Thursday, 6 April 2017

TOO SOON TO SAY GOODBYE / [Family]


My sister Judith and brother Stephen
She was 12 and a bit when I was born. That perfect age when young girls are into all things baby. Helping with nappy changes and bottle feeding and bathing and cuddling, lots of cuddling.

Growing up, it was like I had two mothers, which at times as a teenager, could be pretty frustrating, two people lecturing you can get awfully tiresome. But in spite of that, it was wonderful to have an older sister who cared so much about me.

When I was 10 she married and moved away from home and I remember I cried myself to sleep after the wedding. It just wasn’t going to be the same not having her around. Thankfully, she moved not too far away and my other sister and I spent holidays with her where we were able to do lots of feeding and bathing and cuddling of our new nephew.

Some years later her marriage ended and she came back home with my nephew and pregnant with her second child. For a few years I shared a room with my nephew. Life was a bit tight having three extra people in the house but it was also a wonderful time with lots of happy memories.
I know I don't look happy but I really was!!! Dad just took
forever to take a photograph!
Me with my two nephews and my sister in the background.

But again, it was like having two Mum’s to answer to and at times tensions ran high between her and I as I wanted my privacy and was going through a rebellious stage and she hovered like a mother hen. We had some interesting fights during that time with me usually yelling “You’re not my mother!” But for the most part, it was fun having my nephews around plus another adult to sort out problems for me and my sister’s cooking was certainly an improvement on my Mums!

Eventually she remarried and moved to Wagga and then Sale in Victoria as her new husband was in the Air Force. They did a stint at Butterworth until one of my nephews was diagnosed with Leukemia and the family (which had grown to 3) eventually moved back to Sydney for his treatment.

We have always been a close family. My Mum and Dad, two sisters and one brother, our spouses and children and grandchildren. We always made an effort to celebrate Birthdays together and attend each others and our children’s important occasions like Baptisms and Confirmations, 21st’s and Engagements, and to just get together as a family for a BBQ or the like just because we loved being together. Some of the happiest times of my life have been spent with my family. The joy of those days is embedded in my heart and I marvel that we were so blessed. 
One of the many combined 'June' Birthdays with many
members of the family having birthdays in June
I remember as a child, I found it hard to imagine that things would change and I had  a deep need for them not to change. Change can be good sometimes but it can also be painful. And at times your whole world seems to crash down around you and it’s devastating.

That’s how I felt in 2013 when my sister, my other Mother, my friend, singing companion, listening ear, sometimes mentor, fun loving, caring, passionate, annoying, overbearing, loveable, talkative, opinionated, compassionate, loud, talented, gifted, knowledgeable, know it all of a sister that was always there for me no matter what, passed away and left our family bereft.

My sister
4 years ago today, she left this earth for her eternal home and my heart has yet to stop aching. The very special place she filled in my world, that only she could fill, remains empty and time has been unable to fill the void. My world as I knew it changed, never to be the same again in so many ways.

In her passing, and that of my brother 5 months later causing equal devastation, we lost so much more than a sister and a brother. We lost a way of life. We lost a closeness as a family that we enjoyed so much, a special bond that so often only family have. That 'look' - that knowing glance, that connection with your roots, that one word that could evoke hilarious laughter or perhaps groans because we all knew what it meant. The funny stories we shared from childhood. Someone who had ‘been there, done that’, with you, who shared a past and understood why you were the way you were.

That these deaths could cause such an avalanche of change in my life and leave a giant crater that was once a mountain top of joy is a bitter pill to swallow.

My sister was a strong woman, like most of the women in our family line. She went through some pretty tough times in her life but no matter what her struggles were, she always had time to give of herself to someone else, to sit and listen and yes, offer counsel, as she was want to do, but she also had a vulnerability, maybe insecurity, as well as a sadness about her that was covered up by bluff and bluster. 

She often said she felt like a square peg in a round hole and I don't think anyone really 'got her' the way she needed to be 'got.' She was no saint that's for sure but in many ways there was a depth to her that I don't think even she could understand or adequately explain. She felt things deeply and struggled with many demons but she had a faith that didn't quit and a confidence in her Lord that brought her great comfort and peace, especially at the end of her life. 

She had a crazy streak as well and a warped sense of human that meant lots of laughter and frivolity at family gatherings and she could sing like the proverbial angel. We spent many happy hours with my brother and other sister singing together, which was something that I derived a lot a pleasure from and miss immensely.
My sister and her husband

Each person that blesses our lives, each with their own distinctiveness, fills different places in our hearts and lives and when one is lost, a little piece of yourself is lost too. What’s left are the wonderful memories of happier times, yes, but also a longing for those sweeter times to return, the times that you blissfully and ignorantly took for granted and refused to acknowledge would one day end.

