Category Archives: Chronic Illness

Not Quite A Perfect Father’s Day…

A picture tells a thousand words, but it can also tell a thousand lies. After all, how many of us stick those perfect-looking family photos up on our blogs and Facebook projecting this idyllic life out to all and sundry? Most of us do it unwittingly, simply sharing the moment. However, how many of us are brave enough to tell the truth? Admit we didn’t have a perfect day?

However, to be perfectly honest with you, I don’t believe online is the place to broadcast the truth either. Indeed, my grandmother who had quite a lot of wisdom stashed under the lid, used to say that you never run down your family to other people. While this can lead to the stiff upper lip and a swag of behaviors we’ve tried to overcome in subsequent generations, it also shows respect and allows family members to have their off days without fearing their dirty laundry will be aired in public and they need to hide themselves away.

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However, I’m also mindful that it doesn’t take much to project this image of the perfect, happy family especially if you’re still married to your original spouse and your kids scrub up alright. Indeed, without you even knowing it, you could even become a role model. That’s all well and good if you feel you deserve it. However, a lot goes on behind closed doors. Too much at times and you just can’t spill the beans and get it off your chest because it isn’t your story to tell. Or, as I said, you don’t want to broadcast what was really a blip on the radar…a bad day.

It was much easier to do that when the kids were small. You could share at playgroup about your toddler throwing a tantrum in the supermarket and exchange notes. It feels like more of a betrayal when you spill the beans on your teen. That you need to adhere to the code of silence. This is possibly quite different to when I was a teen and my mother played bridge and tennis with her friends. She was pretty discreet and I can’t imagine her disclosing any of our antics. Indeed, she is known to be very good with secrets…watertight. She doesn’t leak. Besides, I think she was inclined to hold back and keep our family’s business to herself. Indeed, I remember going to stay with her parents being given a list of things not to tell my grandparents for a swag of reasons. However, my grandmother knew I was the weakest link and most of the time I didn’t even need to say a word anyway. She already knew.

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Anyway, this Father’s Day was never going to be perfect. By that, I mean giving my husband breakfast in bed, opening presents and for us all going off to Church together. They always have something special at Church and a photo booth, which is lots of fun if your Father’s Day is shaping up alright, but salt in the wound if it’s not. However, only Geoff made it to Church today. I’m still getting over a virus and am taking things slow. Our daughter was off to dance rehearsals for Swan Lake and the curtain opens in only three weeks. So, she was gone for most of the day. Meanwhile, our son couldn’t sleep and didn’t get there either. It wasn’t a great show of family solidarity for Father’s Day and I just couldn’t make it happen either, which I probably would’ve done if I was feeling better.

However, despite a day which was teetering along like an apprentice  tightrope walker teetering back and forward from the brink, I tenaciously clung to my plans to cook a special baked family dinner and even a family specialty for dessert…my mum’s sponge cake topped with luscious passion fruit icing and dollops of cream. It was quite an effort cleaning all the paraphernalia and vitally important detritus off the kitchen table and I can’t remember the last time we actually set the table and had a more formal dinner.

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The Family Sponge Cake (oops I was struggling to blend the butter into the icing but it tasted great).

I don’t know if good food is a way to the heart, a way of helping people to bond and connect and for some of the walls to come down. However, it seemed to do the trick. Our daughter said the potatoes were the best I’d ever made, which is high praise coming from her as she eats like a sparrow. Our son wasn’t too hungry and was feeling tired and went off to bed without even trying the cake. However, he did start to perk up a bit.

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Indeed, they all did after I produced a big photo album and they started looking at old photos of Geoff’s Mum and Dad and the extended family. This was quite intentional on my part because Father’s Day is a hard day for my husband. His father died when he was around 16 just before Father’s Day 36 years ago. He didn’t get the chance to get to know his father as an adult. Obviously, the kids and I have never met him and there is quite an absence there. We don’t have a lot of stories and only a handful of photographs. So, it was really good to see Geoff and the kids pouring over these photographs and he could talk the kids through them. Our kids are a lot younger than their cousins so it was interesting for them to see them when they were their age. Sometimes, I must admit that it feels like our family missed the boat. We just weren’t there.

