Maybe you can get your fix from family, or friends…or strangers? And if you can soak it up, it reminds you life really is a wonderful thing.

When I woke the next morning, there were magpies (a native Australian bird) gargling their early morning song outside my window, reminding me I was back in Oz…..yes, with all the challenging emotions I know I will face while I’m here….I’ve been give fuel through love to weather anything. :)

Sending warm Aussie sunshine to fill your cup if it's blue! x


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"Sunshine all the way!" :)


Sunshine all the way………………

That’s the forecast for our home town in Australia, and my mood! :)

Tomorrow night we board the gigantic jumbo jet that will ferry us from one side of the earth to the other…home, to Australia….to my Dad, my brother- in-law, my nephews, nieces and some very very special energy givers whom I don’t just call friends, but family…the family I’ve chosen for me!

It’s always a mixed mash of emotions when I leave the USA.  Dempsey doesn’t want to leave her friends, but is excited about being able to create magical fairy gardens in our enormous back yard and indulge in late night sleep overs with my sister’s twins, Emerald and Charlotte.  I love it too because I get a chance to tell them stories about their mum (my sister) when we were growing up.

      Me with Dempsey and my beautiful nieces Emerald and Charlotte in OZ! :)

I always feel a tangle of emotions as I close our door, hit the light switch and take one last peek inside our home in America.  I always feel I’m leaving Savannah’s spirit behind….she took her last breath in our lounge room and I always feel I’m deserting her when we leave…..weird I know!

She does come with us.  I carry her ashes in a royal blue box.  Peter carries her death certificate tucked behind our passports, in case we are asked what’s inside the pretty blue box?  We’ve only had this happen once amongst the chaos of the customs hall.  The official looking officer was very compassionate towards us, which I was thankful for.

I wish Savannah would be sitting next to me on the plane, wrapped in a United blanket, probably listening to an ipod for the fourteen hour slog across the pond. But I can’t leave her behind, her blue box sits safely inside my carry on bag......

                       My precious carry on luggage...Savannah's ashes

Its confronting to go ‘home'.  There’s the house where Mom died….it has a monstrous hedge growing around it, hiding the bedroom window where I said my final goodbyes to her.  I do think of her last days there when I drive past.  I wish I could drop by like I did and share a cup of tea and her positive warm love and laughter.

I adore Tarnia’s children, I love to throw my arms around them and squeeze them tight……….they usually let go first, except for Fraser.

   My nephews and nieces and Demps playing cricket in our yard in Oz...its a tradition now!

However, its always hard that first time I visit her house with little reminders of her around, and no her…. Her antique teacups, with roses on them, that she loved so much are still sitting above the kitchen shelf, where she placed them.  And her photo always smiles at me from inside the family room wall. It's heartbreaking to see Tone with the kids, and without my sister…..even though he does such an amazing job raring them on his own.  Yes, there’s little reminders everywhere.

And then there’s Dad, how I love my dad….he can be grumpy and fuddy duddy sometimes, but I still feel like his little girl when he wanders up our driveway with his shy smile.  His new wife Brenda is loving and I’m grateful for her warm embrace….but she’s not my mom……

     My special Dad and his new wife Brenda.

And so yes, it is a mixed bag of emotions to leave our ‘home’ here and travel over the oceans to Oz.  But it’s worth it.  Every long line up at the airport, security check, whining from Dempsey at how much longer….and the excitement, is all such a reward, my early Christmas present! :)

This year I’ll go to the cemetery and visit my sister’s grave…..its a wake up call to drive out there, to the lush green grass where she lays.  There will be more headstones added this year I’m sure, however, they have a way of making me feel alive and grateful…even if I do get sad that things can’t be different.

Think of me tomorrow night, as the big bird takes off into the dark heavens above.  You needn’t say a prayer though….I’ll be flying with angels! :)


Thursday, November 4, 2010

The miracle of a little 'HOPE'

I love running.  Especially the last two mornings.  Its Fall, so the mornings are dark now when I run.  The  neighborhood is just coming to life.  You can see the lights from inside the houses streaming through windows, a few garage doors are rolled up with cars idling inside…waiting for their owners.

