Listen To Your Heart.

The last 5 months have been very tough for me.  There has been much interstate travel (which I am getting better at), changes in my work status, more ill-health than is manageable, injury and of course the necessary move of my *MIL out of her home of 30 years, into a Nursing Home and the subsequent declining of her health and finally her death.

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The last time I saw my MIL. Such a happy pic!

Pleasingly, to me, I have not fallen into an immediate heap, as has been the normal pattern of behaviour for me – especially when things stop!  I have, however, felt the desire for a servant in my home; the yearning for a beautiful garden to lift my flagging spirit; the urge to eat everything custard (but not banana custard, Mum) for every meal; and for friends and family to magically appear when I want company and disappear when I don’t!

I spoke to my Psychologist, yesterday, about how I was feeling guilty because I have not yet cried at the death of my much-loved MIL.  I simply feel relief, tinged with just a little anger!

I feel relief because I no longer have to worry that she is being cared for properly.  I feel relief that she is no longer in pain.  I feel relief that I no longer have to put on my crisis mask and manage all the stuff …. I feel relief that I no longer need to feel helpless to make MIL happy and fulfilled with her life.  I feel relief at no longer feeling responsible when myself or my boys didn’t contact her as much as we should.  She was so easily made happy with a phone chat.

And angry …. because MIL is gone to be with God and I am still here wading through the mire that is my life.  I’m angry at  cancer because it took my husband and left me to do all the necessary stuff for his Mum.  F u cancer!  I feel angry because there is one less person who really knew Adrian, that I can talk too.

But I have not fallen in a heap, so that’s good – right?

My Psychologist simply said that  it was now time to take care of myself for a little while.  To be kind to my inner person as I had been doing to my MIL.  To find those things that nurture my spirit and soothe my body and mind.

So I visited Madders Brothers Patisserie and bought a red velvet delight topped with a macaron – that surely soothed my body!

Red velvet

On returning home, I lit my Verona candle from Glasshouse Fragrances.

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Later I got my Mindfulness Colouring Book and did some therapeutic colouring in.

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And then there is always this ……

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Fev is the softest, smoochiest, purriest, heart soother I have!!

I also, read blogs that inspire me – check any featured on my list of Blogs to Read (on the right of my page).  I, also have been known to be nourished by words and quotes. So here are a few of my favourite ones –

smile tickle more beautiful cry because

listen

What do you do to nurture yourself?

*MIL = mother-in-law

#istandformercy

As I woke this morning, my first thoughts went directly to the executions that took place in Indonesian overnight.  It was over!  We had failed!  The Australian men were dead, as were six other foreign nationals.  Deep down I always thought failure was to be the final achievement and death the final act.  But, still I hoped and prayed for it to be different.  It wasn’t.

My heart is filled with pain, not for Andrew Chan & Myuran Sukumaran , because they are now in God’s arms – but for the people all over the world, that still see the death penalty as a viable option.  The governments and regimes that use sanctioned murder as a justification to score political points around the world.

I am not naive.  I understand that governments have the right to run their countries as they see fit.  They put clear warnings at their airports for foreign travellers.  I realise that, the so-called Bali Nine, were drug traffickers and the two dead men were the ringleaders that had threatened violence and harm to the family members of the other seven.  I know that the death penalty goes on in other parts of the world – all the time – without me focussing on it.

Before I stopped reading blog and newspaper comments online last night, I was saddened but not altogether surprised, to read that some Australians felt that Andrew & Myuran have been made into public heroes.  That the focus of our side of the world has been deflected away from the earthquake in Nepal or the tragic deaths from cancer or the violence towards women or the forced closure of remote Aboriginal communities.  I could go on!

I do not agree with this.

I believe these are all terrible events that need our attention and will continue to need it for many months & years to come.  But for once, from my safe home  in Australia, I feel close to the death penalty.  That is not something I have to think about very often because it has been abolished for many years in my country.  But today two Australian men had the death penalty carried out on them.

