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Why wont somebody love me?

It has been a long time, hasn’t it?  And I’m sorry. I haven’t felt the inspiration to write. not even a request from my lovely young French friend to write about our journey together could get me to write.

But this recent mass-murder by some privileged rich white young man, and more importantly the reaction to his crimes, has driven me to action.

For those who don’t know, this young man who was the son of a movie director felt angry and frustrated by years of rejection, and in particular being a virgin at 22 murdered three of his flatmates then went out in his BMW SUV and killed six other people. He even made a video about how he was going to get revenge on everyone.

All the excuses started coming out. Everything except personal responsibility. And I reject them all, because I have lived them all. These people who point to one thing and say “That is why he did it” could do with understanding that I have faced them all.

 

The 22 year old virgin?  I was 32.  Yes it was tough.  Yes it hurt. Yes I felt angry. But I still didn’t kill.

The rejection? Holy shit, I never really kissed anyone until I was 30. I was rejected almost my entire life. I remember crying unstoppably wondering why everybody hated me so.  I really fancied some girls at school, and tried to be the nice and the cool guy. I thought I was. And I was angry that nobody loved me. Surely it couldn’t be me.  And still I didn’t kill.

Being privileged?  This son of a moderately wealthy father where we never really were left wanting for anything may not have the same degree of wealth as the son of a Hollywood movie director, but I was extremely privileged. I lived in my own white bread world.

Maybe there was something in his upbringing? Well, I was brought up in an environment where my mother was emotionally abused every single day. Where women were routinely objectified. Where I was swimming in racism and homophobia. Where it was perfectly acceptable that one of my brothers went out on a Saturday night to go gay-bashing.

Perhaps it was a mental illness. Well, I’ve got you there too. I’ve suffered from depression since I was in my mid-teens. I wasn’t treated for it until my mid- to late-twenties. I’ve been through periods of constant suicidal ideations. I’ve had regular “other” impulses too. For most of my life if I am honest.

And while we do not have the gun culture here in New Zealand that they do in the USA, I can still get a gun if I want to.

 

This might frighten some of you.  But my point here is simple. Anyone who claims that any one of these things, or any combination of them, was “to blame” for these murders needs to think. If they truly were to blame, then I wouldn’t be here typing this now. They’re not. It is something else.

Maybe he would have committed these crimes regardless. Maybe not.

What is abundantly clear is that the socially ingrained attitude that women owe men attention in any way whatsoever is a massive contributing factor. That women are STILL regarded as somehow inferior. Rape culture, a culture of self, of entitlement – these things give rise to the institutional violence against …. well… anyone who isn’t a cis-het white male.

The #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter was just astounding. in part because of the incredible prevalence of stories of sexualised violence, but also because of the reactions from certain men. Men who tried to make the whole thing about them. Complaining about how they are automatically regarded as a “potential rapist” rather than asking why that is, what men have done that leads to such an expectation.

All these women tweeting about how they are abused or harrassed every single fucking day. And some pathetic dudebros complain about how the thread makes them feel generalised. Or how we should be focusing on bigger issues. Or how [laughs] its actually #NotAllMen. 

The real irony is that they simply don’t understand how their response is so very much part of the problem.

Monsters among us

It was a tweet from an awesome activist Twitter friend who led me to think of this.

Much like in some horror movies and stories, there are monsters among us. Very real monsters. Walking the streets, sharing our lives, hidden in shadows or wearing masks to make them look like one of us. But they’re not.

And like in horror stories, very few can see them for who they really are. The first step to fighting them (and fight them we must) is learning how to see them. Usually this takes someone of extraordinary strength and vision to point them out to us.

Once you have seen one of them, often the spell is broken and we see them all. We are overwhelmed at their number. We see them all the time, everywhere. And we spend a few minutes in stunned disbelief before we realise we have to act or be swallowed up by them.

What I am talking about here is oppression in its various forms.

I had always been a “sensitive soul”. Attuned (in some small way) to the suffering of others. After I got involved in fighting sexism, I thought I had a pretty good grasp on how widespread it was. Then I found The Everyday Sexism Project. When you see hundreds of thousands of tweets all saying the same thing, experiences of “everyday” life, and how it impacts the individuals on the receiving end of such treatment you start to realise the collective impact it has.

