Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bitter or Better? Lessons on my sister's birthday!

Today is my sister’s birthday. Tarnia will forever be 39 years old. She never got to celebrate her 40th birthday!

While writing this blog outside on this warm May morning, I noticed a tiny whispy feather trapped in some dry grass that had blown up to our door. It was trapped like all of us are on this grief journey, however, I smiled when I saw it.  A message from Tarnia today I’m sure!

The tiny whispy feather I spotted this morning..a message from my sister?

There are deep-seated messages and lessons I’ve learned from her death that today, I reflected on.

As I poured boiling water into my tea this morning the steam from the kettle blended with the tears in my eyes. “Happy Birthday Tarnia” I said to myself. And the word that popped into my head to describe her not being here…. “unfair.” And it is unfair and unjust…but those emotions can lead to feeling bitter. And that’s not how Tarnia would want me to be….with a slip of a vowel; I can choose to turn bitter into better instead!

To be a better aunt, a better sister, a better wife, a better daughter, a better friend and a better Mum to Dempsey. To be better at being aware of just how lucky I am to be here!

To be better at relishing in each day instead of wasting it or complaining about trivial stuff. Like the other night….I sat and eavesdropped at a party as two friends obsessed over how many calories are in peanut butter!! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, and I wanted to say “Be grateful you can enjoy bloody peanut butter!”

Tarnia's 4 beautiful babes!

It is unfair that this morning her twin girls won’t climb into her bed beside her for a cuddle. Or that Fraser can’t pick a bunch of sweet smelling roses from her garden for her, as he does for me now. Oh, and how she’d be smiling, listening in awe about the naughty goings on Alexander has been up to in his first semester of University down in the big smoke. And Tone, who’s left with the mess and only memories and an empty side of the bed.

And my Dad….today, I told him I was thinking of him…he just thanked me, as Peter probably will with Dempsey one day when its her sisters birthday. Yes, it’s difficult not to be bitter…. Nonetheless, I do look at her death on her special day as a reminder to me to “be better!”

Tarnia and Tone

The loss of a loved one rips you apart, but time can be an amazing ally. Like a therapist….it allows us an interlude where slowly, every so slowly, piece by piece, time puts the majority of you back together. Even though your core is different, you can become better because of it. Like a jigsaw puzzle, where all the pieces finally fit back together, and you can clearly see the big picture. However, with my puzzle there will always be one impossible piece that will never fit. A renegade chunk that can be bitter and it IS a constant battle to stop that part of the puzzle from changing me into someone I don’t want to be. And neither would my sister!

I bet if I could have one last conversation with her, if she knew that it would be the last…she would say, “Diana, love my kids. Look after Tone. Laugh a lot. Take care of Dad. And kiss your babies” and that’s the better bit….because of that, I strive to be better.

So today, it is her birthday, but I feel like I have been given a gift. A gift to realize and appreciate and never never forget to be happy, to love my loved ones with gusto and to be a BETTER person! Tarnia was always smiling, and she’d want that for me too!

Happy Birthday Tarnia and thank you…you will always be my big sister……and, I will always miss you. x



  1. Wonderful post. Never a day goes by when I don't think of her. My sister in law who was around before I was born... So i guess she is almost a second sister. Her children are beautiful memories of her we can cherish and nuture. I will send you a gorgeous pic of Emmie that reminds me so much of her. I took it at easter. Warming herself infront of the fire with her legs crossed, watching and observing her surrounds.
    Love KT x

  2. Diana, I am unsure if you have my comment as it 'disappeared'
    I will keep an eye out.

  3. Many Happy Returns of the day Tarnia. You are being thought of in a very special way as we celebrate 'YOU.'
    The white feather is definitely a sign that Tarnia is with you Diana. Wow! A lovely post; beautifully written.
    My love to you all xo

  4. Katie,

    THANK YOU! It is so sad that the kids don't have their Mum who would've adored them....but she does have us, her Auntys! x

    Thank you for the photo of Emerald, you have captured a piece of Tarnia in the image...she would be so proud...I can almost hear her.

    Thanks for leaving this comment, I know you love the girls very much...I miss them, so thanks for the photo, it is beautiful!

    D x

  5. Dear Chez,

    Thanks for your lovely msg and for your well wishes to Tarnia. I'm sure she was around yesterday.

    I know you understand how hard birthdays can be, for us, that are left behind, we have to find some positive msg in the senselessness of it all.

    Love to you, you are in my thoughts always,
    Diana x

  6. Those children are blessed to have you as their Auntie, Diana. I'm adding my voice to yours in sending happy birthday wishes to your precious sister ♥

  7. Awwww Marty, Thank you!

    Thank you for the birthday wishes to Tarnia...

    You are right, sisters are precious, it took her death to realize what I took for granted. I miss the conversations we would've had these days and the support she would've given me because our Mum isn't here. I will always pine for that.

    Sending love to you Marty and thanks for stopping by.

    Diana x

  8. What a beautiful post! Your outlook on life is so inspiring taht is why you are a survivor. Thank you for this post. I have been stressed as my pregnancy is not going perfectly, but this post reminds me that attitude is everything!!

  9. Oh and of course, Happy Birthday Tarnia!!!

  10. Candice,

    Thanks for leaving a message for Tarnia.

    I've found with anything in life, attitude drives true in my case and I know in yours with your little one, and of course the precious cargo you are carrying.

    Next time you get stressed ask yourself if whatever it is thats causing the stress will matter in a year, or 6 months time...usually its not worth it. :) Well it works for me anyway.

    I hope whats causing the stress will fix itself for you...being pregnant is such a miracle. I'll be thinkinig of you.

    With love
    Diana x

  11. Diana,
    I can't begin to tell you how much comfort I've gotten from your words. I lost my younger sister last year, and your post brought me great peace. Last month, my sister would have turned 20 years old... and I still can't believe she's gone. I feel like every day has been a learning experience to stop and take a breath; to look around and give thanks for the gifts I have; to hug the ones I love a little tighter and make every day count. You have such a positive outlook, and even though I know that you still struggle, I just wanted you to know that you've brought great comfort to someone who needed it very badly.


  12. Dear Nicole,

    I often wonder how you are going...its good to hear you are moving forward in your journey without your sister... I hope my posts help you know you aren't alone....I miss my sister too.

    Thank you for your words of appreciation and of encouragement, they are fuel for me to keep writing if my journey can bring comfort to another.

    So THANK YOU Nicole, your words are comfort to me today.

    Keep smiling!
    Diana x