The Power of Letting Go

IMG_0864Tuesday two weeks ago I was enjoying glorious spring skiing in fabulous Park City and Deer Valley, Utah. I was feeling fit, strong, happy and well. Life and my health were back to normal. Things couldn’t have been better.

Then I received an email from my sister in Australia saying my mother, who had a terminal lung condition (Chronic Obstructive Airway Disease) had contracted a chest infection. She’d been put on antibiotics and they were waiting to see how she would respond. Judging by how previous episodes of this nature had gone and her enormous resilience, my husband and I thought there was no need to take any urgent action. It was a wait and see situation.

Two days later another email arrived, the infection had become pneumonia and Mum was expected to live another week. The big question was, ‘did we need to rush home or would she live the full week predicted?’ I had to choose between going home immediately and staying an extra couple of days. It was a difficult decision because we’d had calls of this nature previously and Mum had pulled through.

I changed our return travel to arrive back in Australia well within the time frame suggested by the doctor. Whilst doctors can speak to us from the perspective of statistics, they cannot speak for us as individuals, as we see time and again. Someone is told “You have six weeks to live” and he lives 12 months. “You have 3-6 months to live” and she lives 18 months. The moment of death is the choice of the individual.

It was my mother’s 81st birthday on March 14. I’d sent her a birthday card before I left and was planning to buy her that black cardigan she wanted when I was in Park City. The realisation that I wouldn’t be getting it for her saddened me greatly.

My family organised a champagne lunch for her birthday and I arranged to call in for the party. Thank goodness for mobile phones. My husband, who is a prankster with heart, came up with the idea of doing a little performance for her, over the phone. Given the time difference, we were standing on a street corner in Park City with cold hands juggling the phone and my husband started. “Hellooo… Dorothy or can I call you Dottie (her least favourite name)? Dottie this is Pastor Ray from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Park City Utah. We’ve heard it’s your birthday and I’ve gathered together a small group of choristers to sing you happy birthday!” We then chorused happy birthday to her. She loved every minute of it and announced he was her ex-son-in-law. She laughed. We laughed. It was the best birthday present we could have given an ‘old performer’ who was holding court with her family.

Thirty-six hours later, on the day of our departure, I got a text to say the end was nigh. I wanted to be free with the choice I’d made not to leave earlier and to give my mother the farewell I would’ve given her had I been there. I called the hospital. They took the phone to her and I told her I was well and in the best shape I’d been in for many years. The skiing holiday had done wonders for me. I also told her I would follow her legacy and be with my husband to the end. Two things that were important to her. Finally, I said, “if you need to go before I get home, you are free to go.” I was at peace with our relationship. I had said everything I’d wished and needed to say. The nurse said she smiled and shed a tear.

I am clear I was with her in spirit for the duration of our holiday and to the end.

Peace StonesWhen we were in transit at LA airport, I thought, “I have to contact my family, NOW.” I called my brother. He said, “the end is near.” I asked him to hold my mother’s hand for me. He did and told her he was holding it for me. Then I said, “Mum I acknowledge you for your courage, love and commitment. You will always be in my heart.” As my husband spoke to her and my family laughed, she passed away.

She had survived breast cancer with great courage and determination 35 years earlier. She was an outstanding role model and inspiration for me and many other women whose path she crossed.

I am grateful for my life, the loving family into which I was born and for my extraordinary mother.

 

 

Being My Best Friend

ImageToday was about recovery. What from? A big challenge I undertook yesterday in a team of four amongst a couple of thousand walkers. We participated in Sydney’s Coastrek, an annual 50km (or 100km if you’re really game) walk from Palm Beach to Balmoral Beach. As I’m not completely mad, I chose to do the 50km.

How did this come about? One of my gorgeous, fit, adventurous girlfriends, who had done Coastrek before, asked me mid last year if I’d like to join her team for this year. I saw it as a great challenge as well as opportunity. It gave me a goal to increase my fitness and get my body back to full health.

Image 2We started training in October with 15km walks every second weekend, then increased to 20km, 25km and finally 30km. Through our training we walked the whole route – roads, soft sand beaches, beautiful bush tracks, stairs, steep driveways and footpaths – covering every type of terrain available along Sydney’s magnificent northern beaches coastline. Once I’d done the 30km walk, I knew my body was up to the 50.

My training also included pilates once a week, yoga twice a week, soft sand walking and my usual beautiful brisk morning walks three times a week. I ate as healthily as I could each day and then determined what gave me energy on my training walks – Bird Bars, Protein Balls and Coconut water for rehydration. And, of course, plenty of water.

This was an achievement for me in so many ways. When I started training my energy level was low on hills and my breathing laboured. I’d put on a few unwanted kilos last year and had developed a mild lymphoedema in my left arm. With Sydney starting to get hot, I was concerned I would aggravate the lymphoedema. Instead, with a managed remedial programme with my physiotherapist and regular lymph drainage from my lymphatic masseur, the fluid in my arm started to reduce and they cleared me to walk. My lungs got stronger, such that I didn’t find the hills difficult and the bonus is I have shed 4 kilos in the process. A win all round really.

Fred HollowsAnother part of our challenge was to raise money for the work of The Fred Hollows Foundation which restores sight to people who are needlessly blind in developing countries and aboriginal communities. Our team raised $5,000 which will see 200 children and adults have their sight restored through cataract operations. It is reassuring that our efforts will make a difference too.

During a Sydney summer, one would expect sunshine, a gentle breeze, a little humidity and heat. A shower or two and 23C was predicted yesterday. Instead we got 20C and pouring rain; so out went the sunscreen and on went the raincoats. This presented us with difficult and challenging conditions. Rather than see the beautiful azure waters of the Pacific Ocean and bronzed bodies spread along the sand, we saw rugged grey waves on deserted closed beaches; except for walkers, of course. There was a steady stream of them along the coastline.

Image 4Our final achievement was to complete the walk within our time goal of 12 hours. Through driving rain, with wet shoes, strong winds, along soft sand, down slippery paths, whilst dealing with long toilet queues and track bottlenecks, we did it in 11 hours 53 minutes and 25 seconds without a cross word, supporting each other all the way.

At the end, even with aching joints and sore muscles, we picked up speed and ran through the finish line to the click of cameras and my husband waiting with a bottle of champagne to celebrate. How lucky were we to have him on our support team.

Thank goodness for massage. I had a wonderful remedial massage this morning which saw my muscle and joint pain disappear. Being totally self-indulgent or responsible, take it as you will, I followed it with a lymphatic massage. The best news was my lymph fluid was down. After all that exercise. What a miracle!

I have come a long way in the past 12 months and am probably in the best mental, emotional and physical state of my life. I am strong and well and that is a great gift. During today’s massage it came to me that my body is my best friend. Why? Because I love it and am a true friend to it! That’s what I’m grateful for today.