So in January, I decided to have three months off the booze. I had my last alcoholic beverage on Friday the 29th of January this year. I didn’t realise until many weeks into my teetotaling stretch that my three-month stint winds up on your birthday. There is no better day of the year to have a glass of bubbles than the 29th of April.
As my circle of friends and I all pass their likely halfway point in life, the ageing is apparent, the tangible features on individual faces “mature.” (That’s a nice way of saying, we are all looking bloody old.) As everyone’s youthfulness is fading rapidly, you’re the only person that doesn’t look a day over 40. 😉
Your face, your memory, your zest, is young forever.
As time moves forward and we age without you, I think about grief every day and what it means for different people. Until you lose someone you don’t have any idea what grief is. For me, I would have explained it as a period of sadness that you have to endure when you lose someone.
I believed this period of time is something you have to fight through until you reach the sunshine on the other side. I now know that you never reach the other side and there isn’t a destination or a journey that has an endpoint.
Grief is a massive adjustment to your life. It’s an alteration and new definition of what your life is, what your responsibilities are and what your purpose is. Grief ends only when we do too.
In the simplest of terms, grief is love. Grief is love with no place to go.
On massive milestones like your birthday, grief feels like all the gas between the cork and the liquid in a champagne bottle that will never be opened. It’s stuck, it can’t be uncorked and shared. It’s shelved.
Bereavement on your birthday won’t stop us from uncorking our own champagne bottles and encouraging all that dissolved carbon dioxide to bubble over. To toast you. To remember you. To appreciate the time that we had with you. To love you.
I don’t really believe in “signs” from those that have left this world. I wish I did but my gut feel is that they are simply coincidences.
A few weeks back I was driving past the charming little church Lou and I were married in. I decided to stop and wander around. A melting pot of emotions that’s for sure.
The wedding, what an amazing day. What a fucking great party!!
As I stood in the quaint little doorway where we walked out a freshly married couple, I was hit with a warm ray of sunshine that broke through the clouds and settled on the spot I stood. What a beautiful “coincidence.”
As I hopped in the car to continue home, “always remember us this way” started playing from a random Spotify playlist. Now was this a coincidence because Lou was infatuated with Bradley Cooper or was she simply letting me know, “when the sun goes down and the band won’t play, I’ll always remember us this way………?”
Evie loves talking about weddings. We will go through these photos tonights so we can talk about this very day, nine years ago.
I miss you beautiful boy. I wish I could touch your precious face.
I don’t think you realise how important you are to Evie and your daddy. You have become a little rock for them. In many ways, they are anchored to you and it’s your courage and strength that carries them. You will become aware of this in the proceeding years.
Your enthusiasm for discovery, learning, friendship and life is a catalyst for them both. Your love for school will be a big guiding light for Evie. Be conscious of how much she looks up to you. Be patient, be kind.
I’ve noticed you’ve started thanking your dad for many of the small things he does for you. This appreciation you are learning is a big step in maturity, understanding and gratitude. This means a lot to your dad and me.
1.) She asks them all the time, often daily. Which means she’s always thinking about her mum but most importantly she is talking about her.
2.) They are difficult to answer. Especially because they are often about where mummy is and what she’s doing.
On the way to school this morning sitting cross-legged on the passenger seat in silence, tightly holding my hand and curiously staring at the sky, she says; “Dadda, does mummy get wet when it rains?”
♥️ ♥️ ♥️ 💔
Here are a couple of social posts that I pushed out when I was lucky to catch a moment of Evie’s beautiful pondering 👇🏻 ♥️
Many of the questions are based around Lou being high up in the sky as this is often where heaven is depicted. Evie also talks about Lou being a fairy or an angel, I guess any supernatural being with wings is going to be soaring high.
I really want to believe we carry on in some way after death but deep down I think when you stop breathing then that’s it. 😞
None the less, I too now blow out dandelions and say “I wish Mummy to come back!”
What do you think happens to us after death? Where is Lou Lou right now???
Noah had a public speaking project to prepare for and execute. When handed the assignment we discussed subject options. Noah favoured a “Potential Speech Topic” suggested by his school.
“My hero is……………………….(could be mum or dad)”
I was excited that Noah wanted to talk about his mum and why she’s his hero.
A week later when it came to the crunch of actioning the speech and brainstorming the topic, Noah swiftly changed his mind.
Noah: “Dadda, I don’t want to speak about mummy, I want to speak about Thor!”
Me: “Thor, the action Marvel?”
Noah: “Yeah, he’s my favourite superhero, I want to do it on him”
Me: “Ok buddy, sure. Why don’t you want to talk about your mum anymore?”
Noah: “I might cry in front of everyone.”
Noah and I conversed at length about the benefit of discussing his mum and that it would be healthy for him to cry, even in front of his peers. I sensed he didn’t want to tease apart emotions that murk below the surface.