Ten years ago, a group of young Australians decided for whatever reasons to attempt to smuggle drugs.  Many of them are the same age as my sons!  I think back 10 years to some of the foolish, dangerous, harmful things that my sons did to themselves and others …. and that’s just the stuff I know!  They made mistakes.  They hurt themselves and others.  They sometimes dabbled in the dangerous – even if they knew it could hurt those around them.

Not the person

Then I think back to when I was 19 – 20 years old.  I was a dangerous mess at times.  I did things that could have changed my life for ever.  I often, didn’t think about those around me or the consequences of my actions.  But I was lucky – I didn’t get caught.  I turned my life around.  I kept my faith in God.  I rehabilitated just like the men that died this morning in Indonesia did.  I lived!  But because of a barbaric law in another country – they died!

I don’t support the drug trade and over the years have lost many friends and acquaintances to the grip of addiction and ultimately death.  It is not about leaving criminals unpunished – they deserved punishment for what they did.  But NEVER the death penalty in any circumstance for me!

NEVER the death penalty for me!  Isn’t it our job as humans, to show compassion to those around us?  Isn’t it my job to care about the needs of others?  I am sad this morning but I am grateful because this terrible situation has made me aware and care deeply about something that is not a day-to-day issue in Australia but is in many other parts of the world.  The Death Penalty.  Never again will I be able to deflect my feelings on this matter.  It has come to my country through Andrew Chan & Myuran Sukumaran  – not as heroes or martyrs but as a spotlight on a terrible occurrence that happens all to frequently in other parts of my world.  My head is out of the sand and I can see clearly.

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So I stand for mercy!  Today, everyday, everywhere!  I choose to think total failure comes only if the death penalty slips from my mind again and I am lulled into a false sense of thinking … this doesn’t happen to me in my country!  I have chosen to have faith in humanity – that one day the ugly blight on our society that is the death penalty will be removed forever.  Until then, I pray, I hope, I support  …

NEVER the death penalty!

#istandformercy

Remembering …….. Forever 53!

Do you know that my husband would have been 60 years old had he still been alive?

Do you know that I thought he would have been 59?  Yes, I forgot how old he is.  Only gone 6 years and I can’t even remember his age!

All week I have been working hard to be positive during this hateful, painful time – where we get to remember both Adrian’s birth and his death in the same week.  I have purposefully concentrated on the happy memories.  How we met and fell in love, our wonderful sons and the music he loved!  This year, for the first time in 6 years, I didn’t shed a tear on the anniversary of his death.  Well, good for me!  Whoop de doo!  I must be moving forward in this slow grief process.  Onward and upward!  Great stuff – just ask everybody.  They tell me that is a real step forward and I believed them and myself – it was.

Today, Adrian’s birthday, I forgot how old he was going to be!  I can’t believe that after only 6 years I have forgotten how old my husband was to be?  I mean to say, we celebrated 28 birthdays together and now I forget?

The tears started ….. and then I realised that there were indeed other things that I failed to do this year.  I hadn’t spoken to his mother on the anniversary day!  How could I NOT do that?  I had visited his grave but unfortunately there was a burial right next to his grave, which meant I couldn’t really have any alone time to arrange the non snapdragon flowers on the grave.  Yes, only BabyBoy was able to find snappies to put on the grave but not me …. I left looking too late.

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I feel shame today.  I feel ashamed today.  If moving on means forgetting – I don’t want to move on!  I want to stay stuck in the middle of my grief …. at least I remember then!

Happy 60th Birthday Adrian ….. forever 53!

Our Love Story – written on the eve of the 6th anniversary of my husband’s death.

My life was empty.  Finding that special someone was proving difficult.  Many of my friends were married, engaged or living with their special someone, but me – I had a few broken hearts but no-one that I felt I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.  I was soon to begin my teaching career and not long after, turn the magical twenty-one but no boyfriend!  That was old to still be single in 1979, in New Zealand.  I was walking a fine line, between my love for Jesus and my love of partying. I was embracing my favourite of Martin Luther quote –

“Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.”