Now, we all know only too well that nothing lasts forever and so there is real value in speaking your heart to someone you love, and making the most of every precious moment that we are given. Yes, we have our memories but the pain of loss will be ours until that glorious day when we are all reunited through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Until then, we keep moving forward, we embrace life with everything we have, we love with abandon and give with joy and celebrate each other every day so that when our time comes we will know that we lived every minute recognising and embracing the gift we have in family.

The pain is still deep and oh what I wouldn’t give to do it all again, but alas, that is not how it works.

I don’t like it! I don’t like it one little bit! And I still have moments where I want to stamp my foot and scream 'NO'. But I must accept it regardless. 

Thank God that we will one day all be together again and what joy we 
will know then!

I love you and miss you big Sis. It was way too soon to say goodbye!

My big sister Judith and I
Mare



Tuesday, 4 April 2017

JESUS: THE GREAT CONVERSATION KILLER / [ Faith ]



Faith.
Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
Jesus Christ, the Solid Rock, is where I place my trust.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see Hebrews 11:1

Have you ever been at a gathering of some kind, say, dinner guests at a friends house, or a social club get together, maybe a party or perhaps just sitting around chewing the fat with some friends and someone mentions the dreaded
‘J’ word and all of a sudden the room goes deathly quiet. Next thing someone jumps up and says ‘so anyone for dessert’ or ‘well it’s getting late, we’d better head off’ or ‘so how about those Sharks!’

It’s amazing how just mentioning the name of Jesus can end a conversation. We can talk all night about other ‘historical’ (Yes, I say ‘historical’ because Jesus was a living breathing historical person -  see Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus’ and writings by Tacitus, the Roman Historian) figures like, Hitler, Stalin, Alexander the Great, Muhammad, Buddha, Gandhi – but mention the name Jesus and you’ll find yourself alone with the sound of stampeding feet ringing in your ears and wondering what you said!

It’s ok to mention Jesus at a Worship Service or a Bible Study or something that is connected with a church activity, but to mention Him, out loud, by name, in public, in a place where Jesus is not the main point, can leave you feeling as if you’ve left the house and forgotten to put your pants on.

‘Did she really just say…(whispers) Jesus?!?!?!’

‘I can’t believe she said that, no, no, don’t look at her, she might say it again!’

‘Just look the other way and pretend you didn’t hear a thing. Oh look, there’s a pile of Elephant dung. Wonder where that came from?’



What is it about the Name ‘Jesus’ that causes people to want to leave the room unless, of course, it’s just been used because someone stubbed their toe? What makes people so uncomfortable that it literally stops conversations and leaves people in awkward silence not knowing where to look?

This was my experience last week at my ‘gentle exercise class’ and I have been pondering it ever since.

Our young instructor was ‘sharing’ her frustrations about some work colleagues, and members of the class (who, bar two, are all pretty much in their late 70’s and 80’s) were giving her advice on how to handle things. I made a comment that largely went unnoticed until someone made a similar comment and someone else asked me to repeat mine. This was met with agreement all round.

The list of complaints continued, now involving boyfriends and I made another comment, which this time everyone heard. The young instructor was struck with my great ‘wisdom’ and dubbed me her new mentor, counsellor and an assortment of other accolades and then asked me how I knew this stuff, was I a counsellor, where did I get this ‘wisdom’ about people and love from? What did I do for work?

In that moment, with everyone in a circle bobbing up and down in the water, seemingly hanging on my answer with baited breath, several things went through my mind but it all happened in a split second!

You know how in books where the main character is asked a question or has to make a decision or something like that and it needs to be done fast, but, for the next three pages we hear all the thoughts that go through their mind before they progress in their decision? I often think, what was the other person in the story doing while they waited for the hero’s answer? Filing their nails? Running to the corner for a Latte? Cleaning out the wardrobe? In reality, it only takes seconds to think of a million things at once.

And a million thoughts skittered through my mind as quickly as a blink. At first I thought, where do I work so I said, ‘Well, I don’t work at the moment” and started to rattle off places I’ve worked, all of which had nothing to do with anything, but, whilst I was mentioning where I’d worked I was thinking ‘where do I get this stuff?’ Mostly, it’s just from doing life but that doesn’t necessarily give you wisdom and really what I said was not, as they say ‘rocket science!’

And then I had an Epiphany. As I continued to struggle with an answer that wouldn’t sound smug or self righteous or show offy (not sure that’s a word), I realized something I already knew and that is ‘I have no wisdom of my own.’ None. Zilch. Nadda. So where does it come from? And then I remembered a passage from the Bible that says that Christ has become wisdom for us from God. And suddenly I knew there was only one answer I could give and I had to give it to them. So I did!

I said ‘Where does it come from? It comes from many years of following the Master of Love and His Name is Jesus!’

No one moved, all bobbing stopped, breaths were held. Finally, the young instructor asked, ‘And, so is that in the Bible?’ Before I could answer, a young girl in the group said, ‘It is in the Psalms and Proverbs.’ Not quite what I wanted to say, but that’s fine. Another couple of beats were passed in silence and then everyone kind of just started moving again and someone mumbled ‘what exercise are we doing now?’ and that was that.

