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... :)