Darkness and light

by Veronica on June 24, 2014

in Cancer, Grief, Headfuck

Five years ago, we clustered around a bed in a palliative care ward, waiting. Holding hands, talking, but mostly, waiting.

It didn’t take long in retrospect, although the hours felt interminable, waiting for the next breath to come, the death rattle heavy in the room.

Until the next breath didn’t come and it was over. Months of appointments, of waiting, of saying goodbye over and over, culminated in one sharp moment when it stopped.

And then we all breathed again and had to go on without her. She stopped, but we failed to stop with her, and the hole of her leaving grew bigger as we missed her.

The first sign: wild ducks fleeing, circling frantically overhead like a crowd of mismanaged school children, no one sure where to go next. They hide in the trees and fall silent.

Not a bird in the sky, until we look closer, and see them, circling. Hunting maybe, or courting.

Round and round the eagles go, my eyes spotty from looking up at the bright sky, a cup of tea warm and heavy in my hands. The undersides of their wings glint gold in the sunlight, bright enough to make my eyes tear up as I look away.

We watch until they disappear over the horizon.

The crows return first, flying over, cawing their life loudly. Then the sparrows. A rosella. Our neighbours pigeons.

Life goes on, even with the shadow of death hanging over us.

Forty minutes to make three kilos of soap. Twenty minutes standing outside. Ten minutes reading. Today is broken up into blocks of minutes as we count down.

For a moment, everything will stop.

And then I’ll draw breath again and on we’ll go, into our sixth year without her.

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June has stolen all my words

by Veronica on June 21, 2014

in Grief, Headfuck

After five years, it feels strange to come to this place, here, and talk about grief. About how it changes, and yet doesn’t. About how grief never leaves you, the great whistling hole through your centre never closes right over.

Grief is grief is grief.

Missing someone never quite stops. Things happen and I wish, I wonder, I want.

It’s been almost five years and I don’t have words anymore.

A series of events conspired to send me into a place mentally I haven’t been for a while. I feel raw, the bandaids torn off with no warning. I think about writing and stop. Turn away. Do something else.

Do you really want to write about that? Open yourself up for more judgement?

I don’t know.

I’m tired. I’m tired of feeling like I need to defend my life, my choices, my right to be here.

On Stateline last night, a family of acrobats twisted and twirled through the air, circus tricks and stunt work. They glossed over the fact that the house has no running water, limited solar power, there’s no money. Focus instead on the happiness, the family togetherness, the joy that living an honest life brings.

I watched and I laughed and laughed, feeling a kinship with a family I’ve never met.

How dare we be happy. How dare we choose a life outside of the suburban normal, nine to five, a salary and prospects of more debt to keep up with people we don’t like.

How very dare we.

I can see them, the unhappy people, hiding in the corners here, judging, waiting and watching like a dog waiting to be thrown a bone.

I’m disabled, I have to right to happiness. I ought to be miserable, a loser in the genetic lottery.

But really, I wonder, why does the life of one small Tasmanian family offend them so much?

It’s all tied to grief, to missing, to yearning. Someone came in and stomped around, tore down my walls; my defences. I need a thicker skin.

Maybe then I wouldn’t feel so sick when I think about writing about my life still.

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Death, and similarities.

by Veronica on December 27, 2013

in Evelyn, Grief

The hardest thing about my grandmother dying, if you ignore the loss of our matriarchal support system, is that I can see her in my children and she is not here to see herself in them.

Evelyn Kathleen was named after both Nathan’s grandmother (Evelyn) and my grandmothers (Lyn and Kathleen), and I can see them in her. Especially my grandmother Lyn.

Death is a multi-layered thing. There is grief and grieving, loss and missing. It changes, warps and moves, and sometimes I am still struck low by just how much I miss her.

Our Christmas was low key. Original plans fell out of the window when all three children fell sick just before the big day, so we cancelled and stayed home. It was a good decision, albeit a hard one to have to make. The children spent a lot of time doing nothing, and being unwell.

Evelyn’s eyes are finally settling on the colour they will be. A piercing blue green, I see my grandmother in them. Same colour, same curls. And maybe, you think I am looking extra hard, because she died too soon and missed this third great-grandchild of hers. Maybe you’re right.

But then I see photos of Nan as a baby, and I know I’m not wrong.

I miss her, a lot.

Christmas is hard when your family is missing giant parts of itself.

I asked Mum today if she would hunt up the photos of Nan as a baby and send them to me so I could share them.





We think the final photo is our Aunty Joan holding Nan. My grandmother, Kathleen is on the right in the second photo. Joan was her sister.

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Bittersweet Spring

by Veronica on August 30, 2013

in Evelyn, Grief

It’s nearly Spring and I am holding on by the skin of my teeth. I’ve been poking the fruit trees, hoping that my attention will make them bud and blossom faster. It’s not working. We filled two above ground gardens that Nathan made out of old water tanks. I planted beetroot, onions, chard and chamomile and thanked the previous owner for leaving his rubbish behind. Ruined water tanks make great gardens.

Evelyn has learned to screech like a banshee and she does this every time things don’t go her way. My baby is turning into a toddler, full of feelpinions and angst. She tried to breastfeed upside down, her hands clutching at my nipple and her body contorting into wonderfully strange positions.

Oh I thought. Is this where we’re up to? Upside down breastfeeding and biting. I remember this.

Nostalgia filled me briefly, for these moments with Amy, when she was small and her opinions were small also. What shoes to wear, what cup she wanted, whether carrots or apples were better. Now I am traversing new terrain, fielding questions like “Is it better to be skinny?” and “Why are some people so mean?” and “Why do things have to die?”

No and I don’t know and it hardly seems fair, does it.

My grandmother’s cat died, on the road that has claimed too many of my animals. All the fencing in the world won’t keep the road from impinging on my life and here we are, another animal down, yet again. I felt guilty for my relief that she was dead, for the calm that came over the other cats. She was a bitchy cat, prone to purposely swiping at your face just for looking at her. Now she’s gone and I’m vaguely sad because it feels like the connections to my grandmother are slipping away, slowly and surely.

Evelyn’s hair curls and reminds me of a photo taken of my grandmother at the same age. I wonder how far the similarities will carry and it’s bittersweet to see Evelyn looking like this.

Spring is coming and the emotion I pushed down in the depths of Winter is coming with it, but that’s okay. I can deal with anything when there are blossoms, a baby who wants to breastfeed upside down and the warmth of sunshine on my skin.

Evelyn 13 months


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Farewell Kathleen

by Veronica on May 4, 2013

in Grief

My great-grandmother passed away early yesterday morning after a short illness. She will be dearly missed.

Nan and Evelyn

Go in peace Nan.


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