At 6.30am this morning, with Rhianna blasting in my ears, compliments of my ipod, it was magical.  The moon was in one corner of the sky and the sun was starting to peep up over the horizon in the other.  I ran all the way back home to get my camera to snatch a photo of the moon, a crescent.  It reminded me of Savannah.  Whenever she saw one of those shaped moons she’d point at the sky and say “Look Mommy, the moon is broken!”

                        The crescent moon in our neighboorhood this morning!

My moon will always be broken because of her death.  Even though I’ve managed to stitch part of it up, through love and ‘hope’.  However it will always be damaged, a piece forever missing.  And it’s when I get to have some alone time, like when I run, I get to think about life and Savannah.  It’s healing therapy. (And works off all the chocolate I consumed over Halloween. :))

After Savannah died sometimes I tried to run from my emotions, my demons…..from my life.  Some days I pounded the pavement with tears streaming down my face, the haunting thoughts of Savannah’s suffering everyday was horrible.  However, this morning as I watched the sun rise on the horizon, I breathed in the cool morning air and thought how every day is a new dawn of hope.  And how when Savannah was alive everyday revolved around those four powerful little letters…..‘HOPE!’

Hope and fear go hand in hand I think.  If you are scared about a situation that ‘may’ happen you will also have hope.  A faith that your fears won’t materialize, and, hope for a solution if they do.  How does one foster hope

In my experience through losing my sister, mom and daughter, I think that hope is a mysterious miraculous thing that we human beings are capable of…..even when times or circumstances are implausible….like when we were told Tarnia had been killed…or that Savannah would die, or that my mom wouldn’t see Christmas with us ever again.

Is hope built into our core, through genetics, from that spontaneous moment you are conceived?  Is it learned from your parents….or a loved one?  Or is it a wonderful ingreedient mixed into our soul…..deep in our being, that’s invisible…almost like an imaginary armor we have that appears when a situation seems hopeless or desperate.  Like magic, it kicks in.  Yes, hope gives us the courage to keep believing that the future ‘may’ be brighter or better.

In spite of everything with Savannah, even after we knew we couldn’t save her life, we had hopeHope for a good day for her, like when we would take her to a park and feed the ducks stale bread.  Then we'd place her big blue reclining chair on a slippery slide and watch her gift us with her incredible smile.  She’d lost her voice by then, but she’d make happy giggly noises that nourished my soul.  I hoped she felt like any other little girl in the park, enjoying the warm sun on her face.  Yes, hope is food for our spirit and strengthens our foundations to face sometimes, the impossible.

    Savannah in her big blue recliner at our park with her Daddy, feeding the ducks!

Everyone’s hopes are different, it may be something simple like hoping you’ll get that car space at Walmart, or hoping those jeans you haven’t worn since March still fit.  Or like like some of us…hope that the tears will stop….just for a day.

What is your hope?  Hope for a good day,  for laughter?  To get through some hours when you think you can’t?  Hope for something good to come out of something bad?  Hope to stay strong?  Hope to live?  Hope that life will stay the way it is….or change?  Hope that there will be more tomorrows…like today, or not?

My beautiful Dad always says “Life is as clear as mud sometimes!” It throws us all sorts of challenges and rewards, mixed together…like a big mud pie.  And when we face some of these 'unknowns' in life, its hope that helps us fight those battles.

At the end of my run this morning, I noticed a beautiful big bird in the sky, with two engines….and a little orange light blinking behind it…..destination unknown.   I looked up into the heavens, wishing I was on that plane, flying home to my family, but hoping the next six days fly by until then. :)

   I wonder where they are going?

Each day the universe gifts us with another precious day.....filled with the miracles of life......and always, alway, HOPE! x

PS;  When Dempsey was born we  chose her middle name to be was and continues to be my savior Demps! :)


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"I am ALIVE!" ........appreicating life!


Horoscopes are funny things. I always look to see what mine says but often don’t agree with what I read. However the one below, which was in the L.A times on the weekend jumped out at me.

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 23): The world you call normal is very different from what another person routinely experiences.

It is true, the world I call normal is different from most of my friends….and I hate that somedays….I am envious sometimes of what others have, their mom, all their siblings and of course their children, all in one piece, complete families…….