I wasn’t going to push him into anything he didn’t want to do but I really thought this would be good for our grieving process. Noah is a little too stoic and has been talking less about his emotions as time goes on.
Me: “Hey Monkey, why don’t we prepare for both speeches, you can read them out loud and then make your choice. I will support you 100% on your decision.
Noah: “Ok dad.”
I was really happy with this direction because if he didn’t choose to do his speech on Lou, he and I could still talk about his mum in detail and a structured format through the speech preparation process.
I discussed the approach and considerations with both his teacher and grief councillor which was a validating experience.
We prepped for both speeches until late on Sunday night. It was an emotional process for both of us.
In the morning before school on Monday, he read them both out loud and promptly said:
“Dad, I know which one I want to do!”
I was all ready to support his favourite Marvel, which I had grown to like after learning about what makes this superhero tick. I was certain he would take this option and avoid exposing his heart and vulnerabilities to his colleagues.
“Dad, I want to speak about mummy!”
As composed as I was, I could have lept out of my skin with pride.
What a brave little warrior.
In this world, cells make up all living things, including the human body.
With cancer, some cells grow out of control.
When I was five years old, my mum got cancer.
My mum’s bad cells grew out of control and formed tumours.
These tumours made my mum very sick and stopped my mum’s body from working properly.
My mum never gave up!
She said she wasn’t scared of dying but she was scared to leave Evie and me behind without her.
She fought every minute of every day to stay alive. For me.
My mum had many operations. She had lots of chemotherapy and radiation to try and stop the tumours. This treatment made her very sick and lose her hair.
She was still very pretty with no hair. No matter how sick my mum was, she always smiled at me and cuddled me.
Evie and I made her feel better. We were the only medicine that made her feel good.
She tried everything possible to beat the tumours. She never gave up!
Unfortunately, some cancers can’t be stopped.
On the 12th of January 2019, my mummy died.
Everyone loved my mum.
My mum was always happy and smiling.
My mum shared her time with everyone.
My mum was very generous.
My mum was beautiful on the outside but even more beautiful on the inside.
My mum loved dancing and drinking champagne.
Mum wanted to be the best mum in the world.
My mum was the best mum in the world!
I want to be like my mum because my mum is my hero.
My dad says that I am his hero for how brave I am.
I regularly envisage Lou walking through the door. I assume this is a prevalent event for any individual that has tragically lost someone they love. It can often evoke a feeling of happiness as it depends on the stimulant for the vision.
Most often though, the vision of her presence brings a wave of sadness. This is simply a disappointment that the dreamy event is an impossible reality.
Of recent weeks the hallucination of her joining us has been a result of Noah and Evie’s fast-paced growth; physically, emotionally and mentally.
I’m getting it daily.
The catalyst of “seeing” Lou walk through the door is wanting her to desperately see Evie and Noah and witness much they are changing.
The vision then moves to the kid’s hypothetical reception to seeing their mum miraculously appear. I imagine the reactions of the interaction between Lou, Noah and Evie. The hugs, the kisses, the conversation, the excitement.
The whole thought process probably happens in milliseconds before I’m jolted back to the brutal reality that she won’t be waltzing through the door. No matter what special or insignificant event either of the kids might do.
The small positive in this wave of disappointing reality is that it highlights how proud I am of Noah and Evie. Proud of all the small things, the tiny stuff I previously would have taken for granted.
We’re on a beautiful family holiday in the historic Southern Highlands and the only thing that is missing is Louise.
Les, Lynda, Jboy, Liesy, JJ, Sadie Girl, Noah, Bill-Bill, Poppa, The G, Me (Daddy Dom) but no Lou.
We’re staying in a charming big house on the northern outskirts misty wintery town of Bowral. Drinking delectable wine and eating Jboy’s deliciously crafted cuisine. Lou would be in her element amongst this solid family time.
Once she finally arose from her extended sleep, she would be directing family traffic and running the itinerary that’s for sure.
We’re very fortunate that Les brings us together every six months through an exciting and relaxing experience such as this invaluable time away. Removed from the hustle-bustle of our hectic daily lives. A short break to relax, escape, unwind, reconnect, celebrate, rejuvenate and to enjoy each others company, to remember what we had, what we lost.
18 months without her. Has the time gone fast or slow? 🤷🏽♂️
I looked back through past blog posts to see where I was and I what I was thinking at six months, a year and everything in between. What a rollercoaster!
Lou and I stayed in Bowral several times over the years, such a pretty town modelled after a quaint English villages set amid green landscapes. Like with every location revisited, I see her in the places we’ve been. Smiling, happy, an excitable bounce in her step, enthusiastic and loving.
