Long weeks, life lessons

I’ve had some time to digest the reality that my grandmother passed away just over two weeks ago, on Mother’s day.

The truth is, I’m still not sure what needs digesting.

It seems more of an acceptance that is required on my end, and sure enough I understand and accept that my grandmother’s health was declining and that the situation was bleak. Put simply, we knew it was coming. It wasn’t a sudden shock, and that in itself was a blessing. I don’t know if I’ve been “dealing” or “coping”, whatever that even means.

Mother’s day was really great though, I was able to cook my wife a lovely breakfast and take her out to shop for some craft supplies. I made her cupcakes the night before, which I proved to myself was not a one-night-only skill for my video post. My own mother, however, flew to the Philippines the thursday before to see her mother, my ill grandmother. Whereas others may want to be as far away from their mothers as possible, I find it a blessing to know that my mum is within minutes of driving, not hours of flight away. Thankfully my mum got to spend at least a full day with her own mum before her passing.

Mum Mike MJ

My mum, myself and Mommy Julie, 1986

Our beloved grandmother Julia, affectionately known as “Mommy Julie” to all who knew her, passed away on Sunday 12th May, 2013. She was 89, and today she would have celebrated her 90th birthday.

I had a difficult morning the Monday after hearing the news. Since then, I think I’ve been attempting to dodge grief or any other feelings about it. Thoughts do creep in, which in turn create emotions, which I admittedly have since tried to continually suppress with my mind-vice; it appears that it’s not strong enough. Feeling a bit defeated, I could only do my best to try and search for the best of what the coming days had to offer, and maybe I’d find the answers to whatever it is that I have not been able to properly express.

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Lately I’ve been obsessively trying to keep my mind busy. I’d like to think I’ve drowned myself in creative projects more so out of necessity, but without a doubt I’ve tried to just distract myself from thinking. Thinking about how I should have spent more time talking to Mommy Julie, sending her photos of my family, I mean, really, there are no excuses in this day and age. And yet, why did I allow myself to get so ‘busy’ that I could not even take the time out to Skype or FaceTime? As I tried to deny my guilt, I was reminded that Mommy Julie always remembered us. Just weeks before her passing, in her final decline of health, she FaceTime’d me (via my cousin) from her hospital bed during my work hours. My gracious colleague let me take the call. Suffering from kidney failure and all the negatives that brings, Mommy Julie still had a smile on her face as she reminisced on how she used to take care of us when we first moved to Australia. How she used to bring me to and from school, with my little brother in a pram, eating ice cream and what not. How I was matakaw. She had even remembered what date my birthday was, and sadly then, I didn’t remember hers.

At her death bed she still made time to reach out to me. Maybe this was reminder to me to do the same. To reach out to those whom I love, while we’re still around.

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My wife and I attended our friends’ wedding the following weekend. We hadn’t been away from our boys, and at the first chance that we’ve had away from them in a while, we missed the crap out of having them around. After the ceremony, we had to drop home just to see the boys who were being fantastic, behaving for my in-laws. At the reception, oh man, my wife and I had such a blast. Reminiscing on our own wedding and everything that’s happened since, we fell in love all over again. My gorgeous wife Krishia is a blessing. We danced the night away and it was perfect.

I thought of how Mommy Julie had lost her husband 45 years ago. Her loss solidified for me even more why you should spend and cherish every moment with your spouse. For we know not how long we are here for, so make the very best of every high and every low – together. Hold hands, show affection, take selfies. Be malambing.

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The following day we went to a Christening. The thoughts which swirled during the ceremony spanned the concepts of love, responsibility, care, strength, provision, legacy, and family, into the slowly churning choc fondue fountain that is my mind. Within these worldly institutions, we build the experiences of our children in the way in which we believe is best for them. What is it really that we leave behind for them? I’d like to think that we do what we do to best prepare our children’s future, to arm them with the skills to have a successful life, to construct for them an environment of love and support that they’ll forever remember.

Mommy Julie was lucky enough to be able to spend time with her great-grandchildren.  Some of our fond memories about her is her cheekyness, her love for her family, and her love of chocolate. Her memory is her legacy. Maybe that’s a step that we need to remember as parents. To build a legacy to fuel our children’s memories, and the stories they’ll be able to tell their own children and grandchildren. I wish my sons were able to meet her.

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After what seemed an eternal week at work, my dear wife started to come down with some flu-style sickness. I, once again, embarked on a journey to take on the epic stay-at-home parenting gig. This time round though, I utilised the experience points I gained from my previous adventure. I kept my composure most of the time, and I think my effort was  satisfactory, surprising myself. This was due in part to help from my brother, Ivan. He dropped by briefly in the afternoon to borrow some car care products, in preparation for the VW Nationals Show-N-Shine. Thankfully he stayed a little while longer to help out with the child-wrangling while I handled a minor poo-‘splosion. Trading help with cars for help with kids – a fine example of brotherly love if you ask me. I invited him over again for dinner in appreciation for his help.

MJ Ivan Mike

My brother and I with Mommy Julie, early 1990s.

I’m sure that this is the kind of thing Mommy Julie would have loved to see, that her grandkids turned out ok. That despite any animosity as children, at the end of the day as adults they’ve grown to support each other, to stick together. And that’s what parents and grandparents hope for, right?

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My cousin Agatha messaged me the other day, and as we exchanged memories of Mommy Julie she said, “I don’t think missing her will ever go away.” Maybe that’s just it. In trying so hard to define what the nature of grief or mourning is, or trying to figure out how to feel, we can overlook the simple opportunities and blessings we have in our day to day lives. Maybe the point is to just, live. To live each day to the fullest and to continue to make memories, as these are what we are left to hold onto when our time here is up. To just focus on celebrating each day of the life that we have.

And that’s exactly what our grandmother did.

Happy 90th Birthday, Mommy Julie. We’ll always love you.

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Things do gets tough at times, and stresses and anxieties can compound as a parent. Please do reach out and talk to someone. There are people who you can contact such as Family Juggle and Beyond Blue, even if it’s just to have a good ol’ chat to get things off your chest. Know this – you are not alone.