Meanwhile, there’s my Dad. We usually catch up with my Dad on  Father’s Day every year, although there are some years we celebrate on a different day because plans simply don’t come together, which is what happened this year. Father’s Day is held on the first Sunday in September here in Australia, and with the first Sunday falling on the 1st, it caught us off-guard. We didn’t have anything planned.

Dad didn’t mind. He was feeling exhausted as well and was happy to have a quiet day. We all seem to be getting over the Winter colds, which were compounded by heavy rain and winds during the week, which only reinforced our lethargy.

So, it wasn’t a perfect day. However, it did remind me to hang in there, even when things are far from perfect, and keep beavering away towards building connection, bridging gaps, misunderstandings and grumpiness. Never give up. If you think that sounds like a rallying cry, you’re right. I’m still trying to convince myself. However, your nearest and dearest are worth fighting for. Indeed, they are your world. For many of us, our forebears bore arms and defended our country and our principles. However, how many of us would make the supreme sacrifice for our family? I don’t know. Or, perhaps we’re prepared to die for our families but not prepared to live?

“If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.”

Jackie Kennedy

These are difficult issues. What would I do to save my family? Would I give it my all? Or, would I shut up shop. It’s all too hard. After all, there probably is no perfect family, although there probably are perfect moments which we need to seize hold of and savor for eternity.

Perhaps, we should also abandon the entire concept of the perfect family. Understand that a Happy Birthday, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day might need to be considered beyond the day itself when things turn pear shaped or even go catastrophically wrong. That it’s not just about the date but about celebrating the person and our relationship and might be more about something that happened last week, a few months ago than this particular day.

Naturally, for many father is a stranger. An unknown on a whole range of levels. Sometimes that’ s a ache and other time something not experienced, isn’t missed and perhaps others have even filled those shoes. I will not dare to presume to understand.

So, I guess I’m feeling like making a toast to overcoming disagreements, strained relationships, misunderstandings and working through even times where we are treated badly and a serious apology is in order. That’s not to gloss over the pain, betrayal and disappointment. It’s not to condone and accept domestic violence of any kind. However, it is to encourage working through rocky relationships and trying to nut things out, smooth things over and to keep talking. This  is as much directed at myself as anyone else. I find it much easier to retreat inside myself and shut the door. However, love and relationships are the most important things to me and it’s ultimately detrimental to  do that. The only way forward is to come out of my hidey-hole and get the ball rolling.

I am hoping you might also find these reflections helpful and you might like to add some thoughts or experiences in the comments. Our families and relationships mean the world to us so let’s try not only to keep hanging in there, but to also bring out the best in them too.

Best wishes,

Rowena

On The Run…Friday Fictioneers.

“Over my dead body! Dot thundered. “You won’t get me into a nursing home!”

However, the good Lord had other plans. Sent a blood clot to her brain. It wasn’t strong enough to take her out, or destroy her mental faculties, but it had left her paralyzed in a wheelchair.

Dot was sure she could manage at home. Yet, her daughter had her assessed and off she went. Worse than jail, and she’d committed no crime.

However, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Her daughter locked her up, but her grandchildren set her free.

Grannie was on the run.

….

100 Words

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. Every week we write 100 words to a photo prompt. This week’s PHOTO PROMPT  Linda Kreger.

My take on this week’s prompt was inspired by my husband’s aunt who was a strong-willed, intelligent and independent woman who lived at home with her son for many years after a stroke left her in a mobility scooter. Unfortunately, she had another fairly massive stroke which didn’t kill her but she couldn’t go home and it was hard for all of us when she had expressed her wishes so clearly but there was nothing anybody could do. That was her lot. This stroke, by the way, had again only really affected her mobility and she was still as bright as a button and it was a tough cross to bear. I would’ve liked to set her free.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 26th August, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share. How was your week? Hope it went well.

You’re in luck this week. I had a moment of weakness in the supermarket and bought a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates. So, you can help yourself to a golden nugget of pure scrumptious indulgence. Yum!

