Tag Archives: Phillip Hughes

Should We Have A Happy Christmas?

Last night, I tried once again to write my Annual Christmas Newsletter but was getting stuck. After the last few weeks, I‘m finding it hard to get into the Christmas spirit. Australia has been in mourning following the accidental death of cricketer Phillip Hughes. Since then the shock, outrage and sadness has only got worse…so much worse! Knowing that these families are grieving, it is hard to feel positive about this Christmas or write about what our family has been doing this year, as though it’s all just business as usual. That said, I was having chemo last Christmas and every Christmas we have together as a family is very, very precious.

 

My grandfather reading his Christmas mail 2007. When he was a Pastor in Wollongong back in the 1950s in a congregation with mostly "New Australians", everbody would sing Silent Night in their own language together.

My grandfather reading his Christmas mail 2007, aged 93. When he was a Pastor in Wollongong back in the 1950s in a congregation with mostly “New Australians”, everybody would sing Silent Night in their own language together.

The Annual Christmas Newsletter is a tradition started by my grandfather. He quite literally belted out his newsletter on the keys of his pre-historic typewriter well after the days of computers. I’ve even seen newer contraptions preserved in modern museums. He was a Church Pastor and knew a lot of people and could have used a mail house to get his Christmas newsletter out.  Christmas was such a special time for him. Not just because it honored Jesus’ birth but because it brought Christians and families together. He loved nothing more than the annual Christmas Tree service on Christmas Eve where the children dressed up as angels and shepherds. If you’d been good at Sunday School, you might just be lucky and get the role of Mary or Joseph. That is, instead of being cast as the donkey!!

The kids dressed as angels for the Christmas Eve Service, 2008.

The kids dressed as angels for the Christmas Eve Service, 2008 aged 2 and 4.

However, I was not only struggling due to the usual writer’s block. I am still absolutely shell-shocked by recent events.

You know what I’m talking about.

I still haven’t started my newsletter and what I started writing has instead become this post. Quite unintentionally, it has ended up with two contrasting but interwoven stories. The words look at what’s happened as I guess I’m still trying to make sense of it all. The photos of our family tell a different story. They show those precious Christmas moments we all treasure and they really brought it home what these families have lost. Going through our many many Christmas photos  has also helped me appreciate our kids a lot more and what we have. That we shoud never take that for granted. Never ever!

Phillip Hughes’ death stopped the nation. That now seems a very long time ago in what I’m now calling “the Age of Innocence” before the events of last week. How a cricket ball could by-pass the helmet and hit him smack in the neck and kill such a fit and healthy young sportsman in the prime of life was beyond comprehension. Naturally, we support bowler Sean Abbott and the accident was clearly not his fault. It was one of those freakish things you can’t explain.

As I watched “Hughesie’s” funeral on TV, I heard his brother talk about the endless hours he spent bowling to his little bro who always insisted on batting first and took days and days to get out. Being the youngest, it was his sister’s job to fetch the balls. After hearing all those little anecdotes, we felt like we knew the cricketer in the green baggy cap with the enormous smile and such a joie de vivre. We felt shattered for his family and his cricketing family as well and we thought about his upcoming birthday and, of course, Christmas !!

However, last week’s dreadful siege in Martin Place’s much loved Lindt Café was in another league of shocked disbelief entirely. Of course, this tragedy wasn’t some statistically freakish accident. It was pure evil in action and it happened in our Sydney.

At any other time, any chocoholic would have been ecstatic to be locked up in the Lindt Cafe overnight and the contrast between chocolate heaven and the absolute hell that went on in there, is incomprehensible. I’ve never been there but so many friends have such special memories of that café. It is an indulgent treat. As the gunman forced the hostages up against the windows and we saw their hands, the window frames were decorated with “Merry Christmas” in fancy script. Again, this juxtaposition was yet another cruel irony. The siege ended on Tuesday 16th December with the deaths of Tori Johnson , the Manager of the Lindt Café and Katrina Dawson, Barrister and mother of three who had a love of hot chocolate.

An utter tragedy!!

You wouldn’t think it could get much worse, even though you know it does.