We’ll have many more get-togethers in the coming years. Louise won’t be joining us physically, we are slowly attempting to accept this as the time ticks by.
Cold bones, yeah, that’s my love
She hides away, like a ghost
Ooh, does she know that we bleed the same?
Ooh, don’t wanna cry but I break that way
Cold sheets, oh, where’s my love?
I am searching high, I’m searching low in the night
Ooh, does she know that we bleed the same?
Ooh, don’t wanna cry but I break that way
Did she run away
Did she run away, I don’t know
If she ran away
If she ran away, come back home
Just come home
I got a fear, oh, in my blood
She was carried up into the clouds, high above
If you’re there I bleed the same
If you’re scared I’m on my way
Did you run away
Did you run away, I don’t need to know
If you ran away
If you ran away, come back home
Just come home
Last year I focused on having more good days than bad days. I felt if I could achieve this overarching objective while still in disbelief and shock I’d be somewhat winning.
It was a given that I’d have a bunch of tough days and dealing with the grief would be a rollercoaster. As it was. However, I predicted that the better days would consecutively lengthen out and the struggle-street days would slowly be diluted. It’s been the opposite.
Over the last few months; my positive state of mind, my energy, my motivation, my happiness has all regressed considerably.
In March I touched on how over time, the rawness is replaced by reality, but I think my thought process was merely scratching at the surface of the bleakness that was brewing.
I’ve been hesitant to write about being stuck in a rut because every week I think I’ll be better.
Commentating on the positive elements of our journey, the children’s progress and ongoing testaments to Lou is easy and therapeutic. On the tougher end of the paradigm, it doesn’t feel natural to open yourself up to the desolate days, however, teasing apart the reasons why may steer me back to a more positive mental state.
Ruminating on where my head is at has presented itself with a collision of issues with each concern exasperated by COVID-19 and the disruption in its wake.
I mistakingly thought that once I got through ‘the year of the firsts’ I would instantly start to feel better. I’m not sure why I assumed this or put that pressure on myself to do so
The end of last the year was such a crash of celebration and bereavement
Having such an epic, although emotional holiday with the kids in The USA for seven weeks followed by the blunt adjustment of returning to reality
Sending Evie off to big school
Having a couple of work opportunities not go our way
Attempting to get my business back on track and build momentum and then having both kids at home in Isolation due to COVID 19 which generated additional obstacles
Homeschooling is both challenging and a pressure
My structure and routine was dismantled
I was getting into regular exercise which instantly ceased
I wasn’t getting any work done which brings on financial worry
All of the above is managed through a collective period of sensitive milestones; Lou’s birthday, our wedding anniversary, Jon and Billie’s birthday, my brother’s wedding, mothers day……
I think with so much going on, so much disruption and navigating through it all when you are sad due to a loss, well it’s hard. When you do all that you can to ensure the kids are happy and cared for, sometimes there isn’t much left in the tank.
The feeling of flatness in debilitating. It’s like trudging up-hill, on soft sand, with a backpack full of bricks.
On Friday morning while waiting in the warmth of the sun for our takeaway breakfast, I was flicking through the newspaper while Evie was practising her cartwheels on the footpath and encroaching on everyone’s safe-COVID-space. She stops overturning to ask me an honest question.
“Hey Dadda, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
While being completely amused and charmed at the same time, I decided not to chuckle as she was gazing up at me for a serious response.
“Poppa, I want to be the best daddy I can be and then I want to be the best grandpa. What do you want to be?”
“I want to be a mummy.”
Evie, like many young girls, is highly maternal already. The way she and her cousin; Billy, care for their dolls and imitate real mummies is endearing to watch. (Although the birthing scenes they were playing out in the bathtub the other night were quite advanced for five-year-olds, LOL.)
Evie has asked me a few times lately if we can “get a baby.” I explain to her that it’s not that simple and a baby needs to be grown inside a mummy’s tummy and then cared for with 24×7 undivided attention. Evie is extremely forthright when she tells me she can cover both of those problems.
While its a few years away – I’m hoping a good 25 or 30, I know my little Poppa will be the finest mum, purely because she is her mother’s daughter and Lou was the best Mumma she could be. It’s embedded in Evie’s DNA, it’s in her memories and it’s in the mothers and grandmothers that are most influential around her.
It’s mothers day today. Only the second for Noah and Evie to brave without their hallowed Mumma. As the calendar ticks over and the year’s progress, they would have had a mum for a mere fraction of their lives.
It’s heartbreaking that my beautiful babies have to manage their forever days without the single person that was central to their everyday sense of security, identity and well-being. For me, this has always been the hardest element of Lou’s death to accept.
Noah and Evie are so brave!
What would Lou say to the kids on this mothers day if she were here?
In all honesty, she may have not needed to say anything at all, as her physical affection was always so immediate, all day every day.