As with the tweet about transphobia. Sometimes all it takes is a single tweet to make you stop and think. And actively look for the oppression that is part of “everyday” life. I place the word in quotes because the term “everyday life” is often used to mean what is normal. What you should expect. But there is nothing normal or to be expected about this.

As I have said before, when you look at the scale of the thing, the sheer enormity of it, you can’t help but think that there is no way to fight it, to deconstruct these things that give rise to oppression. But these things did not happen overnight. Nor will they be dismantled overnight. But they WILL be dismantled.

In the same way you take down a mountain one stone at a time, so you dismantle the structures of oppression. Every set of eyes you open to the monsters leads to another pair of hands to tearing it down. For these mountains are always trying to rebuild themselves.

I have every hope…no, more than that. I feel it, with every fibre of my being that we WILL achieve our goals. Probably not in my lifetime, possibly not in the next generation. But this is no reason to give up. Because every action achieves something. Every word we utter. Every time we change our words so that they exclude terms of oppression and make them more inclusive. Every action we take, it means something.

One of the things I hope I can do is encourage people not to give up. To understand that even if your contribution to the fight is “trivial”, it is still vital. Another analogy for you is a police investigation. You might have seen something but think it is nothing. And taken on its own, maybe it IS nothing. But life isn’t a set of separate events. It’s a pattern. It’s fabric. And your one thread might just be the thing that makes it complete. Your one observation might be the final piece of evidence needed to conclude the investigation.

That’s why every contribution is important. Even if it’s not direct. Even if you support someone writing about it, fighting the monsters, your part is vital.

These monsters, they are all around us. But then so are the angels. Those people of awesome power and beauty. Whose love shines from them like a sun. And like the monsters, they are all too often unseen.

Wrap up for 2013

It has been an….interesting year.

A few deaths, a great many friends, a wedding, a wedding announcement, challenges, job losses, job threats, wins, losses. And through it all, you. All of you. And I am grateful for that.

I started thinking about writing this wrap up, but then I realised I don’t really have that much to say. It’s been an eventful year, as I said, but I am actually struggling to remember much of it.

The publication of this blog post goes out on Twitter, so I need to say that I am very grateful to every single one of you. You have all shaped my life in some way. Over the course of the year, I’ve had more interaction with some of you than others, so if you are not explicitly mentioned here, it isn’t a sign of whether you are important to me or not, just an indication of my powers of recollection.

Probably the major event of the year was the day my mother died, which just happened to be the same day my wife’s cousin died unexpectedly. Larry’s death came as a great shock to everyone, but Mum’s…well, let’s just say it wasn’t a surprise, and nor was it a particularly sad event. Not for me anyway. Sound harsh? Well, keep reading, dear friend, and you will see what I mean.

My mum had been sick for a while. There is a whole story to it. And when she died, it was a release for her. She had a brief bout of pneumonia before it claimed her. It wasn’t exactly unexpected. And she’d been wanting to die for many years. She finally got her wish. It was tough on my darling niece who lost her other grandmother earlier in the year. But she is one tough young woman.

On the same day, we got news that my wife’s cousin died suddenly. A fit, relatively young man. Obviously we couldn’t make it to the tangi because we had stuff to deal with here. But I was very impressed that my wife’s aunt went to both. She attended the tangi, and then flew back to Wellington on the day of my mum’s funeral to pay her respects. Partly because of the connection through me, partly because she works with my brother, partly because it is just a truly wonderful thing to do.

The happy event of the year really has to be the wedding of Maria-Jane and Josh. Two people very dear to my heart. Two wonderful people who are so good together. Two people who have brought great joy to our lives. It was funny when, as we arrived at the wedding, there was an older woman also arriving and I knew she was MJ’s grandmother because I recognised her from Facebook.

