A Life Cut Way Too Short…..

It is with great sadness and absolute devastation that I share with you that my beloved “Bob” has died. You will remember Bob from one of my favourite posts (http://wp.me/p22zwx-4r) I am heartbroken and not quite sure what to do with this massive hole in my soul. I deeply loved (still do) this woman from the bottom of my heart as a daughter would love her mum. She taught me so much about being a better person in the extremely short seventeen months I was graced with her presence.

On Tuesday morning, I received a phone call from my best friend here in Australia. Sharon happens to be Barb’s daughter-in-law married to Barb’s oldest child, Jody. Jody and Sharon are MWH and my’s favourite people to spend an evening with out on the town. Jody is close to Warren’s age and Sharon is my age and an “older mum” like I was. They are the parents of the magnificent Ava. Their children range in age from 6 to 19 and there are four in total. Anyway, Sharon called me yesterday morning and I knew as soon as I said hello and heard Sharon’s voice that something horrible was wrong. Sharon told me that Barb had died and that another daughter-in-law had just found her. Evidently Barb was being typical Barb and climbing on a ladder in her stairwell to “sweep the walls” for cleaning. She fell from the ladder and down the stairs hitting her head on the travertine floor below. I don’t know specifics as this turned into a police investigation because she was by herself when it happened. I only know that this family of twenty-nine in total has lost their nucleus that held them together. Barb was your quintessential Matriarch had this been an Italian family.

I have never experienced this type of loss in my adult life. Yes, my grandmother died not long after my wedding to MWH but I had never lived in the same city as Grandmommy and I didn’t have the bond with her that I had with Barb. Please do not get me wrong, I was devastated by the loss of my grandmother and often wondered if she never traveled to Texas for my wedding, would she have lived longer. She fell not long after we left for our honeymoon and never recovered. The loss I felt yesterday I felt to the depths of my soul, from my toes all the way to my head. I truly understand what it means to wail with grief. The loss is overwhelming along with the sadness of never being able to see her again. Barb was truly a magnificent human being, a severely devoted mum, a DAILY committed grandma and a very encouraging friend.

In the past 24 hours I have researched the Barb I never knew. The public Barb that tirelessly worked for the rights of women and children who were victims of domestic violence. Barbara Kilpatrick is responsible for some of the toughest domestic violence laws in Australia. Even up till the last days of her life, she still fought for this often discarded group. As I stated in previous posts, Barb retired to take care of her grandchildren. Depending on the day of the week and even the weekends, Barb would have one grandchild to as many as five or six grandchildren in her home caring for them while their parents had work commitments or just needed time for a yoga class. I used to joke with her about getting her “daycare center” licensed or the government might come after her. Her response was always a bubbling joy of laughter that could only be seen as her immense happiness at the opportunity she had with these children. In the middle of all of her “daycare duties,” Wednesday mornings were always reserved for court. Barb continued in her retirement to travel into the central business district of Sydney to represent the many women and children who were victims of domestic violence who desperately needed an advocate on their side. They could always count on Barb. In 2003, Barbara received the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for her service to the community, particularly as an advocate for women and children affected by domestic violence. If you’re interested in this highest honour, you can read about the OAM here http://www.itsanhonour.gov.au/honours/awards/medals/medal_order_australia.cfm.

I’m sure there will be more posts in the coming days and weeks from me about Barb and her incredible family. This has been cathartic for me.

Another catharsis came from my time with her family last night. This family ALWAYS gathers, in happiness and in sorrow. I knew this would be the case and decided to make two batches of my much-loved Southern Living recipe of Southwestern Soup. This is the easiest, yummiest and most comforting meal I make. It is winter here in Australia and the only thing the recipe was missing was some snow on the ground…..and Barb’s presence. The family was gathered at Sharon’s house and I texted her asking if I could bring soup, tortilla chips, sour cream and coriander (cilantro in the US) over around 5:00pm. I didn’t want to disturb the family but knew there would be a need for mass quantities of food. Sharon gave me the go ahead so MWH, MBD and I took food to the family.

A small caveat here: this is MBD’s first loss of a loved one and it has been traumatic for her. She, like me, cannot make sense of this life cut way too short. We have cried together, hugged for dear life and are mucking our way though the grief. When we arrived at Sharon’s, the street was lined with cars, the front yard was filled with children playing soccer or climbing trees, small groups of adults scattered around the lawn watching children while grieving, the front door was wide open and the house was filled with more children and more adults. This is the massive gathering I have come to love from the Kilpatrick family. These types of gatherings are difficult for MBW and MWH as they are very much one on one conversationalist and friends. These gatherings can be overwhelming to MBD which we have come to realise stems from being an only child. I’m used to families upon families from my childhood days of “multi family one bedroom lake house ownership.” The families were not related but everyone got along and you made due with what was available. You knew who the core group was but you also accepted the straggler that came with one of the families as part of that family, another member of the core group. I’m used to fitting in this way. MWH comes from large gatherings of related families, cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters all gathering outside at his parents home. All of this is to say I never felt MORE at home than at a Kilpatrick gathering and my husband and daughter never felt MORE out-of-place.

Anyway, Sharon met us at the car when we arrived with the food. I immediately grabbed her for a tight hug and some tears. I whispered in her ear this was MBW’s first loss and in the background we both heard MBW break into tears and begin apologising for those tears. Sharon then immediately went to MBD, hugged her and encouraged her to come into the house with the food. Out intention was to deposit the food, share our condolences and leave. As soon as we put the pots on the stove, Sharon turned to me and said, “Right, how about a cuppa?” The “cuppa” tea is where my relationship with this wonderful family began.