It’s helpful to be reminded over and over that there’s others who have suffered loss and rediscovered ‘life’ through grief and survival.  Other’s that also trudge through hardship some days, like a lead weight is tied to their heart.

Over the weekend, I watched a documentary on the History Channel which made me realize that what I’ve learnt through my losses has given my life new meaning……..even if it is um different. 

I wanted to share what I got out of the program to help any of you reading and searching for help….or hope!
The two hour doco was called “I am ALIVE!” It was about an Argentinian rugby team who survived a plane crash in the remote Andes mountains in 1972.

     A photo of the crash site taken by the survivors.....

With forty-five souls on board, the plane plummeted into a snowy mountainside where there was no life.  No food.  No water.  Just the survivors, surrounded by the skeleton of half the plane, death and hopelessness.

After ten days they began to eat the flesh from the deceased bodies, to stay alive…..something I couldn’t even contemplate.  But you do what you have to sometimes in order to survive.

During the seventy two days, they were stuck in freezing conditions and watched in horror as others perished from their injuries…..eight more were suffocated from an avalanche until finally, two of the remaining 16 men decided to hike out and try to find help to rescue those remaining……and amazingly they did….and the story gave me goosebumps.  I was inspired and fascinated...glued to the T.V.

While engrossed in the show, I realized that the theme and feelings of the survivors are the same for anybody….despair, suffering, lack of hope, resilience, depression…and grief, however, most important of all is how the human spirit through love can overcome….almost anything.

During the interviews with some of these remarkable human beings, are some compelling lessons and pieces of wisdom that I have to agree with.  One of the men, Nando Parrado,who walked forty miles over the desolate snow ridden Andes mountains to freedom said while on the mountain, facing death, he reflected on his life and what became important to him…… in his words…..”What simple things we need to be happy and how we demand lot’s more than we need in life!” I found myself nodding my head at the T.V.

We do sometimes get caught up in what we THINK is important, like money or possessions….instead of the little joys in life we often overlook.  Things for me like an all encompassing hug from a friend, or when Dempsey tells me with a cheeky smile, “I love you MORE Mommy!”  Yes, those things can’t be purchased. The tiny fragments of life and love…..those moments are what helps me realize how lucky I am.

     The ocean and Dempsey...two things I love and appreciate in this world!

Nando Parrado’s dearly loved mother and sister were killed in the crash.  Months after he got back to civilization he said the experience gave him a different philosophy on life because of what he'd learned through his grief…..“Rather than grieve and completely shut down, why not revel in life. Why not revel in the fact that I survived this.  I will take advantage of this life I have to do the things I love rather than not do anything at all." he said.

What an amazing outlook and spirit!  It’s people like Nando Parrado and this story of survival that fosters my spirit and strength.  Another example of what we, as survivors can do and how you should never give up or give in….sometimes we are rescued by old friends…or new, beloved family members, alive…or not.  And sometimes it’s hearing someone else’s story that feeds our will to take what we discover from grief and grow as a person to get to a place where life suddenly means so much more than it did.

I am a survivor, not of a plane crash but of losing loved ones whom I miss everyday.  And like these men, every step taken is a step…one step forward or two steps back……it IS a step.  And when grieving, that’s what we need to do, take baby steps…….forward and integrate your grief into your new life.  You've already chosen survival!

There are signposts along the way to tell you you’re on the right track.  Emotions that seem like mountains to climb and navigate through.  Brick walls you come up against.  Tears and questions you stumble through, but eventually you come to a place of acceptance, like a fork in the road, and your handicap can become an advantage….as in, you understand now how precious life is.  And like a seed that sprouts new growth, so will you.  One day you will blossom and use what you learned through your journey of survival into appreciation and love of every little thing.

I’d like to leave you with Nando Parrado’s last comment on the show, in a huge beaming smile he said “Life is simpler than it looks, love is the most important thing…love for our families kept us ALIVE!”

                                   The book written about the Andes Miracle

I can’t wait to read the book!


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Surviving Halloween and the holidays when grieving!

Yesterday, while driving home from Dempsey’s school, a little voice from the back seat screamed, “Look Mommy!”