Only a day later, seven heavily armed Taliban gunmen scaled an outer wall of the Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar, Pakistan and began shooting indiscriminately. 132 children and nine school staff were killed in what has been the deadliest ever attack by the Taliban in Pakistan. As the Economist stated: “It takes something unusually vile for the world to pay much attention to a terrorist outrage in Pakistan”[1].

I doubt any of us can even name one of the children killed in that attack. Personally, beyond knowing it had happened, I didn’t really know many of the details myself. I have been immersed in the aftermath of the Lindt Cafe Siege. It wasn’t that I didn’t care but once again it was over there and I was still shell shocked by what had happened here. I think they’ve termed this “sympathy fatigue”. All the same, these kids are just like yours and mine. They no doubt also liked to play cricket. Perhaps, they eveh put their cricket bats out the front of their homes out of respect to cricketer Phillip Hughes just like kids all around Australia…not knowing the horror which lay ahead.

Yet, around the world, people know Phillip Hughes, Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson by name. Sir Elton John paused during a concert to honour Hughes and Martin Place is bursting and overflowing with floral tributes to these hero hostages who lost their lives protecting others.

Those children in Pakistan are just as precious!!

Mister pushing his little sister along George Street, Sydney 2008.

Christmas Shopping- Mister pushing his little sister along George Street, Sydney 2008

While it’s tempting to switch off and feel that the Pakistan massacre is just too horrific. Too dreadful. Can we afford to cover our eyes, our ears and simply switch off our TVs and somehow get back to Christmas 2014? Get back to wrapping presents, decorating trees, baking, eating too much chocolate, too much of everything including a few stiff drinks…especially after last week?

No matter who you are, we all have our own problems. While there are quite evidently a lot of people worse off out there, you also need to deal with your own stuff too. No one else is going to do it for you!! Perhaps, you just  haven’t got anything left to think about someone someplace else.

 

You also might just want to enjoy Christmas and honour the real meaning of Christmas…Christ’s birth and that God the Father sent him down to earth to save mankind from themselves. Save the lost. After this week, you’d think that Jesus might think it’s time to come back. How could there be so much hate and violence on our pretty blue planet which ironically looks so peaceful from space? I don’t know. Somehow, we need to start turning the tide around but how?

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke.

But what can we do?

Thousands have left flowers in Martin Place. You can send Christmas cards to Katrina Dawson’s kids. We can also make a start by living by the Golden Rule and treating others as we would like to be treated . We could perhaps even develop the empathy and compassion to consider how others would like to be treated as well. How many of us have people we don’t speak to or even worse spew out abuse at each other? If we can not show love, forgiveness and compassion in our own personal relationships, how can we possibly change our world? While we might not have physically murdered anyone, who have we damaged through our words or our deeds…or indeed, possibly even broken beyond repair? There is so much pain and heartache in our world and maybe we just need to listen to a troubled soul and that could be all it takes to make a difference and show love…that proverbial cup of tea.

Yet, even listening is not as easy as we think.

Mister at the Beach Aged 9 Months- Christmas 2004.

Mister at the Beach Aged 9 Months- Christmas 2004.

Just when we thought that it couldn’t get much worse, news came through from Queensland (Australia) that a mother has been charged with murdering 7 of her children as well as her niece. That’s eight children senselessly killed, seven by their own mother. This mother has at least one other child still living who has to live with that loss. He is just a young man and I don’t know how he’ll get through this atrocity. Apparently, these children had more than one Dad and these fathers have had their hearts ripped out as well. Why? Why does a mother kill her own children when your very instinct is to defend your children, even to the death?!! We’ve all had bad days with our kids but to do that…it’s incomprehensible. I am left numb. We have all been left numb.

Now, the fields of floral tributes are growing in Cairns as well. Too much tragic, needless heartache.

With the gravity of recent events, I haven’t heard any mention of the families who lost loved ones in the equally horrific shooting down of Flight MH17. It is their first Christmas without their loved ones. But given recent events, it’s like revisiting that horror is all too much. Yet, I still care. I haven’t forgotten.