The last week disappeared while I was wrestling with our son over his subject choices for the last two years of school. Moreover, while preparing for that, I realized that we really need to get the house in order to help him get focused and organized. That was a rather dire realization, because our place was packed sky-high with towers of books, photo albums and homeless ephemera. After all, for him to achieve his best, this place not only needs to be a well-oiled, organized machine. It also needs to be an oasis of calm,  where our swirling vortex of out-of-control student can crash and immediately find inner peace. Of course, this process goes a lot more smoothly when the parents are exceptionally Zen (in your dreams!!)

Now, that I’ve actually thought this through further now, it’s finally hit me that I’m trying to create utopia. That a home isn’t a factory, and a family isn’t made up of exceptionally well-controlled test subjects or computer-generated characters who only do what they’ve been programmed to do. Unfortunately, families are made up of real people each with their own inner worlds and aspirations and it’s a bit much to ask anyone to put all of that on hold for two years, although a degree of self-sacrifice is to be expected.

The other thing is, that no amount of prayer or feverishly tinkering away with life, is going to protect us from fate. Good and bad things happen and just because he’s doing his HSC, we can’t give him some sort of vaccination against adversity and bad luck. Moreover, to be honest, I don’t know that I would want to either. I’d rather he developed resilience within from fighting his battles, and not succeeding in the short term because he took the easy way out. We also have our Christian faith, but I don’t believe God has promised to protect us from adversity. He’s just promised to be there with us through life’s ups and downs. However, I still have faith in the power of prayer.

That said, I still see glaring examples of the things I do for our son, rather than leaving him to do them for himself. Most of these are those relatively small things around the house, but they do add up. I did leave him to hand in some school notes, which have been in his bag for awhile, but they made it in today…yippee!! Miracles do happen!

I’m looking at working on  two main areas to help him get organized at home. Firstly, I’ve been on a cleaning rampage. Focusing on all the stacks of books teetering on just about any flat surface around the house, I’ve already dropped off a boot load of books and another pile is mounting. These books have also accumulated a lot of dust. So, moving them on is good for our health as well. Once I’ve got through the books, the photo albums are next on the agenda. As an enthusiastic amateur photographer, the photo albums are also everywhere, and I also have loads of old family photos as well. However, I’ve started scanning more of them in and then I can store the bulk of them in the roof. Have some room to move. The other area I’m working on is our time management and keeping tabs on all the appointments. We’ve missed a few things on at the school, and that’s had repercussions. So, it’s pretty important, especially next year when students get a zero for a late assessment, unless there’s a rock solid excuse and I’m talking about something akin to an alibi.

However, although I sound particularly fired up, I’ve actually been  struggling at half-mast. It’s the tail end of Winter here and virtually everybody’s fighting something off. I’ve been sleeping through most of the day and then getting a burst of energy after dinner and staying up too late and the terrible cycle repeats. However, I have a busy day tomorrow so this could be the turning point which will get me back into a good routine. Being the perpetual optimist, I live in hope.

However, it hasn’t been all responsibility during the last week. I’ve also been reading Charles Dickens’: Oliver Twist and have made it halfway. I’m really enjoying it, although poor Oliver’s trials and tribulations are rather intense and pulls at my heartstrings. He’s really happy at the moment and away from Fagan and his darstardly crew for the second time, but things have been too good for too long. I know his luck is about to turn again. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it. It is fairly quick-paced and there’s a good amount of philosophical reflection throughout, which I enjoy and Dickens is famed for his well-developed characters. They really come to life.

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Meanwhile, our daughter spent much of the week away snow skiing down at Perisher-Smiggins in the Australian Alps. She had a ball. Haven’t seen any photos yet.

Have you been doing any reading lately?

What about your writing? How is that going?

In terms of post through the last week,  there was:

Bye Bye Miss!