It was the last weekend in October and my church was hosting approximately 100 young people for the yearly national youth convention.  I was in charge of housing, feeding and transporting the visiting youth over the 3 day weekend – so I was busy!  On top of this, my Nana in Australia had suffered a stroke and my Mum had flown out the day before.  Maybe frazzled was a better word for my state of mind!

When a bus load of tired and hungry attendees arrived very early in the morning, I put on my cheeriest smile and welcoming voice as I directed them to food and drink.  After making sure everyone had something to eat, I looked around for any new faces or people sitting alone, that I could introduce myself to, that might make them feel special and a part of the wider group.  I saw a blond, sun tanned guy, sitting alone that I hadn’t seen before.  I introduced myself with a “Hi! I’m Mandy!” and was totally unprepared for the “Yeah? Well I’m eating my spaghetti at the moment!” – that was rudely muttered in my direction.  He hadn’t even looked up at me!

Okay ….. moving right along then!

My weekend continued, making sure everything ran smoothly on the food and transport front – as well as being a part of all the activities that had been organised for the weekend.  I did, however, make it my place to find out who the rude blond guy was ….. it came as no surprise when I was told he was the trainee Vicar from Australia, as his reputation as a bit of a player had preceded him.  Great!  No single, nice guys to think about for the weekend.  In a similar vein, Adrian (because that’s who it turned out to be), had been teased about meeting me, who also had a bit of a reputation (I have absolutely no knowledge why) most of the way up during the tedious bus trip!  Even to the point of being sung the hit of the day – Mandy!  There was no way he was going to pursue that little black duck!!!

So things didn’t sort of go to plan for either of us.  We both had busy leadership roles that whole weekend but every time we seemed to have a spare moment, we found ourselves enjoying each other’s company!  We chatted and got to know each other and discovered that we had both been misrepresented by the masses.  We had things in common.  We were both committed to Jesus, we both struggled with our committment at times, we were  both musical, loved sport, were nearing the end of our studies and getting ready to embark on our chosen careers.  Most importantly, we had both stopped looking for the one but were still lonely and hesitant about our futures.

A connection had been made…. when we had least expected it.  Apparently, I had patted his butt at the dance on the Saturday night and that was the sealer!!!!  I really don’t remember, as I had just got the news that my Nana had passed away.

All too soon, Adrian was back on the bus for the 6hrs 33min journey to Palmerston North, where he was to spend the final 3 months of his vicarage, before returning to Australia for his final year of study.  He said he would write …. and he did …. every day that we were apart, until we were married 12 months later!

Precious letters
Precious memories!

We had the opportunity to see each other again, a few weeks later, when I had to travel, by bus, to Palmerston North for a meeting.  Adrian’s parents were visiting from Australia but as he hadn’t told them that he had met a girl, they were shipped off on a tour of the South Island, so that we never met!!  He arrived to pick me up from the meeting in his tennis gear and I was smitten – big time!  We spent the rest of the weekend at the beach talking and making plans for Adrian to come and spend Christmas with us therefore extending his stay.  It felt like something important was happening and that we needed more time together, to find out exactly what that something was.

A  holiday in a caravan is not the best place for a traditional family to meet a new boyfriend – especially a boyfriend that I already knew was going to be in my life for a long time – even after only knowing each other for a couple of weeks and having only spent 5 actual days together!  It probably needs to be said that my sister and her husband went together for 6 years before they got engaged!  Plenty of time for Dad to get used to that idea!  Whereas, I was driving back with my Dad when I blurted out something like …..”You know that guy you met the other day, Dad?  Well, I think I’m going to marry him!”  To which my father replied, “Has he asked you?”  My answer of course was,”No but he will!”

The proposal happened on New Years Eve 1979, at another Youth Camp.  We were standing in the middle of a pond (don’t ask me why?) but Adrian made me wait until it was midnight, Australian time – 3 hours after midnight New Zealand time.  We had known each other for a whole 2 months and had spent a total of 9 actual days together!