MIss with her doll's house. We had to qwrap it up in a big white sheet to wrap it up and tied tinsel around it.

Miss with her doll’s house. We had to wrap it up in a big white sheet to wrap it up and tied tinsel around it.

 

Our daughter's first Christmas 2006 aged 10 months.

Our daughter’s first Christmas 2006 aged 10 months.

Mister and the old big red fella Christmas 2014

Mister and the old big red fella Christmas 2014

 

So after all of this, how are the rest of us supposed to have a Happy Christmas? Oh yes. I’m just swinging from the chandeliers in my Mrs Claus suit drinking champagne, even with my broken foot in its boot.

I don’t think so.

Yet, Christmas Day is too important for our family to write off or turn into a funeral. Life is precious and nobody knows what lies around the corner. Despite my many health scares, I’m still standing but none of us can take things for granted.

As a friend of mine who works in Martin Place has said: Every day is a gift.

We need to make sure we use that gift wisely. For me that includes being informed about these shocking events but also trying to be a counterforce for good. Right now, I really feel like marching down George Street (Sydney’s main street) wearing a huge heart suit to reinforce the importance of love. That love can triumph over evil. I’d probably look like an idiot and get locked up for disturbing the peace but I want people to remember that there is love and goodness in this world, even when we see the very worst of humanity flashed across our TV screens and even in our own city. We have to fight for goodness and for most of us, it will be in the little things. Baking a cake for a friend. Driving your friend’s kids home from school. Not walking into someone with a walking stick when you’re running desperately for that train. Keeping your cool with the kids when they’ve razzed you up for the hundredth time.

 

Showing off my new zebra PJs from Victoria's Secret beside the Christmas Tree in 2006. Lucky I didn't go skiing on all that wrapping paper!

Showing off my new zebra PJs from Victoria’s Secret beside the Christmas Tree in 2006. Lucky I didn’t go skiing on all that wrapping paper!

Mummy & Miss Christmas 2006

Mummy & Miss Christmas 2006. She is 10 months old and still crawling.

Mister & I with Santa at the Pearl Beach, Playgroup 2008.

Mister & I with Santa at the Pearl Beach, Playgroup 2008.

 

 

 

 

These random acts of kindness aren’t going to win you any awards and you won’t see your name up in lights but there is the personal satisfaction of a life well lived and having integrity and character…values that desperately need to come back into fashion.

That said, something tells me that the word Kardashian has more weight.

Somehow, you and I need to be the change.

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller

I have pretty much decided that from tomorrow, my blog will return to “normal viewing”. That it is time to celebrate and enjoy Christmas 2014 and that is not the crime. That said, for all of you who are grieving this Christmas, I send you my love!

Love & Best wishes,

Rowena

We've all got to start somewhere. Miss aged 1 2007.

We’ve all got to learn the Golden Rule sometime. Miss almost aged 2- Christmas 2007. The next photo showed Mister with the doll..She must have been told to share.

Who hasn't bought their little man a superman suit? Christmas 2008. Mister aged 4 and Miss aged 2.

Who hasn’t bought their little man a superman suit?
Christmas 2008. Mister aged 4 and Miss aged 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21636746-attack-sign-militants-are-under-pressure-pakistans-leaders-must-unite

Crime in the Quiet Carriage.

Breathe! Keep breathing! Remain calm!

But I can’t. I’m wound up. Seriously agitated and my brain is rapidly heating up, about to reach boiling point. No amount of relaxation, mindfulness or psycho-babbling positive self-talk is working. A rapidly ticking bomb, I’m about to go off. No small explosion either. This is definitely way beyond a small or even a medium-sized bang and rapidly accelerating passed a big one too. We’re talking a nuclear explosion… right here right now at this very precise tick of the clock.

Stop talking! This is a quiet carriage!!!

Stop talking! This is a quiet carriage!!!

There must be worse crimes against humanity than talking in the quiet carriage but right now, nothing comes to mind.

Before you start thinking I’m the psychopath, just let me just tell you that I’m on my way down to Royal North Shore Hospital to have a long awaited MRI of my brain. My neurologist hasn’t ordered this test for fun or as some kind of high-tech photo shoot. No, you seriously don’t have an MRI of your brain for fun and there’s definitely not going to be any smiling for the camera either. As if being covered in a white sheet and shut inside a white plastic tunnel being bombarded with weird electronic noises isn’t bad enough, they’re jabbing me somewhere with a needle.

Having a brain MRI. Covered in a white, sheet you disappear inside a white tunnel. Get bombarded by all sorts of jalting, beeping electronic noises. jabbed and then you're free to go home...you hope!

Having a brain MRI. Covered in a white, sheet you disappear inside a white tunnel. Get bombarded by all sorts of jalting, beeping electronic noises. jabbed and then you’re free to go home…you hope!

They’ve jabbed me with THAT needle before. They jabbed me right in the head, injecting radioactive isotopes straight into my shunt. I tell you, I’m a veteran of jabs and I’ve survived brain surgery and chemo but that jab in the head has no equal. It involved absolute and utterly excruciating pain. I can assure you, there’s some now graduated medical student out there who still bears the scars of near crucifixion in their hands. I dug holes in his soft, polished flesh with my unkept but piercing fingernails.

So here I am getting on the train thinking about the pain, the possible outcomes and how I’m even going to make it to the hospital as I’ve spent the best part of the last month in bed and traveling for almost 2 hours is a huge undertaking in itself. I don’t know what’s going on with me. Either I’m dying, or I’ve finally succumbed to the dark side of the force. I addressed this in a previous post: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/terminal-cyberchondria-yes-please/

Maybe after this monster test is over, the sun will come out again and this will all seem like a distance dream. A black cloud mysteriously scudding across an azure sky which suddenly disappears like magic…a miracle! I’ll go back to my life of champagne and…My goodness! Who am I kidding? We all know real life is no commercial break!

Being such a long train trip, I’m expecting to makes serious inroads on Booker Prize Winner  Richard Flannegan’s Death of A River Guide. Given the intensity and chaos of the MRI plus trying to juggle the kids and all their activities, this train trip is bordering on a sacred journey. I so desperately need peace and quiet and a lot of thought went into choosing the right book for the trip as well. I’ve been flicking through a couple of books over the last couple of days trying to work out where to head next. I’ve read two other Richard Flannegan’s lately and decided he was a pretty safe bet and I was seriously looking forward to both losing and finding myself in a good book. A want which had transcended into something of a desperate need. A cry of the soul.

However, instead of finding myself inside the much anticipated and heavily sign posted quiet carriage, this place is  more like a crowded pub during Happy Hour or even a flipping circus with clowns…wild clowns. There is raucous chatter everywhere..even laughter. How dare they?!! Harlots!

Welcome to the Quiet Carriage!!

Welcome to the Quiet Carriage!!

Alright, so I exaggerate a little. While there was some loud chatter down the other end of the carriage, there was one particular loud mouthed foreignor talking four times as loud as your average Joe talking with his friends…a group of seniors in case you’re about to blame the insensitive youth of today. Unfortunately, I was sitting right behind them. I soon started thinking about asking them to be quiet and pointing out the quite carriage signs which were clearly signposted throughout the carriage. I also thought about talking to the guard.

However, a few of my friends have mentioned the maniacs in the quiet carriages. The so-called “Noise-Nazis” who have a nervous breakdown over the sound of even the slightest pinhead of a pin being dropped. I like to be classified as the “nice woman” and not one of THEM…even by these totally rude, self-centred strangers I’m never, ever going to see again. Instead of being the bad guy, I chose the stoic high road…to suffer in silence. Of course, I could’ve alerted the guard if I’d been more nimble on my feet. They have a special announcement recorded for the socially inept. It goes something along the lines of: “This is a quiet carriage…If you want to talk, move to another carriage.”

I did consider moving to another seat or even try the standard carriage but it was all too hard. There wasn’t another seat and I’m not that steady on my feet. I couldn’t risk trying to change carriages while the train was in motion, even with my walking stick in hand. So instead, I sat as still and as silent as a marble statue…fuming. Fuming some more. I could feel the flames burning in my head. Smoke bellowing out my ears. I was mad. Irate. Furious. This was pure, unadulterated train rage.

