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


  1. Hey Diana!

    I love that poem. I have been having a hard time today, so I think I needed to be reminded that my mom would want me to be happy. That poem is very comforting.



  2. Hi Liz,

    I'm glad you got something out of that poem...I know I did too when I heard it. I know both our moms would want us to be nothing but happy and living life as they would if they were here.

    Sending you a big Aussie hug in Spain!
    diana x

  3. 'Oh heart, if one should say to you that the soul perishes like the body, answer that the flower withers, but the seed remains.' ~Kahlil Gibran
    Sharing your pain Diana as you try to come to terms with the untimely loss of Sally's sister. I love the verse that was read. You were so very brave to attend the funeral service and I feel sure your 'best' friend knew how difficult it was for you.
    I surprise myself at times when I find that I am unable to put my thoughts on paper. Somehow sorrow overcomes me when I try to imagine what it was like for you.
    Let me say simply: May Ann-Maree rest in Eternal Peace and may you find the strength to allow treasured memories to find their way to a peaceful heart.
    Sending all my love xo

  4. Dear Chez,

    Thank you for your lovely words of support and wisdom.....the quote is beautiful and reminds me of my mum who loved the song "The Rose." The seed will always remain as does the longing for those gone.

    Thank you too for sending love, it's a hard time of year for anyone grieving and I know you must be feeling pain too so I'm sending love to you for the coming weeks.

    With love
    diana x

  5. Please be kind to yourself, Diana. Experiencing an overwhelming flood of pain doesn't mean you are weak. It means you are human. It means you allow yourself to feel the full force of whatever emotions show up instead of suppressing them, whether grief or joy. No doubt your best friend knows this about you, and loves you for it.

    I love your metaphor of the wind reminding you to breathe. Keep breathing deeply. And keep living fully. Hugs, Michelle

  6. Dear Michelle,
    Thanks for your expert advice. You hit the nail on the head perfectly when you said "experiencing an overwhelming flood of pain"...for thats what it is. Like someone was trying to pull my heart out of my chest. I don't think that will ever go away...I know I just have to sometimes suck it up and get through it. My beautiful mum always said "Tomorrow will be a better day" and it was.

    I did speak to Sal that night and she was more than understanding as you suggested.

    Thank you for stopping by, for your honest advice and for leaving a comment. It means a lot to me... :)
    with love
    diana x

  7. Hi Diana, Thank you for visiting my site. I've read some of your posts & I'm so sad for you - so many losses! I wanted to echo what Michelle said - having emotions is NOT weakness! I was raised to believe that & it almost killed me - I was suicidal for decades until I found a consistent outlet for all the pain I had been sitting on.

    I'm 64 & among many good things in my life, I also have asthma & Fibromyalgia, which makes getting around very hard. Both my parents are gone.
    In 1992 my apartment burned down around me but I got out in one piece. It may not seem so bad, & it's not, compared to loosing a child. But for complex reasons to do with losses in my background, it devastated me.

    There were insensitive people who thought they were helping by saying things like "At least you're alive", "You can always get a new cat"... - but the pain was so great that I didn't want to be here. It took 5 yrs to recover.

    The most painful interchange I had about the experience was with my 'sensitive' dad, who only said: "So, what did you learn?" The most precious was the call with a girlfriend to tell her we'd finally found my other cat, dead under a pile of books - & she started to cry - with me!

    My heart goes out to you. Please let yourself cry as much as you can, as often as you want - in some safe place! I hope you encourage others to do so, as well.

  8. Dear Donna,

    Thanks for your comment and for stopping by and for sharing your experience and compassion.

    I do cry....usually in private though. I think if I had've let out my sobbing emotions sitting in that quiet church they would've sent in some men in white coats for me. :)

    I also encourage people to cry and let out their pain, it is the only way to heal as I think tears are a way of letting out the hurt. I always feel better afterwards. I know it's also normal to feel the way I did at the funeral, I just didn't think and wasn't ready to react with such intensity.

    with appreication
    diana x