We were in love and it would last forever!  We bought my engagement ring on 26th January 1980, with money borrowed from my Mum.  Adrian always remembered the date because it was the Australia Day holiday, which as a New Zealander, had no significance to me at the time.  We celebrated a joint engagement / 21st  party in early February, after which Adrian returned to Australia to complete his studies and I began teaching in New Zealand.  We had set our wedding date as 13th December 1980.  Still the letters came….

In May 1980, I flew to Aussie to meet his parents and friends.  The 2 weeks we spent together were intense and wonderful and awful at the same time.  Continuing to get to know each other and never wanting to let each other go but knowing that all to soon we would once again go our separate ways.  The September school holidays were much the same, but add to that having my wedding gown made by Adrian’s aunty, choosing material for my sister who was to be my maid of honour and now also lived in Australia and the death of my Australian Grandfather – emotion was high!

Bearded Adrian
Surprise beard!

The next time we saw each other was 2 weeks before our wedding  in New Zealand and my dearly beloved had grown a massive beard in the interim, and forgotten to tell me!  Needless to say, we travelled home from the airport in different cars and Adrian, never a morning person, was up at 6 am shaving!  The remaining time before our wedding was tense –  with me finishing up my teaching year; nerves setting in; introducing our parents for the first time, the night before the wedding; my sister just fitting into her gown (we found out  later that she was pregnant with my nephew); extreme happiness at our approaching marriage and extreme sadness because soon after, I would be leaving my home, family & friends forever and moving to our first parish in Queensland!  Wedding

Our wedding was everything we had wished for.  We loved every moment of our day and to this day, I would not change one single thing.  We were in love.  We were married –

to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.

We were married for 28 years, 4 months and 1 day.  We used up every part of our marriage vows – even when we really didn’t want to anymore.  Our love was enduring, committed and real.  Our marriage ended on 14th April 2009 but this was our love story.

Adrian Grave

Good Friday Bad Friday!

Have you ever been so involved in something that you never had to make a decision to be a part of it?  It just happened – no effort required.  It’s not that you didn’t want to be involved, you did, but even if you didn’t, you still were!  It was a part of who you were and you were expected to and you wanted to.  And then something changed!  Everything you loved about that thing became a huge effort.  It was hard and confronting and easier not to do anymore!

Maybe I need to make things a little clearer.  The thing I am talking about is church.

For the first 30 years of my life, my Church was the centre of my existence.  As a child, it was a place we went every Sunday with my Mum.  It wasn’t easy for us to go because my Mum didn’t drive and our Church was a good 30 minute walk and then a good 30 minute bus ride for us to get there.  I dressed up in my Sunday clothes (which did not include jeans) and I went to church with my sister, brother & mother.  My father wasn’t a church goer but never once did I consider staying at home with him!  Mostly, I loved it.  I loved the music, the friends, the babies I could carry around, the community lunches, the fellowship and I loved my relationship with Jesus!  It was so much a part of my life, that when it came time to fall in love and find a husband, being a Christian was very high on the list of pro’s.

So, when I turned 21, I married my husband, Adrian, who just happened to be a Pastor – straight out of  the Seminary!  The next 10 years, our ministry was our life as we served God in two parishes in Queensland, Australia.  I loved the challenging day-to-day life of ministry.  I loved the friends I made, the service I could give, the music, the fellowship and my relationship with Jesus.

But then it stopped!

Due to circumstances I won’t go into here, our family was cut loose from our church and our formal ministry ceased when we didn’t want it to.  We were not cut loose from our friends and family but everything that used to be so easy and comfortable, became hard and uncomfortable.  Together, we continued to worship and strive to serve God in our new uncomfortable life.  It was not easy, but we had each other for encouragement and to carry one another along the way. We struggled on, doing this for 18 years and it never really felt the same but we did not give up.