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Dud Photos – Thursday Doors

Dog and I Finally Go For A Walk

Lady Beach

I also reblogged a fascinating post from The Contented Crafter which looks at the use of vivid colours versus dull neutrals: Vivid Colours

Well, time has completely run away from me again tonight and I have a swag of things on tomorrow so I’d better scoot.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Dog & I Finally Go For A Walk…

This afternoon, Lady and I actually made it out the front door and went for a walk along the beach, finally snatching hold of the remains of the uncharacteristically brilliant sunshine. It was a perfect day, and yet we almost missed it. Moreover, if I’d checked the weather forecast for the coming week earlier, I’d have pressed the eject button much sooner and soaked up more of those rays. It’s still Winter Down Under. Yet, today the temperature reached a high of 26°C or 78°F. As it turns out, most of next week it will be rainy and overcast. So, just when I was going to get back into my fitness regime, I’ll be stuck indoors. Typical! Anyway, Spring is on its way and soon I’ll be complaining about the heat.

 

Still, I’m chuffed we got to the beach at all. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been struck down by a weird virus which has brought on sinus trouble and extreme fatigue. I’ve been sooo tired and sleeping most of the day, although I’ve also managed to read half of Charles Dickens classic, Oliver Twist. So, it appears  my eyes and mind were at least getting some exercise, while the rest of my body crashed out.

However, while Lady and I made it to the beach and had our walk, the pups were not so lucky. I had tried unsuccessfully to recruit our daughter to come with us so we could take all three. However, she’d returned from the snow yesterday and is exhausted. Our son was glued to his games. Besides, the other leads had gone missing and I blame my frenzied clean-up for burying them, which might not make a lot of sense to some of you, but I’m sure there’ll be plenty who understand. Life is chaos.

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Bilbo appropriating another dog’s ball.

Speaking of walking the dogs, how do they know I’m thinking of taking them for a walk before I’ve even got he lead? The plastic bag? All it takes is seeing that pair of shoes and socks. Yet, they don’t seem to go crazy every time they see me put on the shoes. I’m sure they know the difference. They know when there’s a walk at sake, and when there’s not. By the way, I should also point out that I’m now very haphazard and unstructured about their walk times. I made that mistake with our last dog, Bilbo and he just developed expectations. Expectations aren’t a good thing for a Border Collie to have. They’re sheepdogs and they’ll round you up to ensure their expectations are met. Hence, it pays  to have no routine, no consistency and to break just about every rule in the parenting text book to get some peace and quiet. I’m sure they have ESP. I kid you not.

Lady swimming

I hope you like the photo of her royal scruffiness emerging from the surf. She loves swimming almost as much as sniffing and I just have to hope their isn’t a dead anything on the beach because she not only rolls in it but rubs it right into the fur follicles so it won’t come out. She might be called Lady, but she can be rather uncouth at times.

Beach Sunset

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed joining us for a trip to the beach. Have you been for any walks lately? Please share in the comments below.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS These photos were taken with my phone and I can really notice a difference in quality to the Nikon SLR.

 

Weekend Coffee Share…18th August, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Regardless of how you take your tea, coffee, or Bonox, around here you’re beverage of choice comes served with a mandatory side serve of stick from our over-zealous sheepdog, Rosie. There are bits of stick all over my chair and the carpet is looking like it’s been in a sawmill. The pups pulverize  these sticks until there’s almost nothing left yet still manage to deposit what amounts to a large splinter on my laptop expecting me to throw it. Some of them don’t make it very far they are that small. Indeed, I’m surprised they don’t disappear into the ether. However, as far as Rosie and her trusty sidekick Zac are concerned, size doesn’t matter. There biggest problem is how to get the humans moving. I’m sure they must be researching how to motivate humans. We’re worse than sheep.

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We spotting this ethereal moon rising down the end of our street during the week.

How was your week?I hope it’s been great.If not, there’s always next week, although in my experience it doesn’t work like that. That a good week doesn’t automatically follow a bad one out of some cosmic sense of fairness.

Overall, my week was pretty good, although I’ve been fighting off a bug and have also had sinus troubles. I’ve spent much of the week asleep, but had a few things on and have had to venture out. At this point, I’ve appeared on top of the world and my usual perky self and haven’t given much of an inkling that I’m struggling.

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Hardly a rock violinist, but I almost look the part. 