One of the stand-out public/political events of the year has to be the passing of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Act allowing same-sex couples to marry. One of those rare events when large parts of the country were glued to television sets to watch a Parliamentary debate. I cried and hugged my wife tightly when the results were announced. It was one of the truly great, landmark events for this country. And to make things all the sweeter, a dear friend of ours announced she was going to marry her civil union partner early in 2014. It is events like this that make me proud to be a kiwi, to be alive to witness such events.

Once again it has been a year of Twitter. I have so many dear friends, most of whom I have never met. Probably never will. But it hasn’t changed the impact they have had on my life, or my impact on theirs. I have been truly honoured and humbled by many of the comments made to me about how I have changed people. How I have helped them see things in a more positive light. Helped them to see their own beauty and strength.

And through this, it has reinforced a few key concepts for me:

The times when we feel your strength and light have deserted you, they haven’t. That light, that strength, that love – it is still there, plainly visible to those of us capable of seeing it. The fact it is hidden from your view doesn’t make them any less real. In time, all the rubbish covering them will clear, and you will see it once again (maybe even for the first time).

We are never alone, no matter how much we might think we are. For all the vile nastiness prevalent on social media, there is also love and support. All you have to do is reach out, and one of us will be there to take your hand.

Everything we do, every word uttered, every action taken, it has an impact. The mountain of hate we face may seem unassailable. But with every kind gesture, every expression of love and compassion and empathy, it chips away at that mountain. It was created through billions of grains of hate. So will it be taken down, with billions of acts of love. Sometimes, it all starts with one person, one smile, four words.

I think this year has seen those values really become cemented into my core way of being. And that is because of every single one of you, dear friends.

When my wife’s barbershop chorus won the national championships this year, we found that in 2014 we get the chance to compete in the international champs, this time in Baltimore, Maryland. Which just happens to be (relatively) close to two dear online friends, @mamasnark and @agramonte. If we do make it there, nothing can stop us meeting up. And I was stunned when another online friend of mine suggested she might fly over to meet us as well. From Washington state. The other side of the bloody country. Whether any of this actually happens or not, it has been reflective of the connections made.

I qualify this because earlier this year my wife was made redundant. After a whole heap of nastiness from this bloody government of ours, the organisation she worked for tried to force her into a new role without consultation. She managed to get made redundant, but still, if she doesn’t get another job, we may not be able to afford to go. But her losing her job again reinforced a recurring lesson. There really is nothing that we can’t deal with.

This year I have had the incredible honour of being part of the #TwitterAunties thanks to @GoodeyeMcWoowoo. Thank you for that.

The year ended with another death – that of my uncle, Nat. Sadly I couldn’t make it to his funeral in Rotorua as we were due to fly to Auckland a few days later. It is a bit of a landmark event because he was the last of my Mum’s immediate family. However, my niece put a lovely spin on it. For the first time in many years, my mum, her brother Nat, and her sister Dawne were able to spend Christmas together.

I cannot let this post be complete without mention of my young French friend who I have been trying to help find her path of light. It has been a difficult year for her, but we are making progress. It is really heart-warming to see someone start to heal the way she is (whether she realises it or not).

I wish I could say more about this year, but I really can’t remember much else. I hate forgetting things. But I do know this year has been another wonderful year spent with my beloved wife, it has been another year of Twitter, and a year of family (good and bad). You’ve all been a part of it. You’ve all made it richer, exciting, scary, loving and comforting. And for that, I thank you. A lot.

My resolution for 2014 is to write more. Previously I had heaps of inspiration but didn’t get around to writing, but this year it seems I had lost my inspiration. My drive to write. That’s going to change.

Good Gravey:

There is nothing I could ever add to this.

Originally posted on International Socialists:

ImageforDerwinWhat an appalling set of stories. Each day it gets worse. Revelations of the abuse suffered by young women in Auckland over the last few years, and then further revelations of how their stories and complaints were ignored or dismissed by Police, have horrified many. For days media outlets kept referring to this as a ‘sex’ story, whereas in fact of course it was a story about rape and abuse. Worse, Willie Jackson and John Tamihere used their Radio Live slot as a platform to attack, not rape, but women’s behavior. The so-called “Roastbusters” revelations reveal ugly strains of misogyny in New Zealand society.