It appears as if overnight, the houses in our neighborhood have been transformed into grave yards for Halloween. “Please can we take a look Mommy, PLEASE!” Dempsey begged. We took a small detour and I was amazed at what I saw. (note; We don’t celebrate Halloween in Australia).

Front yards have had extreme makeovers, looking more like something from the ‘Twilight’ movie than suburban dwellings. Lawns have been blanketed with creepy grey headstones, skeletons are hanging from garage doors and fake spider webs float in the breeze. Dempsey loved it!

      One of the houses in our neighboorhood, decorated for Halloween

I know it’s all make-believe stuff, however, it does make me wonder how people who are in the thick of their grief must feel when they drive past these haunted houses?

I’m sure it must rattle them as it did me, as it’s a reminder of death. I’m curious if they have to hide their shadow of sadness or if they can see it for what it is? Just a holiday…to some….an excuse to dress up and suffer from another case of a sick stomach from eating too much gooey candy.

As a grieving person, you really are a sitting duck during the holidays. You have to tackle reminders and emotions that you have no choice but to deal with. Things like those headstones and families in high spirits when you might feel down in the dumps……along with memories of past joyful occasions. These threaten to destabilize you and lure you back into a depressed frame of mind. It’s a hard time of year. And it’s normal to feel sad.

Holidays can be tough, you can’t just tick a box, ‘choose’ option number one “Be Happy!” Sometimes the multiple choices can be limited on special days.

I remember Savannah’s first and only Halloween. She only got to enjoy one during her time with us in America. Her nurse Marlene happily provided her with a witches black cloak, a massive hat and straw broom. Demspey was only a baby, but we squeezed her into the cutest orange giraffe outfit.

      Our Angel Savannah dressed as a witch

Savannah was so sick, in the terminal stages of her disease, but I still remember the gracious smile on her face as we carefully dressed her frail body in the costume. She was grateful to be just like one of the other kids that knocked on our door that night. I have that one memory…..and I find now memories can bring you comfort at this time of year. Sometimes, that’s all we have……….

The temptation is there, to give in and wallow, and sometimes it can’t be helped. But if you’re ready for it, for the emotions, you can try to embrace the day, or whatever comes with it and not be afraid….

I can try to shift my thoughts, into positive ones, and hope I will get an injection of appreciation, inspiration and smiles through the sparkle in my eight year old daughters green eyes. And not wonder what my missing child would’ve chosen as her Halloween outfit.

So on the 31st, I’ll actually look at the headstones in the yards as reminders to celebrate that I am alive…..and so is Dempsey. That we get to carve a design on a bright orange pumpkin, scoop out the sweet sticky seeds and focus on the happy smiling faces that will be parading down our street in different attire.

    Dempsey looking like the pumpkin at Halloween a few years ago :)

I think I’ll decorate our front door with flowers instead of skeletons… hope of welcoming some familiar spirits into our house instead of scaring them away. Maybe my Mom or my Sister or Savannah will be around, watching to see I’m surviving and living life the way they would want to if they were here.

I’ll raid Dempsey’s plastic pumpkin head that will be full of treats and eat too much chocolate to make me feel good!

This year I won’t wear a costume, I think I’ll just scare everyone and just ‘be me.’ Happy, sad, glad or wherever the mood takes me……holidays can be like that!

     Peter as the Joker, me as Catwoman and Demps as Little Bo Peep at a Halloween party last year....I think there is a clear ORB near Dempsey's heart and I think it was Savannah's spirit captured on film, wishing she was dressed up with us as a family!


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Another's perspective on multiple loss and learning to live!

It’s funny, but after you lose loved ones you become somewhat hungry and obsessive for other people’s stories of survival through grief.

I’m inspired by others who’ve walked in similar shoes to me…..down this lonely road, in bright red stilettos, or dirty work boots, scuffed runners or flip flops.  I listen to their journey with a heavy heart as I pick their brain.  I hope to discover some magical device to hide in my tool box, to help me on my hard days.