Last night, I performed at an in-house soiree at the music school where I’ve been learning the violin for the last six years. I played Chopin’s “How Deep Is The Night”. This is a rather melancholy piece, which is also known as “Tristesse”… French for sadness. I had to pace myself yesterday. Needed to do some heavy practice, but didn’t want towear myself out. In preparation, I listened to Andrei Rieu play it, which was very humbling, but feel it gave my performance a lift. I’d been meaning to listen to it for months but hadn’t got around to it. While exams and performances are stressful, they do challenge you to lift your game put in those extra hours of practice and do what it takes to bring out the best in yourself.

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Here I am with my trusty sidekick Rupert Bear who was playing the broken-hearted romantic during my performance. Clearly, he wasn’t sitting there while I played. I’m not that good. 

Anyway, my performance went well. I did a duet with my teacher. I had to try and be steady. Not allow myself to be distracted by the faster quavers she was playing and hold my own. That was challenging and while I have good pitch, my sense of rhythm is shot. It was a good exercise, which I’d like to continue. I love playing with my teacher and she’s a wonderful encouragement…the wind beneath my wings.

This week, I also started a course about living with a chronic illness through our local health service. Since I’ve been living with my conditions for a long time now, I wondered whether this would be much use. However, I was blown away. The information is very useful and I was delighted to find one of my close friends is also doing the course and so she can be my partner in crime.

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This red door in nearby Patonga appeared in Thursday Doors this week. Love a red door.

One of the outcomes of the course this week, was that we had to set ourselves a goal for the following week. It was something we wanted to do and not a chore. I probably should’ve been a good girl and chosen something exercise related. However, I’ve also fallen off my blogging perch over the last couple of months and so opted to write three blog posts this week. That was quite easy to structure around Friday Fictioneers  Wednesday night, Thursday Doors and now the Weekend Coffee Share. So, in addition to pulling off my violin performance, I’m also chuffed that I’m gaining additional information and support to overcome my health issues and making progress with my blogging again.

On that note, my posts this week have been…

Dancing In The Moonlight…Friday Fictioneers

Patonga- Thursday Doors

Moonlight in the Clouds

The Closet Violinist Breaks Out

By the way, if you haven’t visited Friday Fictioneers, this would be a good week to head over for a read and even have a go yourself. The photo prompt goes up every Wednesday and I guess the timing depends on where you live, but it’s night time here for me in Australia. The idea is that you write 100 words to the photo prompt. Some prompts work better than others. However, this week’s prompt seemed to work particularly well not only in terms of producing great writing, but also in termsof social commentary. After all, as writers we’re interpreting the world around us especially human interaction. These are definitely worth a good read. Here’s the LINK

 

Lastly, we’ve been attending meetings for both kids at the school regarding their subject choices for next year. This was fairly straightforward for our daughter. She’s two years younger than our son and it’s not life and death at her age. However, our son goes into Year 11 next year and despite what the school says offering words of reassurance, we parents know the hard truth. If this kid doesn’t work this out, we’re the ones picking up the bill. It might be his life, but it’s our bank account. We’re quite relieved that our daughter has chosen dance and commerce. That way,  when she’s a starving ballerina, she can at least work out how to budget. Our son is looking at advanced maths which is all well and good but we’re not too sure about his overall choices. I am generally pretty laid back as a parent.However, these subject choices have raised a call to action which makes bad cop look lame. Now, I’m left how to make NO, NOT OVER MY DEAD BODY!!! look more palatable and even how to get him to reach this conclusion for himself. Humph! It looks like we’re in for interesting times. Any advice would be most welcome!!

That’s not a good note to wind up on and I’m currently feeling like a lot more than a coffee if you catch my drift. However, I need to head off to pick up our daughter and her friends from dance rehearsal soon. I’m also intending to squeeze in a bit of a walk. This weird activity called exercise. Although I know it wards off colds, it’s the last thing I feel like doing when I’m under the weather.

Anyway, hope you’ve had a great week and I look forward to catch up with you over the next few days.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

The Countdown to 50…Yikes!

Tomorrow, which is currently approaching faster than a Japanese bullet train, I turn 50 and in so many ways am happy to chant “Fifty not out”, even though I’m not a cricket fan by any stretch of the imagination. After all, when we rewind six years ago before I found out they were were going to give me chemo to combat my rampaging auto-immune disease, I was in dire straits. I was potentially looking down the barrel of 12 months to live. That’s serious stuff for anyone. However, at the time, our kids were nine and seven. They were along way off independence and being able to fend for themselves.