Then Adrian was diagnosed with terminal cancer and on a Good Friday, 6 years ago, he slipped into a coma and died on the Easter Monday.  It was then that church got really scary and hard and not even the remotest bit natural for me.  And here I sit on the eve of Good Friday, desperately wanting back that feeling of not having to make a decision to be a part of church.  Knowing that my relationship with Jesus has nothing to do with attending church but feeling like it’s starving from the lack of sustenance.  Feeling like the decision is just too hard and I am just too empty.  But aching for the comfort of the cross and the resurrection but only feeling death and pain and aloneness.

I feel ashamed of my inability to forgive, when Jesus so freely forgives me.  I question my sadness and loneliness when God,  also knows only too well the pain of loss.  For almost 25 years now, church has felt like a stranger to me.  I long for the friend that she once was.  Sanctuary.  Guidance.  Comfort.  These are the things I want to find there.  But I don’t.  I feel angry at Adrian because he is already with Jesus and no longer has to make the effort or make a decision like I do.

So why am I writing this down in my blog for the world to see?  What am I wanting from people in response?  When I began writing The Mandy Diaries, I was writing for myself.  To express myself, to feel connected to the world.  I still feel this is what I do here.  I want to be honest – even if it is too hard for others to read because this is who I am. This is my struggle.  This is my emptiness.  And as the tears flow down my cheeks, I need to say that I don’t want Easter to come this year or any year – until I can feel the empty tomb inside me filling up with the natural desire for church to be easier and expected.  Not hard or scary.

So I am ready to press publish …… but I feel the inner desire to apologise for this post.

But I have NOTHING to apologise for.

So if you are reading this ……. I had courage!

PS: I’ve loved this song for awhile now but haven’t really been comfortable with some of the explanations given of its meaning. I post it today because it perfectly describes the depth of anguish I feel today. And as I’m being courageous here is Take Me To Church by Hozierhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFROH_nzqfE

Joan!

She was a little, hunched over, white-haired lady with sparkling eyes that missed nothing.  Her wit was quick and dry, she loved to eat anything sweet and she loved animals!  I thought she had a busy life for a 90 year old and was always coming and going, in taxis and community buses, to visit her daughter who was wheelchair bound, or to see the doctor or to have an outing with two of her other aging neighbours.

She lived in the unit across from me and we met before I had bought my unit.  I loved her direct way with words – if she wanted to know something she asked.  She was thrilled to see that I had my cat with me and was a strong supporter, that helped in my endeavour to first challenge and secondly change the pet keeping laws in our community.  Her curtains were always open and she was a night owl, just like me.  When the rest of the Units were quiet and dark, hers and mine  were still brightly lit – her in her chair doing crosswords, me in my chair tapping at my laptop.  Justifying our late hour with “Well, Mandy is still up, so it can’t be too late!!” or “Joan isn’t in bed yet, so I’m not the last!!”

Before I moved into my home, I renovated.  She, as others, were keen to visit and see the changes.  So I organised a little morning tea for her and her 2 mates to come and visit, have a cuppa and marvel at the changes.  Marvel she did!  She loved it and the very next day there was a knock on my door and there stood her son and grandson, saying they had been directed to come over and see my reno because THAT was what she wanted to have done to her place!  The next week saw a steady stream of her relatives and tradesmen through my place.  They chatted and measured and it was decided – it was to be done!

After, a stint in hospital for ill-health, she came home to a lovely fresh spacious home, that was beautiful to look at, light and warm to live in and much more spacious to move her walker around in.  She had removed an internal wall, just like me and the only difference was, she went for the warmth of carpet when I went for wood.  She was so happy and we smugly sat in our new homes together, chatting and feeling modern and may be a little superior!

She loved her Lord and wanted to go to church.  She asked me to take her and I did – a couple of times.  Others, also took her to their churches.  She understood when my depression and anxiety flared, that it made it difficult for me to leave the house  and was always encouraging and I know she prayed for me.  She could sense when things were not so good for me and made her way across the drive with her walker, to visit me!  She never made me feel guilty for not visiting her as much as I should but always loved it when I did.

