Death is a Profound Teacher

I have been to too many funerals. Definitely too many funerals for people who died before old age. Death is an amazing teacher. Like all classrooms though, we don’t all choose to learn the lessons.

Today, a group of broken people gathered to remember and celebrate the life of a beautiful human being. Belinda and I sat and stood together, as we always have, and we supported ‘our babies’ and each other in our collective grief.

Trae’s death has impacted me beyond – I am not sure why. Love is love. Bel suggested it’s because this group of kids is the last group that we had such a strong connection to. We both taught 8E and we shared stories and jokes and learning. So many of that class are no longer at school. One, no longer alive.

Meh. I am writing this out so often because I don’t know how to talk about it. I can’t find the spoken words. I’ve turned to my faith to try to make sense if it, and I can.

Death teaches us.

When my friend, Natalie, died, I vowed to live my best life because her life ended way too soon. I wanted to honour the gift that my life is, that each of our lives is. I still think of Nat every day. Every day without fail. And I love that. She drives me.

I also think of all of the people I love every day. I carry them with me, even when I can’t see them for loooong periods of time. I feel blessed to be able to love so many people. To have known so many people. To have shared life with so many people.

Death has taught me that even a long life, is really a short life. Our time in this body, in this incarnation, with these people as we see and know them, is short. Some, a lot shorter than others.

We all have choices to make; I choose life.

It’s often the seemingly insignificant and routine things that are the hardest to let go of. Trae’s brother, whom he lived with, spoke beautifully today, remembering the dumb shit that brothers do that in the day to day, means nothing really, but ultimately, means everything.

Everyone that spoke, touched on these things. The memories that make the loss of Trae significant. We are all that for someone. We touch people’s lives, often in ways we never fully appreciate.

One of our beautiful kids humbled us by being her authentic self today. I’m so proud of her. She’s had a tough life. She knows where she’s at, even though she’s not always sure, and she knows she has a long path ahead of her to heal her childhood trauma, but she’s walking it, every day.

The trust kids hold for adults they connect with never fails to humble me. Being a teacher to so many kids has truly been a great blessing in my life. I truly do hope they know and believe how very very much I love them and how significantly they have imprinted on my soul.

There is more that connects us, than divides us. Sometimes we struggle to see that. And when someone so well loved dies, it is easy to look for someone to blame, someone who can be responsible, someone we can take our extreme feelings of loss out on, to unleash the anger and the pain and sometimes, the misplaced guilt.

The thing though, is that Trae wouldn’t want division. He wouldn’t want his death to be responsible for more unnecessary pain. When people die, we need to honour their life and their impact by living our best lives and being our best selves. This is what death teaches us.

There are broken young adults en masse today. I hope they find peace. I love them. I always have and I always will. I hope they feel that and truly know that. I miss those connections; would be lying if I said otherwise. Like all parents, I want them to live long and happy lives, but ultimately, that choice to do so is their choice, and their choice alone.

If only cotton wool was sold in massive bulk.

Meh.

Until we meet again, Trae. You were a gorgeous kid. Thank you for being my student and being a great kid. I wish I’d told you more.

Standing in Truth

Something fundamental has gone wrong in our society. Kids are feeling alone and troubled and disconnected and we don’t see it. Hope seems to be non-existent.

I grew up in trauma and I know many people my age who did. We just kept going. I guess, it’s like we felt we didn’t have too much of a choice.

Fuck. I don’t know what I’m trying to say.

Yesterday, I received a message to let me know that one of my ex students from school had died. This has become a regular occurrence. Just too regular. Too many young lives gone, at their own hand or through accidents.

Too many of our youth feel there is no light. They wander aimlessly, living the life they feel they are expected to live. Scared to pursue their dreams, or to even dream, not believing in their own light. Not realizing they even have a light.

We are all so connected. The ripple effect of kids dying is savage. Meh. The words won’t flow. I’m still in shock.

Death serves to remind us all that life is short. We deserve happiness and peace, but they don’t come easily. We need to work towards it by making choices that take us there. One after the other.

Hardship is part of life. It serves to teach us humility, compassion and resilience.

Every time someone I love dies, I take stock of my life. Is what I’m doing serving others, serving me, making the world a better, more authentic, happier place? What do I need to change? We only get this one opportunity to live this life.

Ah, Trae. You were a gorgeous kid. Year 8 English, sitting with your boys, staying back to have chats, smiling at, but not participating in their silliness. I am just so sad that you won’t become the adult version of the child I knew.