So, I am absolutely exuberantly happy to still be here. I truly appreciate the frailty and transience of life and the need to grab onto it with both hands and carpe diem seize the day.

However, in addition to this gratitude, there is also disappointment. A disappointment which can feel like an arrow straight through my heart.

Of course, it’s only natural that reflecting on my 50 years really intensifies both the good and the bad. It brings out the stuff you don’t think about very often as well as the stuff you leave right at the back of your closet hoping there might just be an imaginary land out the back where it could disappear altogether never to return. Of course it doesn’t though, does it?!! Instead, it sends you a huge birthday card. One of those ones which play a song when you open it up which is too loud to ignore.

Of course, I’m not the only one you has had disappointments. Indeed, while mine have been pretty intense at the time, others have been through worse and even much worse.

Moreover, since I’m still here to tell my tale, I’m considerably lucky. Blessed. Whatever you call it. My glass is more than half full. It’s literally overflowing.

Yet, there is the tear. I’m not going to deny it’s there. Or, wipe it away so no one else can see it. Life is full of ups and downs and I don’t believe we should ever deny those times we’re face down in the mud unable to surface. It is what it is. However, acknowledging that, is very different from getting stuck there.

I haven’t got time now to take this any further at the moment. The clock’s just past midnight and so I’ve already passed from my 40s into my fifties and moved on.

Now, it’s time to get to bed because some wise owl thought it would be fantabulous to welcome in the new day by watching the sunrise with the family. We’re heading off to Pearl Beach about 6.00am when I’m usually snoring and dreaming away.

However, I’ll leave you with this great hit from the Uncanny X-Men:

Stay tuned for more reflections.

Meanwhile, you might want to share how you felt about and experienced your most recent milestone birthday in the comments below.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

 

Je suis Notre Dame…

“To know her, is to love her!”

The Beatles

Thank goodness, this isn’t a eulogy and has become more of an appreciation of our beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral. Indeed, these words are the outpourings of a heart which almost broke yesterday, as the blazing orange flames all but consumed her like a savage beast.  Yet, we’re not grieving her death, but are now grateful that she miraculously survived.

Like so many of us who have survived horrendous infernos of this magnitude, Notre Dame is still standing, yet all but destroyed.  I am a survivor myself and know that seemingly bottomless grief. Indeed, I have asked these very same questions myself…How did this happen? What has been lost? What is left? What can be done? I have also known that very same, fierce determination to get back on my feet and overcome like so many survivors. We will rebuild. Yet, it still hurts and the pain feels like it has no end. However, somehow you suddenly reach the other end of the rainbow and your ordeal seems like a bad dream, although the scars remain.

Personally, Notre Dame has never just been somewhere I went in Paris. Indeed, our connection has always been personal and it wasn’t just about the building either. No doubt, it’s the same for millions around the world and throughout history and we each have our own story to tell. Indeed, in a strange way and no doubt encouraged by Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, she’s almost come to life.  We can almost feel her pulse, her heartbeat and believe she knows and understands us in ways beyond human understanding. Indeed, as I watched those infernal flames blaze with such fury, I could hear her gasping for breath unable to discern whether she wanted to live or to die.

Of course, by now I was also walking through the streets of Paris crying and singing the words of the Hail Mary in solidarity with the people, although I didn’t know the words in French or in English. I didn’t need to. Notre Dame was in my heart. As Notre Dame burned, Paris might have been one of the largest cities in the world, but she was a village once again.

However, who was I kidding? I wasn’t out on the streets with the people of Paris. Rather, I was still stuck here on the other side of the world and couldn’t be there. Of course, it wasn’t quite the same sense of anguish you feel when a loved one is dying and you can’t get back. When you desperately want to hold their hand and say your “I love yous” and goodbyes and miss out. Yet, I still felt the need to vent. Respond. Do something.

So, I did what I could.

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Yesterday, on the way to the Art Gallery of NSW with my daughter, we detoured via Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral to pay our respects to the smouldering remains of Notre Dame and her extended global community. Indeed, I needed to pray and being there was the closest I could get to being near Notre Dame.

