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.

Khmer Lessons

It has been a year since my trip to India kickstarted massive transformation in my life. My life and I are unrecognizable lol. It is awesome that I start and finish my travel in an Asian country.

What have I learned …

That travel is education. When we travel, we learn. I have learned so much about Cambodia: it’s history, culture, lifestyle, politics, and peoples. I love this country. I have some fears that it may not remain a ‘democracy’ much longer, but I hope that I am wrong.

That I can achieve anything I decide to achieve. Those 352 steps, one way, are staying with me. I did it. I took breaths as I needed to, I didn’t compete with anyone else, I was lacquered in my own sweat five million times over, and I did it. Fitness is an obstacle for me. I have chosen that. Since the steps, I have chosen otherwise. Every activity, every chance to walk, I have taken. Because I can if I decide to.

That people are basically the same. We all want to belong, to connect, to fit, to be valued, to be seen. Age, gender, socio-economic status, none of it matters at the core. At the core, we are one.

If you choose to give to beggars, especially children, you become part of the problem. Children who earn more money begging than going to school, will not go to school. Education is vital to break cycles, and to improve the condition of our planet and us. Find another way to assuage the guilt of privilege.

That my passion for teaching exists deeply. I have no time for the politics and admin. Enough said.

That those of us living in the first world have no idea what poverty and suffering is, evidenced by our overconsumption and misery. People here have nothing but smile broadly. We should learn from that.

And I have learned that girls from Campbelltown can become something, anything, everything. I am truly blessed.

On to Vietnam.