View original 1,281 more words

On letting go

One of the things that has changed my life the most is that I have learned to let go. But it is a lesson I started learning a long time ago. And possibly the most difficult thing we can learn.

When I was much younger, I was so full of rage and hate. Mostly directed at myself. Most of my childhood and youth was spent feeling terribly lonely and worthless. I really had nothing positive to cling to. So, I guess I clung to the hate and the pain. Every slight event took on huge proportions. Needlessly.

On the flipside, every kindness, every smile was taken to be a sign that someone loved me deeply. you can cue James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” here. While I really don’t like the song, I know exactly what he means.

I cannot exactly say why it changed. Hell, I can’t remember when it started to change. But there is one event that marked it quite clearly. I was still living with my mum, in my early to mid twenties. It was a beautiful summer’s day and I walked down to the bank to take out some money to pay her for board. It must have been about $120. Foolishly, the money was just folded up and put in my pocket.

I must’ve had my hand in the pocket and taken it out because all of a sudden the money started blowing down the street. Chasing after it, I was really amazed that other people were helping, but we weren’t quick enough to get it all. I must’ve lost just over half of it. I got home and calmly said to Mum “Oh, sorry, I’ve got to go back down and get some more money. I just lost most of it in the street”. She was flabbergasted. It was so unlike me. The me she knew at the time would have been raging. I think something just clicked in me, realising that there really was nothing I could do about it.

For many years, I still reacted badly to events in my life. Still had the rage. Maybe it was growing up (finally) or maybe it was some of the things I had to face. But things started to take on a different perspective. Starting on anti-depressants was probably a fairly big part of it too.

The next major thing was when I was told I had some brain tumours. The old me might have been apoplectic, but the new emergent me understood that, again, there was nothing I could do, and that I didn’t even know what if anything was wrong. I could only wait, and look at it analytically.

But these last few years of having my online life have been another big step. The chances I have had to reach out to others, to share my experiences, to share theirs. Real contact.

In fact, just the last year has been fairly major. I have written previously of a young friend I had been helping. Not long after I started trying to give her hope, she tweeted that she was going to end it all. I was beside myself. What can I do?  She is just so damned far away! Did I do enough to help? What did I do wrong??  Well, it turned out that she was (thankfully) unsuccessful in her attempt. But more recently we discussed this issue and whether I would be disappointed if she took her life. I advised that I would never be disappointed. That I would miss her terribly, but I have to believe that I can only do what I can, and she has to make her decisions in life. And when another tweet came suggesting serious self harm, I was sad, but knew that (to put it bluntly) it is not my problem.

A course I was recently sent on by work put words to it. Detached empathy. To understand people. To feel (a shadow of)  their pain, to reach out. But over all of that, to respect them enough to know they can make their own decisions. That you are not responsible for them.

And it was this last that helped the final piece of the puzzle slot into place.  To finally understand that I can only do what I believe is right. To know with absolute certainty that I am a good person, making the best decisions I can, helping people as far as I can. And whatever anyone else decides…well, that is their call.

When my Mum died a while back, I actually felt no sorrow. I knew she was where she wanted to be. And with her death, some of the truths of what I have always known hit home.  We hold onto things because we cannot handle the idea that we are not in control. That our actions have to mean something, or that we have certain expectations that must be fulfilled.

Grief, after all, is a selfish feeling. I don’t mean that in a bad way. Just that it is all about us, not them. We don’t feel grief that someone has died or left, we feel grief that we have lost them.

I’d like to leave you with this video. There are other versions of this song. Like John Barrowman’s dedication to past pets. But, being a Buffy fan, and because I adored Tara, this is the one for me. I warn you – you will cry. [edited to make the video embed properly)

Today, the me I am now, just feels SO good.

In The Room

So I have told you about my mother. What I’d like to do now is go over the events of that day. Trigger warning for abusive behaviour. And if any of my family read this…absolutely no fucking apologies. Learn some fucking respect for others.

Let’s start with my family. I am the youngest of 4 boys. Eldest brother A is 8 years older than me. Next brother B is 6 years older, brother C is 3 years older. Brother A kinda took on the father figure because none of us had any connection to dad. Brother B led a troubled life. This was in part due to dad being overseas for the first 6 months of his life. Various other issues led him to being a serious drug addict and skinhead. His idea of a fun night out…well…you can imagine. Brother C was closest to me emotionally.

Nephew and niece (both brother A’s children) led a troubled life. Both battled drug addiction. Niece managed to escape when she found out she was pregnant and turned her life around. She managed to leave the father of her child – a man who was abusive. Nephew…well…he didn’t. A gang associate, who physically assaulted his partner on numerous occasions, tried to drag niece back into the bad life, and brought his gang associations into her life. But still she resisted.

I had taken the day off work and had planned to visit my mum because her condition was rapidly deteriorating. the phone rang at about 6:30am. Nobody ever rings us on our landline. Except for telemarketers and my mum. So when I climbed out of bed to answer it, we both knew what would follow.

Sure enough, brother C was on the line and said that Mum had passed away an hour earlier, and that maybe we want to come up to say Hi. Due to a late night, I was already shattered and not really in any state to drive to the rest home where she was. So I went back to bed. After a few hours sleep, my wife and I finally got up and had some breakfast before heading up.

When we arrived, the whanau was already assembled. The four boys, nephew, niece and her (new and utterly awesome) partner.

It was all very pleasant for a while. Well, as pleasant as you can expect given the circumstance. But then the conversation turned to what to do with Mum’s clothes. Niece considered giving them to Women’s Refuge. I strongly supported this, given the family history. Had Mum had the support of an organisation like Women’s Refuge when I was a baby, she would not have suffered half of what she did.

Brother A’s reaction was a bit of a shock. In retrospect, not in the least surprising. He vehemently opposed the idea. He stated that there was no way whatsoever that her clothes were going there, stating that the Refuge have destroyed more families than they have saved. I had to catch my darling wife’s eye and gently shook my head. As much as I wanted to take him on over this, it just wasn’t the right time or place. So we just let it go for the moment.

Shortly later, niece had to leave. Something told me she just needed to get away from all that shit.

Then conversation turned to various things. Brother A started telling work stories. These are stories that are apparently really important for us to hear, even though we’ve heard it hundreds of times before.

Now, the almost funny thing here is that all this was a very strong mirror of an event that happened many years earlier.

Anyway, his story involved someone who was a funeral director who started to embalm a body…one that started bleeding. Of course, dead bodies don’t bleed. This guy’s family was known to ours. It wasn’t the best of relationships. I went to school with the guy, and we sometimes got on OK, usually not.

This event understandably had a dramatic effect on the man. He attempted suicide more than once. I remember reading about it at the time. And for all the animosity that once existed between us, my heart went out to this guy.

THEN, as Brother A continued, his wife embezzled money from a lot of people. And this is where things got nasty.

There were a few things we apparently HAD to know.

  1. She was a volunteer firefighter
  2. As you would expect, there were pictures of naked women around the station
  3. She always changed into her “Level Ones” at the station while all the men changed into them at home.

Then he stated explaining, in a scoffing tone, about how she was talking about bringing a sexual harassment complaint against some of the other vollies. This brought some comments from those family members with a violent past. And present.

Then the comment that just astounded me. Remember, in the room is the body of a woman who grew up in an abusive family, lived with a psychologically abusive husband, a man whose daughter lived in an abusive relationship, and his son who is an abuser.

Brother K stated that he went around to this woman’s home and told her that if she proceeded with the complaint she would deeply regret it, her family would regret it, and that she would be best if she and her family just left town. Now.

I had no idea how to respond to that. All I could do was take the hand of my wife and leave, with some excuse of having to get some food. I knew the Mum’s funeral director would be coming shortly, but as we were told she would just be taken away, we saw no point in staying.

We had promised to take brother B home, and went back to pick him up after we had recovered, but he had already been taken home by brother C. At later meetings there were little jibes from brother A about how “we would have known this if we had been there to talk it over with the director”.