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Our daughter sitting on the steps of St Mary’s Cathedral on Tuesday. Not quite the same effect as Princess Diana at the Taj Mahal but there’s promise. 

 

Back when my husband first told me the news, I jumped straight out of bed and switched on the TV expecting some kind of mistake. Yet, there she was right before my very eyes…a blazing, orange inferno. Brutal, cruel and almost evil, she was trapped in the flames with no way out. Yet, the valiant fire fighters of Paris, just like those of New York on 9/11, were there fighting to put out the flames and save her from eternal destruction.

Notre Dame! The name says it all, even for me as an Australian.

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My backpack and I just before I left. 

On the 13th July, 1992 I arrived at Paris’s Gare du Nord with my backpack and I found my way to the Hotel Henri IV in Rue Saint Jacques only five minutes’ walk from Notre Dame. I stayed there with friends for a few weeks, exploring the city of light and romantic turmoil, while Notre Dame stood seemingly unmoved and her bells chimed.

Being immersed in all that history and architectural grandeur, was an incredible experience for a young Australian experiencing Europe for the first time. We had nothing like it. Unfortunately, the City of Love also turned out to be the City of Heartbreak and despair. Indeed, I’m sure it’s no coincidence that so many philosophers, writers and artists have gathered there. I definitely sensed a dark undercurrent to Paris, and perhaps in this context, Notre Dame needed to be the light.

Rowena Notre Dame

My parents met up with me in Paris and we not only went to Notre Dame, my father and I also had our portraits sketched out the front. While I don’t particularly remember the interior, I still remember going inside and experiencing the most incredible sense of peace…the peace which surpasses human understanding. I also remember feeling it was much cooler inside with a distinct temperature drop. Being July, it was boiling hot outside and perhaps it was a few degrees cooler inside the cathedral. I don’t know. However, this combined with the stained glass windows and subdued lighting did create an ambiance.

Yet, quite aside from that, I could really sense the comforting presence of God. Only a few weeks’ beforehand, my mother’s aunt had passed away. She and Mum were particularly close and brought closer still by Mum’s strict upbringing. So, although we’re not Catholic, we lit a candle for her. Lighting that wick, has always been special. However, it’s felt even sacred since the fire. It was such an incredibly poignant moment. I think we also lit a candle for Mum’s younger sister, Lyn, who’d suddenly been ripped away from us at 36 with double pneumonia. Lyn’s death was one of those wounds which never seemed to heal. Lyn was beautiful, vivacious and so young. Naturally, her death rocked everyone who knew her. It didn’t make sense and we just had to get used to living with our grief.

No doubt, over the last 856 years, millions have also had such moments where they’ve been  touched by God’s love and this indescribable peace at Notre Dame. Of course, I know this experience isn’t unique to us, although it certainly felt that way. People have prayed for the living, cried for the dead and wrestled with everything in between and Notre Dame has stood as solid as a rock through the French Revolution, two world wars, and hoards of visitors. Indeed, even that blazing infernal couldn’t destroy her completely, but it’s been too close a call.

Yet, she has also suffered terrible neglect, which has taken its toll. As Victor Hugo wrote in The Hunchback of Notre Dame:

 “(I)t is difficult not to sigh, not to wax indignant, before the numberless degradations and mutilations which time and men have both caused the venerable monument to suffer.”

So why was it so difficult to raise the money to restore and maintain this stunning, historic and sacred cathedral, which has always been at the very heart of Paris? It is hard to understand.

However, as we move forward as a global community, we now have the chance to show her the love we’ve always felt, but haven’t sufficiently expressed. She has given us so much, and now it’s our turn to give back in whatever way we can. For some of us, that will be in words or paint while others have been financially blessed.

Notre Dame needs to be that phoenix rising out of the ashes. We need to see that you can rise up from near total destruction, and start over not only as a building but also as individuals and communities. We can get better. Moreover, we also need to restore Notre Dame for future generations who will also be reaching out for God’s love and the peace which surpasses human understanding in an imperfect and often turbulent world.

Have you been to Notre Dame and would like to share your thoughts? Please leave them in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena