It was a simple, heartfelt letter given to me on my birthday. My husband had had enough of seeing me in pain and wanted me to focus on the living - to see the joy that life has to offer. It was this simple letter which changed my life.
You see, my life was turned upside down following the death of my best friend- my gorgeous Mum in 2010. Unfortunately, she had contracted Mesothelioma (asbestos related cancer) and died when she was just 65. We think the contact with asbestos came from the many times she helped Dad cut up fibro pipes on our cane farm near Bundaberg. She was unlucky, but she marched on through horrific chemo never letting it get on top of her – she ‘sucked it up’ and never lost her composure – all for her family.
With the resilience of a typical ‘rural woman’ Mum never once complained or asked ‘why me?’ She protected us and stayed strong and positive right until the very end. I feel very lucky to had a Mum like mine, understanding some children never get to experience the love and support I felt from my parents.
However this loss wasn’t to be the last for my family, with my Dad diagnosed with a lung tumour just seven months after Mum died. By December 2013, the tumour which had spread to his brain finally took his life. During his illness Dad came to live with my husband and I and I took on the role of his Carer. Despite this being an exceptionally challenging time for me as I juggled a career, children, a husband and my Dad’s failing health, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. My Dad worked extremely hard farming all of his life and he did this only for his family – so it was the least I could do for him after losing his best mate Mum. Although I knew my Dad was dying, I was not prepared for the finality of his death and the grief which took over my body. Until you go through something like that you just have no idea how hard it can be. You travel through life in some ways naively and blissfully unaware that people do die and the tiny things that we get so caught up on with our busy lives mean nothing when you lose a Mum, a Dad, or a wife, or a friend…
The grief I felt was so impervious and I felt overwhelmed with sadness at my loss. I struggled as people, who thought they were helping, told me ‘to think about what is good in my life’, when all I wanted was my Mum and Dad back. If it were socially acceptable I would get a t-shirt printed that says ‘don’t see me smiling and think I am happy because I am not – I am sad because I lost my Mum and Dad’. I was so deep in my own grief I wasn’t able to see how my sadness was affecting those around me… until I got a letter.
My husband had reached the point where he couldn’t bear to watch me grieving anymore – my sadness was taking over our life. He implored me to look at the great things in my life – and to rise above my grief and live my life. He said I was putting at risk all the wonderful things I had because I felt that I couldn’t be happy without Mum and Dad. And I had a light bulb moment – Mum and Dad would be devastated if they knew I was letting my grief takeover my life. I have a wonderful life – a great husband, kids, family, friends and I love my job – I am lucky and I try to remind myself of that every day.
To this end, I have developed a bit of ‘life success recipe’. And you can develop your own – if you haven’t already then do it - it will do you the world of good!
- Wake up and think about ‘what am I grateful for’ not ‘what is bad about my life’
- Remember the world is full of good people – when you find them stick with them – you will know who they are. They are people who lift you up, are genuinely happy for you and your successes – they don’t bring you down
- Try to be the best person you can be every single day
- Follow your passion! Things are easy when you are doing things you love!
- And try to be a strong woman every day. In every action in all my daily activities I am living my commitment to be a strong woman - sometimes too strong if you ask my husband…
So where is all this leading to? I want to remind you that life is a huge balancing act and that finding the right balance is important to getting the most out of your life. Remembering to allow yourself time to prioritize yourself but not to forget those around you. Being busy isn’t an excuse for putting off those tough conversations whether they be about a relationship or finances you need to put time aside to deal with these issues as they arise and to listen to people around you. And perhaps take some time to write someone you love a letter, you never know how powerful your words can be.