All I can say is that I am glad Mum has gone. Partly because she is free from all her pain, but because she does not have to witness this shit. And also that it means I no longer have any particular need to associate with those elements of my family that engage in this offensiveness.

My mother

This post has been a long time coming. Mind you, any post has been a long time coming.

I had written about my mum previously, but I wanted to dedicate a new post to her. She passed away on 18 July 2013. It wasn’t a particularly sad event because she had been wanting to die for some time. It honestly was a release for her.

Mum was born in 1933. In addition to the struggles (even here in New Zealand) of growing up during World War 2, she had an abusive father who was physically violent toward his wife and children. Then, when her sister got married, her brother-in-law was the same. But there was always something in her that refused to give in. She stood up to both men on more than one occasion.

She enjoyed her life despite this. Had a good job working for Bob Kerridge. Had a reasonable social life. But then things turned.

My mum had neurofibromatosis. It’s a condition that is normally inherited, but it can also occur spontaneously with a mutation on the 22nd chromosome. And she met my father. It is of note that she met him shortly after she came into an inheritance. I do not wish to dwell on him as this is dedicated to a very special, amazing woman, but suffice to say he was a man who claimed to abhor violence against women, but had no problem with psychological abuse.

Mum spent about 23 years in this relationship. God knows how, but she managed to produce 4 strong boys. But she constantly dreamed of running away. she often thought of suicide, but simply could not bear the thought of her children being raised by him. So she endured. For us. And for that, I can never be grateful enough.

Mum was a brilliant cook. As children, we were never left wanting. Whenever she did some baking, we were all encouraged to get involved. When she made a family pie, we would make our own mini pies. We watched. We learned. And we came to love food – eating and preparing.

We were often the envy of our classmates at school. Always having something amazing for lunch. I remember she used to make us “ice cream pies” which was basically jelly and ice cream mixed together to make a mousse put into a sweet short pastry crust.

She was an inspiration to us all.

But her marriage took its toll. She was a pack (or more) a day smoker – Matinee Menthol. And a very heavy drinker. I cannot remember a time as a child when there was not a flagon of sherry in the cupboard. I can’t remember how many she went through, but it was a lot. The neurofibromatosis was cruel to her as well. With fibrous lumps all over her body. Torso, limbs, face, head. She stopped work after marriage because that was what was expected of her. And she constantly had messages from her husband of how useless she was. Reinforced further by his incessant affairs.

By 1980, the tide had turned. It was time for them to split. Family home was sold, Dad moved into a hotel for a while before buying property in an affluent area, and mum got a small flat in central Lower Hutt and took care of two teenage boys with only the DPB to support them. But still, we never went without. Mum, on the other hand, had had a couple of heart attacks and was in rather poor health by this time.

One of the things that makes me the proudest is that, shortly after the split, she stopped drinking. All of a sudden there was no need. She was free to be who she wanted to be.  Then, in 1985, the Lange government announced huge hikes on tobacco tax. She said “I’m blowed if I am going to let those buggers take my money” and decided to give up.

She did this by having a cigarette every hour, whether she wanted one or not. The every two hours. Then she would go longer if she didn’t feel like having one. One day, she went to the shops, and realised when her two hour allocation came around that she left her cigarettes at home. She never smoked again.

So here is this woman, oppressed all her life. Told how useless she is. And she gives up two of the most addictive substances on the planet without any help. From anyone. Least of all from two rowdy argumentative teenage boys. Even finding me having an epileptic seizure on the floor of my bedroom wasn’t enough to make her start smoking again. Nearly though.

The flat we lived in was upstairs. When we first moved in, she could not walk up the stairs without taking a break half way – she was just so short of breath. A year or so after giving up smoking, she was almost running up them. She walked everywhere, and was known to most of the shopkeepers for her lovely nature.

So finally, in her late fifties, she was starting to find herself again. It made me happy.

Then came the diagnosis of an aortic aneurysm. She was booked in to have it repaired. Went in to hospital, but discharged on the day of surgery because there were no ICU beds available for post-op care. This happened four times. Each time, her surgeon told her, she was getting closer and closer to death.