This is the hardest thing to go through as a teacher. We give our hearts and souls to our kids. We invest in their happiness whilst we invest in their education. When they are sick, or lost, or suffering, all we want to do is grab them and hold them and save them from all of the shit that can be this life, their life.

But we can’t.

We all impact those around us. Even when we feel we are nothing, we impact. Even when we feel we are unseen, we impact.

Man. I feel for Trae’s family, his mum, his friends, all being forced to deal with and process and work through something that must be ripping their hearts apart.

Life is short. Significantly shorter for some. We need to ensure we honor the memory of those that pass early by living our best lives and creating a beautiful world.

😥

Permanently Exhausted

Whinge whinge whinge hehehe. Nah, not really.

Up until last weekend, I had been working seven days a week for over ten weeks. I know there are people who do this all of the time – hats off to them – I have struggled. By the last week, I was quick to temper and quick to spiral down. Just tiredness. And I knew that, so could keep tabs on it all quite easily.

I’ve had five days off. I don’t feel replenished. I have a couple more off after today’s work.

I have been reflecting this morning – has anyone else noticed that as daylight savings draws nearer, they wake up earlier – and I think that walking my path can be hard work at times.

I am okay about my grandmother passing. I am sad about the loss, but it’s purely sadness from her physical departure. I believe, quite strongly, that there is life after death. My experiences after Nat’s death have only strengthened my faith. I know that when we pass, our soul continues. Death no longer holds fear for me.

I also think the DeMartini work I’ve been doing with Mai Mai has shifted the way I perceive the things that happen. I’m more aware that there is always balance – sometimes it isn’t as obvious as at others, but that’s our mis/perception – and this makes the drama harder to access.

Death is a natural part of life. After all, it is our only certainty. I am endeavouring to live every day with intention and with purpose. I am being as I build. I am present and honestly acknowledge each moment. I love my work and I love where my work is leading me. I love the lessons because they enable me to establish my worth for myself.

But, today, and yesterday, I’m tired. I’m grateful for it – tiredness means I’ve been productive. But, it’s time to learn how to balance it all.

After self-worth, that’s my other ongoing lesson. I have faith I will get there – the self-worth is coming along very quickly. Truly escalated over the last ten weeks.

I wonder where I will be in another ten.

The Lessons In Death

A couple of years ago, you may remember, my grandfather died. He was not my grandfather by blood, but the grandfather that was provided because my parents’ parents were in Finland and Germany. I never met them. My parents worked hard to create a surrogate family of grandparents and aunts and uncles for us.

Yesterday, my grandfather’s wife, my grandmother, died.

I pause and stare out at the incredible landscape before me as tears surface. The chimes that had been sounding stop, as if time stands still, but the birds do not. I hear them chirping and chattering throughout the many valleys in front of me. Two small rabbits bounce through the grasses, avoiding the watchful eye of the territorial magpie. The breeze picks up and the chimes cascade and wash over me.

Sigh.

I am sad. For unexpected reasons.

She had been ready to go weeks ago. Medications kept her breathing and kept her heart beating. I will miss the knowledge of her existence in this realm, with me. In the hospital, we laughed and shared. I was blessed enough to be able to tell her exactly what she had meant to me in this life. I could tell her I loved her.

Another pause. Another sigh.

Looking out across the mountains and the valleys, I realise how blessed I am. The breadth of this landscape enables perspective. We are all born. We will all die. Our times here are fleeting; the trees and the mountains will easily outlast us all.

And, that is okay.

Life, as the old cliche goes, is short. We can resist change or we can embrace it. We can create chaos or we can create peace. It is our choice. We can focus on the negativity of life or we can bring life to balance. We can be inspired, or we can be cynical. All choices. We can stand still, we can become stuck or we can strive to move forward, carrying with us all that we gain along the way.

Healing truly is a process. It requires a hell of a lot of hard work. It requires rests along the way; time to reflect on how far you have come and time to just be to let it all integrate. My work has garnered strengths and peace. I mark Aunty Val’s passing in my soul, but I choose to celebrate her existence in my life rather than hold on to her passing.

I am grateful for a very developed belief system and faith that enables me to know she isn’t far away from me, and within reach whenever we may need each other.