The rest of the lesson was spent discussing nothing more than exercises. Conversation another casualty of the name of Jesus.

I said to the young girl who had answered the question about the Bible (I already knew she is a Christian as we’d talked before) ‘Isn’t it amazing how the name of Jesus can kill a conversation?’

Her response surprised and humbled me when she said ‘Wow! That was amazing what you did. I’d never have the guts to say that!’

I didn’t know how to respond to that so I didn’t. I just smiled and paddled on by. But, I got to wondering. If I’d said ‘I got it from Oprah’s new book, you should read it’ or ‘it’s an ancient saying from a famous swami’ would everyone have wanted to know ‘which book’ and ‘which swami?’ 

If Jesus is my source of wisdom, my strength for the battle of doing life, my guidance into all truth and for making sound decisions, then why should I not give Him the credit as easily as I might have had it come from Oprah’s book? Because I am not ashamed of Jesus Christ or of His Gospel which is life now and eternally, and He deserves to receive all the credit! All glory to Him!


Yes, the name of Jesus can stop conversations, but, in the silence, who knows what He might do in people's hearts at the mention of His Name.

Cheers

Mare

Saturday, 18 March 2017

‘If I Should Die Before I Wake…..’ / Mare's Musings



My box of Love Letters to the most important people in my life

After my Mum died in 2001, I wrote her a letter. It wasn't the first one I had written her. I wrote her more than one during her life time, to tell her how much I loved her and appreciated all she had done for me throughout my life. Writing is how I express myself best. When I try to use words they often fall to the ground in a heap of mumbo jumbo and then I kick myself because I didn't say what I really felt in my heart. I get embarrassed and am not comfortable with the emotion of it. So, I write.

This might seem like a morbid topic but it is important to me and one that has been on my heart for a long time.

I write letters to my children and others that I love. I haven’t posted (as in mailed) any of them nor have I let them read them. Indeed, I'm not sure they even know they exist! (Otherwise a certain number 3 daughter would have gone snooping for them by now, not mentioning any names....or numbers!!!)

They are just sitting in a book (well hidden!!) waiting for the day they will be read.  I imagine that day will come after I’m gone. I plan on tearing each one out and placing them in envelopes and putting them in a box. They have been written at different times, during different circumstances. Perhaps after watching a movie that moved me, or a milestone has occurred in their life, or simply while waiting for one of them to finish soccer practice or dancing as I sit and watch them and am moved to write what I see and how I feel. It’s a little snap shot of history as it was that day for them to remember but more importantly, it’s an opportunity to remind them of what they mean to me. I've written them cards and letters expressing how much I love them already, but these are for after I'm gone.

From time to time, I read back through some of them and it never ceases to amaze me the almost palpable need I have to convey to them how much I love each of them and how they have each, in their own way, enriched my life beyond words.

I remember how my Father, struggling to come to terms with losing the love of his life, his wife of 50 plus years, went through every draw and cupboard of their house looking for a letter from Mum. He was sure she had left one for him and we couldn’t convince him otherwise. I saw how desperate that need was for him to connect with Mum, one last tangible thing he could hold onto in his grief, words of love from his beloved wife.

It heightened in me a deep need to ensure that I left messages of love and comfort and encouragement to each of my children so that they would never be in any doubt how treasured they are. Sometimes I think I should let them read them now but instead I try to tell them in different ways what they each mean to me through my words and actions, and save the letters for when I’m gone, because, I too would have loved to have something in Mum’s own handwriting, telling me the place I held in her heart. I’m sure I was loved, but in my time of grief I know it would have helped me endure the pain of loss a little easier to be able to open the pages of a letter, written just to me, and be reminded when I needed it the most. Even now, after almost 14 years, I wish I had a letter to open and read and find comfort in.


Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I'll love you Tomorrow!!!!!

It’s so easy to think that we will always have a tomorrow. We tend to think that we are immortal and that bad things only happen to other people. We are lulled into a sort of false sense of security that we have plenty of time to say and do the things we want to say and do. But life is fragile and can be snuffed out in an instant. I learnt that lesson very well in May 2014 when I had a major accident at work and am very blessed to be sitting here today. I try not to put the important things off until tomorrow anymore.

It’s incredibly important to tell your children (and others in your life) how loved they are. Each day they need to know that you love with a heart full to bursting, that you would lay down your life for them, that nothing they do or don’t do could make you love them less, but, when I’m no longer here to speak those words to them, I want them to hear and feel and know the love through the faint echo of my voice as the words printed on the pages once again convey their message so that whenever the pain of loss arises, they can read them and remember how much I love them.

DON'T WAIT UNTIL YOU'RE GONE THOUGH 
TELL THEM NOW!!!!!

Some of my crazy family that I love to bits!!!

Do you write letters of love to your loved ones?

I've often thought about making a video. How would you feel about receiving something like that from a loved one after they have passed?


Cheers

Mare