Fifth time, she went in. She was basically told that if she doesn’t have the surgery this time, the aneurysm will almost certainly burst before she can get back in. I had to say goodbye to my mother because at that time, as well as her being in hospital, my wife and I having to move house because we were evicted, I had to fly to Auckland to be with my wife because her mother was dying.

My mum surprised everybody – especially the medical staff – when she recovered so quickly. She was discharged from hospital a few days before she was expected. And this just led her from strength to strength.

A few years went by, and then she was diagnosed with another aneurysm. but around the same time, she has yet another vascular problem and a blood vessel supplying her right eye burst, blinding her in that eye.

She was getting older, and found that she wasn’t quite as able to cope with the stairs as she used to, so decided to put the flat on the market. Various real estate agents were involved, none of them terribly helpful. She ended up selling the flat privately and buying her new flat privately. Without anyone else assisting her. She would have been about 70.

This time around, she had her aortic aneurysm repair on the first attempt. She was discharged from ICU and taken off the spinal drain a day earlier than she should have. Within hours of arriving on the ward, she was complaining of various spinal/neurological problems and was rushed back to ICU. But by then the damage had been done. She was left partially paralysed, with a flaccid bowel and no bladder control.

After months at Burwood, where she continued to astound medical staff with her determination, then back to Hutt Hospital, she was discharged. Even in this new, more accessible flat, it was still unsuitable for her condition.

With thanks to ACC, in her new flat she was able to have the level of care she needed, and a ramp installed. Where she used to walk everywhere, she was now wheeling everywhere. But her condition deteriorated. She simply could not get the level of care she needed at home. And as a family we had to make the tough decision to move her to a rest home.

She hated it. She hated that she had lost everything she fought so hard for. She hated the indignity of having to have her nappies changed. She hated that she just couldn’t do anything any more. So she started sneakily stashing away her meds. And one day, took an overdose, leaving a note apologising to us all. It didn’t work.

I remember mum asking me once if I would be ashamed if she took her own life. I replied “Hell no!” I didn’t want her to die, but with what she had been through, if that was her decision, I would support it 100%.

She made do. She got on with what life was left to her, and kept up her interest in crosswords. Every time we visited her, she would say how she didn’t want to live anymore.

One of her last bright moments was her 80th birthday. I had organised a celebration at the rest home, inviting people she hadn’t seen in ages. It went better than I could have hoped. I so wanted her to hear the sort of things people only say at funerals.

She was nearly deaf by this stage, and couldn’t really hear all the wonderful things we were saying about her. Thankfully, her lovely niece explained it all to her afterwards.

Every time we visited, we would always end with a big group hug. My mum, my wife and me. Mum was pretty much the only member of my immediate family that really welcomed my wife and showed genuine love for her.

I really didn’t feel sad at her death. I had been preparing for it for years. I’ve said goodbye to her several times expecting it to be the last. The last time we saw her alive was a shock though. However much I was prepared for her death, the reality of her dying really hit me. She had developed pneumonia and a serious UTI about a week earlier. The person I visited was a frail, empty frame. Still with that beautiful loving soul inside, but the package it was in was obviously giving up.

I’m told she still fought to the end. Fought for every breath. That same indeterminable, even stubborn spirit not letting the bastards win.

At her funeral, I wanted to really pay tribute to her. So I talked about her overcoming her addiction, her health problems, and found her self. I talked about how her legacy, her lasting contribution to the world is the compassion and love she instilled in me. Her ability to really care for others. Her sense of self-sacrifice. Some of my friends – online and in real life – have commented on my compassionate nature. Every iota of it I owe to her.

As far as I am concerned, she lives on. Oh of course her physical presence has gone away, but her essence is still here. In me. In all those she touched. In fact what I’d like to do is leave you with my closing comments of the eulogy.
A thought occurred to me the other day. And it has helped me process all of this. It was a realisation of how I felt. I genuinely felt like a proud parent seeing their child off on their big overseas adventure. We’ll meet up again when the time is right, but for now, she is where she wants to be.
I’d love to share with you the service sheet, but just can’t get to scan it properly. Maybe later.
Mum, I love you so much. I am really, really glad you are now free.
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