We shared a love of fish and chip meals, reading, words, pets and British television drama.  We were neighbours for just on 18 months but we clicked straight away despite our almost 40 year age difference.  We liked one another a lot and life for me after moving into the community with all its personalities, would have been much less bearable without her.

Last night, after a week or so in hospital, she slipped away to be with her Lord.  I am sad for my loss but thrilled for her release from pain.  I am disappointed that I will not be able to attend her funeral, as I will be in New Zealand but I will be thinking of her and her loving family.

I have no photos – only the imprint she left on my heart.

I will miss her!  I do miss her!  She was my neighbour!  She was my friend!

She was Joan!

I Miss You, Adrian!

Today it happened!  For the first time, since beginning The Mandy Diaries, a couple of months ago, I don’t really know what to write.   I am thinking, should I write a post about my obsession with Christmas?  Too early?   I should write about being a single parent of three grown men?   But is that really interesting?  Maybe because I wrote about my Mum, I should also write about my wonderful Mother-in-law?  She does turn an amazing 96 years old this week!  I just don’t feel motivated to write about any of the above things.  I need to write about something but I feel blocked.  I  am just not feeling it.  For me to write it, I must be feeling it.  So what am I feeling?

I just miss you, Adrian!

There I’ve said it.

I miss you, Adrian!

It’s been five and a half years since you died and as the years go by, the loneliness does not get better, it just gets different!  Sure the day to day functioning improves.  Change happens because it has to and because you want it to.  But, for me, the aloneness  hits often and hard and when I’m least expecting it!  Like today!  So this is what I am feeling so I will write it.

I miss you, Adrian!

Family Baby Patrick
First family photo.

We were a team for 30 years – 28 of them married and living away from each of our families.  Yes, the leave and cleave thing ….. we did that alright!  We were different but we were the same.  One of our mutual friends, when hearing that we had met, fallen in love and were to be married, said  that we deserved each other!  We laughed at hearing this but as the years passed not a truer word has been spoken about our relationship.  We loved hard and played hard and fought hard and we never gave up on each other.  Our life together was littered with hard stuff – lots of it!  Loss was a common theme.  We lost babies before they were born.  We lost our beloved Ministry.  We lost our fathers.  We lost businesses.  We lost our health.  We lost money.  But we continued to have each other.  Loyalty was our thing.  If you picked on one of us, you got both of us.  When one couldn’t any more …… the other did!

I miss you, Adrian!

Adrian wheelchail

Our life together was sprinkled with amazing stuff too!  We had three incredible boys who now are, creative and adventurous men who show tenderness and loyalty beyond measure.  We had a wonderful extended family who went on this journey with us but allowed us to choose our own path.  We had friends that went beyond the bounds of what friendship should expect.  We had shared celebrations to make memories forever.  We had holidays and football Grand Finals and weddings and music and a lovely home and great food!  I still have every one of these things, today! But ….

I miss you, Adrian!

Not the big  things because you are still in all those things.  Not so much the physcial  things because I see you every day in our sons, that have so much of your ways about them.  Not even the doing, as much as the being!

I miss you, Adrian!

3 Monkeys
Photo credit to Andrew Barclay.

I miss the banter and verbal jousting that we had.  I miss the knowing look across a room, that told me that you saw me and was on your way to rescue me from that boring person or topic, in a conversation.  I miss watching out in a crowd to see if the person you were talking too, needed rescuing from you!!  I miss calling you up to share some life altering sporting news that only you and I would see as life changing!  I miss the deep breath we took together, before we faced the world of decision making – whether it was a School Principal, an Oncologist, the police or hospital on the phone!  I miss being able to share news and talk about mutual friends that no one else knows.  I miss knowing that I don’t have to cope alone, no matter what the situation.

So today, that is NOT a special or important day. NOT an anniversary.  Not an especially hard, lonely or emotional day.  These are the things I miss. These are the things I am feeling, so these are the things I write about.

I miss you, Adrian and I’m thankful.

Grave