Tuesday, 11 May 2010

When the 'phone rang yesterday I "knew"

it would be bad news..."knew" in the sense that I was expecting it to happen sooner rather than later.
A week ago a 90yr old friend with a heart condition fell and broke her hip. They stabilised her and operated but she died in her sleep in the early hours of yesterday morning. We had known her for almost 45 years.
My father would see her at church on Sundays and, in the middle of the week, he would 'phone her as she was his 'visiting' responsibility. Later, when someone else 'phoned to be sure he had been given the news, I heard him say, "It really brings home your own mortality." He has been very quiet since then, a sign that he is upset. There is not a great deal I can do to help him except be there. Grief is terribly personal thing. Older people may not always seem to mourn the death of a friend in the same way as a younger person but they do mourn and I believe we need to be aware of that and respect it.
Our friend was one of those remarkable, sturdy pioneering type women. She married before WWII and then endured the agony of having her husband fight abroad. When he returned they took up a "soldier re-settlement" property on Kangaroo Island. It was loney. It was isolated. It was dangerous. On one occasion she believed that one of the children may have been bitten by a snake - and there was no transport to get him out or telephone to call for help. He survived but it was one of the many highly stressful times in her life. Money was always short, not least because of the disaster caused by the settlement men, most of whom had no background in farming, being given the wrong advice by the agricultural experts. Being ex-servicemen who had all seen active service in often truly horrendous circumstances the men were often unable to cope with the poverty on top of the hard physical labour and the isolation. Her husband died many years ago. His early death was, in part, due to all that stress.
Despite that she was a staunch supporter of her church, of the Country Woman's Association, of the women's auxiliary of the local branch of the Returned Servicemen's League. She ran the church youth group and was the local Commissioner for the Girl Guides' Association as well as taking an active interest in the Boy Scouts. If there was an emergency she would be there making sandwiches, baking scones and great quantities of that bush standby - sultana cake. She knew how to make enough tea to let sixty or one hundred people quench their thirst at the same time and she could change a tyre or clean the spark plugs as well. Children obeyed her.
When she came to the city to live she joined another church and was active in the Mothers' Union and the Women's Guild. She baked and sewed and cared for grandchildren.
If you asked her what she had achieved in her life she would smile and tell you, "Oh nothing much. I was just a wife and a mother". No, nothing much - and yet everything.

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