My friend Heidi has given me food for thought. She’s an advocate for ‘living and loving ‘life!’ This is her story………


I still remember the first time I met Heidi.  I’d been told a lot about this pretty petite honey blond who drove big rig’s for Peter’s company for a living.

How you can often find her at a testosterone fuelled truck stop, with her cab door open, quietly turning a box of beads into a new bracelet.  She must be a sight…….amongst the sweaty, greasy men that usually drive these road dragons.  I bet, actually, no I’m sure, most people look twice when they see her.  I can picture the men falling out of their chairs in the roadside diner’s when she wanders in.

    Heidi in the drivers seat of her big rig!

Heidi has worked as a prison guard on death row and lived in Japan as a charming hostess.  And as intriguing as all those things are, the reason I was excited to meet her was because we share a common bond. Heidi, like me has lost quite a few family members.

You wouldn’t know she’s been through a heat breaking childhood.  She has a magnetic personality, someone who makes you feel good about yourself…that you want to be around and call ‘a friend’.  With a thick smoldering southern accent that’s as warm as a cup of hot chocolate on a freezing night…..that first night I met her, we created our own magic little bubble, oblivious to anyone else.

We talked non-stop about life and those we’ve lost….and I learned back in 1985, Heidi’s adored Mother, who was only forty-two, and her twenty year old brother were killed in the Aerlex Factory Fireworks explosion in Tulsa. Heidi had only left the factory ten minutes before…..she was fifteen.

She told me one thing that stuck in her mind from that day was bright yellow curtains.  It’s funny how we remember the tiniest details isn’t it?  She recalls being inside her school, about to paint the walls for some pocket money during Summer break.  She remember’s the sheer yellow curtains being blown open from the force of the explosion miles away.  And she says, like a sixth sense, she just knew what had happened……in that instant her life changed.

      Heidi's adored Mom!

The next few years Heidi went on a downward spiral, angry at those around her after the deaths.  She longed for her Mom and hated people saying “God must’ve needed her” amongst other things.  She said it took years to get over her bitterness that her Mom wasn’t coming back!

Its’ been twenty-five years since her Mother and brother died tragically, and she says she still misses her Mom.  She wishes she could remember what she smelt like and that she could picture her without having to look at a faded photograph….however, she told me with a shaky voice, that she does remember how soft her hair was…….

And just a month ago she lost her Dad to cancer.  Heidi and her sister Hazel nursed him until he died, holding his hand as he left this earthly place.

                                       Heidi's Mom and Dad...

She said after he died she grappled with the fact that no matter how hard she had tried to keep her father alive, encouraging him to eat, giving him endless massages etc, he lost his battle.  In the dead quiet of the night, on her own, she realized she had been defeated.  That she is alone and that no-one will ever be there to have her back like her Dad did…… look out for her the way a parent does.

Her words and opinion made me reflect on when my Dad dies….she is right.  A parents love is unconditional, every other relationship can be severed….except for the love of a mother or a father. Heidi broke down when explaining this part of losing her Dad to me.  I haven’t stopped thinking about it since!

So I asked her, what helped her become strong… she converted her anger and sadness into appreciation and survival?  I had to smile at her answer, "Well Dee, my Mother was an amazing woman!  I believe its how I was brought up, how she raised me.  That you don’t dwell on the bad things. You deal with the cards you are dealt with and make the best of it.”

And after sharing a raw, real conversation about loss and life with her, where all bullshit had been abandoned at hello….I asked her through my tears, “Do you still get sad Heidi?”

She said she does…..maybe ten times a year now, however, if she picks at the scab she can make it bleed again….it’s all just below the surface.  She told me “Life doesn’t care Dee, it will drag you along with it….you might as well be happy.  You have to do it youself” (She has my kinda attitude! :))

We both agreed that we grab the good out of life now.  That even though we are always waiting for the other shoe to drop, it’s made us aware of just how important it is to celebrate ‘today.’

Talking with Heidi made me realize there’s others out there like me, that I’m not alone….there are people that struggle some days to walk through the dark tunnel grief creates…however she left me with some powerful thoughts to ponder over.

“Dee, when you turn the lights on, the monsters are gone! They only live in the dark……….”

                            Heidi holding the sun :)

Love you Sis and thanks for sharing!