Grannies show an umbrella can also come in handy!

Grannies show an umbrella can also come in handy!

In retrospect, I should’ve just taken a leaf out of my grandmother’s book. She would have bopped the lot of them on the head with her walking stick and told them in no uncertain terms that they were in the quiet carriage. “Are you blind? Can’t you read the signs?!!” My grandmother was pretty handy with her stick. What’s more, if she’d bopped them, she would have gotten away it.  After all, she was just a sweet, little old lady. There would have been no court appearances and not even the shout of “guard”! They would have taken their punishment and zipped it. Shown a bit of respect.

Me, on the other hand? One strike of my walking stick and I knew I’d be dragged off the train by armed guards and loaded into a paddywagon bound for greener pastures.

However, in the end someone else stepped in and played bad cop. Yet, this lot of seniors proved themselves a real bunch of reprobates.  They might have zipped it for about 2 seconds, which for this lot even felt like a very pregnant pause, and then continued bellowing through their inbuilt megaphones. You wouldn’t believe it. One of their phones even started to ring and of course another loud voice starts booming throughout the entire carriage. It wasn’t just a case of hello and goodbye either…more of a conversation and as far as I was concerned, quite the life story.

As I said, I know there have been worse crimes against humanity than talking in the quiet carriage but at this point in time nothing came to mind.

After reading and re-reading the same line of my book a hundred times over, I gave up on my book and surrendered to the noise.

Finally, we all alighted at Hornsby Station.

However, as the saying goes, it could always be worse. Aside from country trains passing through, there are no quiet carriages on Sydney trains. You just had to put up and shut up and if you don’t have the luxury of a seat, you also enjoy the thrill of having your nose jammed in a stranger’s armpit as well.

Anyway, after changing trains at Hornsby, I’m now heading down the North Shore Line on my home turf.

By now, I think we’d already established that lady luck wasn’t on my side. Of course, I had timed my train trip to perfection. Yes, it was home time for the hundreds and thousands of noisy, smelly, sweaty school kids who all piled onto my train as it stop started down the line. By this stage, all hope of reading my book was gone. Instead, I became the observer. I must say teenagers intrigue me. Potentially much more fun than the seniors yapping on about their super on the last trip.

I occasionally used to catch trains like this when I was at school…an all girls school. I must have been a bit older than this crowd because we were always conscious of the boys on the train and this lot seemed rather oblivious or perhaps it’s just that they didn’t have Hugh Jackman on their train. We did.

There were no looks, glances or giggles. Each group was its own island surrounded by their own impenetrable shark-infested sea. Ironically, the groups were arranged boys, girls, boys, girls throughout the carriage in their different uniforms. It all looked very strange to me and I felt like I’d landed in some weird, foreign universe. Why weren’t these teenagers all talking with each other? Did all these same kids catch the same train every afternoon sitting in the same “reserved” seats never giving each other more than a sideways glance?

The only thing standing in between them all was different uniforms and yet aren’t we all one human race? You wouldn’t think so. That said, we all know men are from Mars and women are from Venus…even my 8 year old daughter. She and her friends have been “at war” with the boys at school a fair bit lately.

If I could’ve had my way, I would’ve introduced all these kids to each other and tried to build some common ground. Not to play cupid or to nurture teenage romance helping some self-conscious souls find true love, but rather to begin a diologue and cross a divide that starts with different uniforms and extends to gender, skin tone, class, disability and results in war.

If only the problems of the world could all be solved on a simple train ride to Sydney, the world would be a much better place!!

PS As soon as we arrived at the hospital, we heard the dreadful, tragic news that Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes had passed away after a bouncer hit him in the neck, stopping blood flow to his brain. Being a brain surgery survivor myself and being in this really intense state prior to my brain MRI, the news hit me seriously hard. Hughes and his family and friends were no longer strangers but part of our neuro community and I loved them all with my entire heart..especially Sean Abbott who just happened to bowl the devastating ball. I send you love from the  very bottom of my heart!!