Thank you, Aunty Val, and to Uncle Ian, for being my grandparents and shielding me from pain, as best you could, as I grew up. Thank you for the wonderful memories and laughter and sense of family, But, most of all, thank you for loving me and reminding me I was enough. Just as I was.

Today

I kept myself so busy last week so that I didn’t have to grieve or think or feel or anything beyond function. If Uncle Ian crept into my thoughts, I shut it down and found something to do. 

As a result I have had a relapse of my throats and blocked nose – Louise Hay would say unresolved and congested emotion. I would agree. I worked hard to keep that emotion at bay. 

But, not today. 

Today I am feeling a week’s worth of grief. It started last night. The acknowledgement that today is a funeral. A funeral for one of the strongest and most positive male role models I have had throughout my life, my childhood. 

One of a small group of adults who tried to keep us safe, to show us another way. 

I don’t remember much from anything past. My brain keeps me safe, probably to the extreme, by locking things away. I remember emotion though, deeply, and my body remembers emotion. 

Uncle Ian was funny. He made us laugh. He brought things home from the Commonwealth Bank, where he had worked for decades before retiring, in the days when loyalty to a workplace was commonplace. 

He had a small Hookey board and we would spend hours in their garage, doors open, throwing rubber rings onto brass hooks. He would cheer our wins. Drinks were consumed from small blue and pink and yellow metal cups, brought out by Aunty Val. 

We went to The Entrance for our only ever overnight holiday away with Aunty Val and Uncle Ian. It was overcast but we walked along the water anyway. It was amazing. They came to Taronga Zoo with us on the ferry. They were our Christmas. 

They were just always there. 

When mum and dad had fought, and mum didn’t think it was safe for us to be there, we were scuttled, in blankets, next door to sleep. We also just had sleepovers there. Just for fun. 

They loved us. They protected us. They spoiled us. They were a significant part of our village. 

And today, I will see Aunty Val, without Uncle Ian, for the first time ever. I have known these people, as a couple, for over forty years. Aunty Val and Uncle Ian. They worked together, as a unit, her giggle to his dry humour and funny tales.

Uncle Ian has gone. 

What is that about. 

Another Reminder

Growing up in Australia in the seventies was a blessed experience. We were free. I have wonderful memories of us neighborhood kids hanging out with each other and disappearing all day every day during summer. We were safe to do so. Most predators lurked in the homes rather than in the streets, or that’s the way it felt. We were accountable to each other’s parents as much as we were our own, and could be smacked by anyone. It was an extended family, a community, a village looking after and raising the children. 

For my sisters and I, this was vital. Mum and dad were from European families, Finland and Germany respectively. We didn’t have a typical extended family as a result. There was no internet, no mobile phones, and an overseas phone call was expensive and consisted of a noticeable time lag. I was a pen pal, snail mail, to one of my cousins in Finland. 

Our street community, Manooka Crescent, became our extended family. Our friend’s parents, our aunts and uncles, and the two older couples in the street, one next door and one across the road, our grandparents. 

Until today, we had only lost one of the four. Today, the second of four has passed. 

My sisters have kept in better contact with our childhood family than I have. I have always been so busy with school and keeping in touch with my adult friends that I let go of this childhood family. Physically, not emotionally. Emotionally they are pivotal people in my life. They empowered and enabled me to make it to adulthood. They were the oasis in the storm of dysfunctional childhoods. They saved us by taking us in … regularly. 

Especially the couple next door. 

And today, mum rang me first thing this morning to let me know rhat one has passed away. He has been in hospital and this time, didn’t survive. 

My tears are for his wife. They built a life together that spanned over sixty years; a phenomenal commitment, taking in lost children all of the time. Not perfect, but always doing their best. 

Somehow, we expect that we all will live forever. But, we don’t. 

Life is short. Some of us have a good innings, others’ interrupted or cut short too early. Death teaches us that it is important to truly live every day. 

If we are unhappy, only we can control the change. And not in a destructive way, but finding what will work to keep moving us forward, closer to happiness. Into happiness. 

The Dalai Lama believes that happiness is the purpose of life. I agree. What other reason can there be for existence that makes consistent and logical sense. 

And our lives feel most joyous in service, of some type, towards others. Those that are happiest often work for others. Service provides soul fulfillment. Giving is better than receiving. 