I knew this is what my soul needed but I also knew that my husband and daughter needed to go back to the comfort of our home. I had spent the day grieving by myself and I needed time to process the loss with the people who knew Barb best. I’m thankful for MWH as he continues to learn my nuances and understanding that I needed this time. He said he would take MBD home and would come back and get me whenever I wanted. I requested an hour and a half and he countered with, “If you need longer, all you need to do is text me.” In that moment, I loved him more than I ever have. He understood my need to be with this family and didn’t question my staying. He also took our daughter home and fed her and took care of her. The time with the Kilpatrick family was instrumental in my grieving. I helped out in the kitchen, swapped stories with different family members, cried on a few shoulders and willing offered my shoulder for the same.

I’ve rambled enough this morning and it’s only a little after 8:00am. As I said before, I’m sure there will be more posts about this family in the days to come. I am incredibly thankful for the short time I had with Barb and for her impact on my life. She will always hold a very special place in my soul and the feeling of loss will always be there. It will diminish as the days go by and I know will be filled with Barb’s bubbling joy of laughter thus leaving immense happiness in my soul.

Goodbye Bob – I love you and I’ll see ya on the flip side!

First Night…New Home

Well, the Smiths have made another major move in our Australian adventure! We spent 13 months at West Street but found out a month ago the owner was keen to sell the unit. We played around with buying the unit and with some serious finagling, it could have been done. It was a different decision everyday it seemed…Yes, this is where we want to stay…No, what else is out there???? It took our Christmas trip to the Whitsunday Islands for us to make the final decision. You know how that works…move away from the problem and the problem solves itself. Stay in it, control it, wallow in it and you will never find the “natural decision.” The deciding factor was a helicopter ride over the Whitsunday Islands. We realised there was SO MUCH to do and see in Australia/New Zealand that we didn’t want to limit our financial capacity to do everything we wanted to do. We returned from vacation and immediately began looking for a new home. We had exactly 20 days to find another place to live and move. Our lease at West Street ends 16 January 2013. While we could have gone to month to month, we saw no reason to prolong the issue. Typical for me…whirlwind for MWH and MBD!

So we looked online, we contemplated leasing a newly built unti NEXT DOOR to our place, we found a possible solution on the rocks of Manly Beach but we hit a major roadblock. Australia completely shuts down from 25 December until 2 January…every year! And I mean SHUTS DOWN! If you aren’t an eatery or a retail store, you are closed and completely unavailable. We were going to have to wait almost 6 of our 20 days until we could even look at another place to live. Even if we found another place to live, there was no guarantee we would be the applicants the landlord selected…fun part of leasing and buying real estate in Australia. I was proactive and filled out applications online for places we thought might work. In what MWH and I like to term a “God Deal (for which we have had many on this adventure!),” one real estate agent (also the building manager) named Craig decided to work on New Year’s day and called concerning one of my online applications. He invited us to come look at the unit. This was a primo unit across the street from Manly Beach and it is unheard of for one to be available much less an active online listing for more than one day. The Australian shut down had worked in our favour! We went to look at it, fell in love with it, Craig fell in love with me, ready to sign on the dotted line….but wait, according to bylaws of the building, no pets (mainly worried about allowing dogs, hoping for Chihuahua size and someone moving in with a Great Dane) allowed. Well shit! Dream location down the drain. We went home and spoke with MBD about it and the prospect of giving away 2 more much loved pets was just too much to bear…at least for two of us it was!

Enter second “God Deal” of the day. Thirty minutes after our conversation with MBD, Craig called us saying he had spoken to a few people in the building and the bylaws had non-definative wording on the pet ownership. Since we have cats, would we be willing to sign a pet clause stating we would shampoo carpets and fix any damage when our lease was finished? Well, HELL YES we would! Craig said he would have to call the owner of the unit to clear it with him but felt it wouldn’t be a problem. The owner’s only stipulation was, No Children. HA! No Problem! Sssshhhhh! Don’t worry, Craig knew we had a 12 year old, more worried about a toddler causing stain damage. The Smiths were screaming and doing three versions of the happy dance! We received good news the next day that our application had been approved and we were good to go! WHOOHOO!!!!

Begin the moving madness…..no one has recovered yet, most of all MWH and the two cats. It was decided that I would stay at the new house last night with the crazed and stressed out cats…they had just been picked up from an over-night at the vet after being bathed, dipped, tummies shaved, claws clipped, yadda, yadda, yadda…but that’s a whole ‘nother story in itself. So I stayed at our new home last night and MBD and MWH went back to West Street. Following is a picture of my first night. It was an overcast evening but still a peaceful place. There will be many more pictures to follow! Most of you will receive a change of address card in the mail very soon. If you received our 2012 Christmas card, you will receive the CoA card. Toodles to all! SS

First night at Bonner

Susan’s Helicopter Photo Share

Here are some of my pictures direct from “Oprah’s seat” on the helicopter! Enjoy!

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20121228-094027.jpgThe famed Heart Reef – so small yet so amazing!

20121228-094054.jpgWhitehaven Beach – one of the top 10 beaches in the world. Purest white sand there is.

20121228-094124.jpgThis is Hardy Reef. Long ago a glacier flowed through and dug this 200 feet deep trench. Probably 10-15 feet deep on either side.

Merry Christmas to Our Blog Followers!

This has been an odd Christmas for the Smiths and one I believe Madelyne will not want to repeat. It’s her first Christmas “as an adult,” we opened presents on Thursday before we left and we’re not in our home. Live and learn but what a GREAT PLACE to learn!!!! This is my early morning Christmas shot to wish everyone a Merry Christmas from the Long Island Resort on Happy Bay in the Whitsundays, Queensland Australia!

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