Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Heading North

Let me share some personal family history with you. My parents and big brother had moved north from Melbourne at the end of 1975 when I chose to go my own way at 19 and moved to Geelong to undertake a degree at Deakin University. I completed the three-year course and was one year into my cadetship when tragedy struck. My brother, aged 24, was killed in a car crash. I was 22.

In a fit of shock, confusion and pain, I threw in my job, sold up my possessions and rushed north to pour salve on my parents' hearts. I was inadequate for the task. Anyone would have been. The agony of losing a child is beyond all soothing. After a few months I slunk back to the flimsy comfort of familiar surroundings.

No one is prepared for the sudden death of a loved one. When it happens is hardly the time to start analysing the correct way to behave. Other cultures at least offer some guidelines for mourning. Lock yourself away. Weep and wail. Wear black. But I inherited no such customs. I plastered a smiling face over a frenzy of emotions and continued like nothing had changed. It was bizarre.

There are patches in your life when everything, I mean everything, goes wrong; crisis unfolds upon crisis. I fell pregnant; unplanned, unprepared. I was terrified. In fact it was Life struggling to right itself. It would take many years before I could see it that way.

Daniel Steven was sent direct from Heaven to restore faith. Without his birth my parents and I would never have recovered from the unbearable blackness cast over our lives by Steve's death.

Three years later through therapy I unleashed the cataclysm of rage, denial, guilt, regret and desperate longing for my soul mate who had abandoned me. It was not as simple as an adult grieving for the loss of an adult. The little girl inside me had to cry for the big brother with whom I curled up watching Superman and sipping hot Milo after school. He was the hockey champion I idolised from the sidelines. He was a typical brother who teased and taunted but underneath loved me fiercely.

Little Dan thrived and brought happiness to my parents every holiday. Sometimes my father slipped up and called him Steve when they were fishing but the pain in saying his dead son's name lessened with every year. The healing process was underway.

Mum and I have always believed we have our own Guardian Angel and Daniel reckons Uncle Stevie takes care of business too. We tell him about the uncle he never got to meet and his sporting achievements; karate, sailing, scuba diving. His eyes widen. We beam with pride and feel, finally, a sense of acceptance.

When our baby girl, Justine was born last year the healing process was complete. Love and joy erupted like Spring flowers. Andrew and I decided the time was right to move interstate to Queensland to live close to mum and dad.

I used to dream that Steve would come home. In the dream he had been away on a trip and got lost. The painful absence had all been a terrible mistake. Of course Steve will never return but here is one daughter who has made a homecoming.

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