Ian gave. To his own family, his country, the bank, and to everyone that he met. He had a cheeky sense of humour, sharing jokes with us before we were probably meant to hear them, Val chastising him and giggling as she did. He was funny. They lived,  providing a freedom and normalcy my sisters and I probably wouldn’t have had. A normalcy that enabled us to see the bigger picture of life, beyond trauma and dysfunction, and empowering us to create better lives for ourselves. Their gift to us was resilience in its purest form, giving us contrast between what was and what could be. 

We never say thank you enough. We never let people know their value to us enough. We take our’s and everyone’s mortality for granted. Death teaches us to feel grateful that little bit more, to hold our loved ones a little tighter, and to say I love you more often. It teaches us to grow, to be mindful, to take risks, to live in happiness. 

To live. 

Much love Uncle Ian. 

Life is Short

A friend’s mother has passed away. I had the fortune to meet her and have lunch with her a couple of years ago. She was adorable. And I know that her daughter, my friend, loved her very much. Her mother was, for the most part, a stable point for her through some rough times. The funeral is Friday. 

I have felt this a few times today, and have shed some tears. I am very lucky; my parents are still alive. I love them dearly and am not looking forward to their inevitable passing. 

I think we tend to take our parents for granted. My relationship with my parents has significantly improved throughout the last ten or so years. Prior to that, there had been long periods of estrangement. Justifiably, for where we all were in our journey. 

I am grateful though, that we have worked hard to develop healthy and happy relationships with one another. 

It hasn’t been easy. My childhood was traumatic. I expected better from my parents. As an adult, I came to realise (it was a process) that Dr PHIL is right: when we know better, we do better

My parents were struggling, individually, with the impact of their own choices when I was younger. They didn’t know how to do that and protect/nurture their children. I know, without any hesitation, that if they could have done it all differently, they would have. And, as a result, I have been able to forgive them, and we have all moved forward. 

Thank goodness I had the time with them to be able to do that. I am also grateful that they know me, and I know them, as equals. My mother is one of my very best friends, and I love and appreciate my dad, especially the humility that aging has gifted him with. Above all else, all of the mistakes, and ill informed choices, I know that they love me. 

Even now, when I suffer and they are powerless to fix it, I can feel their frustration at not being able to protect me. 

Does it make up for my childhood? 

No. 

But it doesn’t need to. I gained as much as I lost. I developed resilience, inner strength, a love of learning, compassion, empathy, idealism, principles, and a bloody strong work ethic. I am sure there is more. The things that I lost, like self-esteem and trust, well, I am a work in progress and they are slowly evolving. 

I am going to let my parents know that I love them, whilst I still can. It is easy to hold on to anger, resentment, pain, but it solves nothing. It eats away like cancer. It destroys the heart and soul. Finding the way to forgive is the key. For me, forgiveness saved me. Friendship with my parents was an additional blessing; forgiveness ensured I had no regrets, and that’s all I wanted. 

To save me, my narrative needed to become about me, my needs. Familiar theme here. Cycles ending so that my next phase of growth can commence. 

How blessed. 

My ❤️ Home

Of all of the places that I have been blessed to travel to, no place has caught my heart quite as strongly as Nepal. The Nepali people the kindest that I have ever generalised. We encountered nothing but humour and beauty in the people that we met. I have always longed to go back to work and one day I will. 

My heart and ‘prayers’ go to the people, local and foreign, who are struggling and suffering now. I wish there were something I could do. Geologically we can make the quake seem logical. Spiritually we cannot. No nation deserves this destruction; Nepal less so. 

People who have so little were willing to share everything. The children, permanent snot frozen to their faces, willing to laugh and give directions when I got separated from my trekking party (singing through the Annapurnas as I walked through beautiful landscape completely at peace for probably the first time in my life a definite highlight). Drinking with the locals, being taught songs (resim pi didi), and being delivered hot tea every morning by Santa. 

Waking up to snow capped mountains almost every day. Fresh air. Fresh food. The chaos of Kathmandu – beeping cars, shouting people, cows in the middle of the road, holy men sitting with dreads and me being questioned about mine. Memories that have lived … When not many do. 

Children in school in full school uniform without shoes, sitting in concrete cells on wooden pews, smiling because they were fortunate to receive an education. Bless. 

Nepal is a beautiful place, even in its extreme poverty, because the people are so genuine. I did not want to leave and felt mortified on the plane, it’s delay a sign that I should have jumped off. And now, such loss, such destruction, such isolation. 

My heart goes out to the people impacted and I ‘pray’ that the nation recovers wholly and quickly.

❤️