Evie, you never stop talking about me. I love this about you. I see you laughing every day, I see you dancing. In you I see me.
You were so so brave when the doctor put those stitches in your chin on Wednesday. Do you know I have a scar in the exact same spot?
The Christmas stocking you placed in the window so I could see it was super special. I see everything you do for me. It keeps my light shining.
You look so grown-up princess, especially in your big school uniform. My makeup always looks so pretty on you, even when you put my red lipstick in your hair. I love you. Keep cuddling your dad as you do, it keeps him going.
Evie, I wanted to be a mummy too and it was the best thing I ever did.
Noah, you are the perfect boy. You are increasingly becoming more and more wholehearted, self-aware, courageous, responsible and kind.
Thanks for having a big cry for me the other day. It had been a while so it was good to see you upset. Please tell your dad when you’re missing me because he will be missing me at the exact same time.
Look after your sister Noah. She thinks you are simply the best. Which you are.
Kids, I’m looking forward to the mothers day cards you and the Conkies are making me today. Give your cousins a kiss and a big cuddly squeeze for me. You can’t see me physically dancing through the door when you are all together as a big blended family, but I’m there.
I know its hard without me but you are doing an incredible job. All the angels and fairies in the whole wide world are clapping you along.
“Good mothers deserve to be celebrated, to be honoured and remembered. They are often the glue that binds family relationships. For many of us, our mothers provide our first experience of unconditional love, and our first experience of safe, physical touch. Our mothers are usually the first person to give us the kind of nurturing connection that creates in us a sense of belonging, and leaves us with a lifelong desire, conscious or unconscious, to recapture that rare feeling of intimacy without cost, of intimacy that is ‘us’ centred.
For those of us fortunate enough to have experienced good mothering, Mother’s Day provides an opportunity to focus on the role mothers play in our lives. They gave us life, a name, a place in the family, nurture, rules to keep us safe, values and beliefs. They taught us language, the way to conduct family relationships and how to build and maintain relationships with the wider community. They made us feel safe, understood, supported, encouraged, and most importantly, loved. No wonder many people look forward to and enjoy all that Mothers’ Day is meant to celebrate.
But life isn’t like that for everyone. Let’s think for a moment not only of those people whose mothers died prematurely, leaving vulnerable young children bereft, but also of the folk whose mothers were abusive, cold, punishing, narcissistic, abandoning, physically or emotionally absent. They may have grieved all of their lives as they longed for the mother of their dreams.
We may also wonder what Mothers’ Day celebrations might be like for mothers whose children have died prematurely? For women whose dreams of motherhood remain unfulfilled? For mothers of missing children? For mothers denied access to their children? For mothers neglected or ill treated by their children? For mothers whose children are imprisoned? For mothers whose children are lost in the fog of alcohol or other drug dependence, or of mental illness?
A Time for Celebration, Sorrow and Compassion If you are one of the fortunate people, celebrate the day, treasure your memories, and make new ones. Then remember and show compassionate understanding to those less fortunate. Send a card, an email, a text message, flowers – show that you care. The gifts that our mothers have given us are multiplied when we use them to nurture, and to be other centred.
On this special day, let’s drink a toast to mothers everywhere, good or bad, for giving us life, and to mother earth who sustains it!”
The anxiousness that once unsettled me about ageing has returned. I haven’t sensed this fear for close to ten years. Louise mitigated this angst, it was the underlying reason that motivated me to marry and appreciate getting old.
I have a large tattoo on my left ribs that says; “Omne Vil Nihil,” which translates as; “All Or Nothing.” This statement could be no more applicable to the decision point I remember arriving at when I became excited to marry.
I was in no rush to get engaged and the pressure applied by family and friends had nill influence on my decision. I took my time. I needed to arrive at the decision with earnest clarity and personal RESOLUTION. When I was ready, I was “all-in” for the rest of my life.
I became extremely enthusiastic to enjoy the ride, travelling towards being a grandpa, living all the days proceeding to expected death, with Lou. I get emotional thinking about how much our children’s children would have loved ‘Grandma Lou Lou’.
I have now soared past 42 years of age and heading towards 43 like a bullet train with no brake. Louise will forever be a youthful 40 years, 8 months, 14 days old. Never a day older. So beautiful, so young, so energetic, so fun.
Dear Lou Lou,
I no longer celebrate your yearly annuity as it’s now static, I celebrate the day you were born and I celebrate our individual worlds colliding.
I celebrate the time we had together.
I celebrate the family we made.
I celebrate all that you were and all that you would’ve been.
I forgot how many celebrations we have to observe around this time of year. Jboy and Billies birthdays, today’s wedding anniversary, your birthday next week and mothers day around the corner….
Noah, Evie, Benson and I could sure use you while we bunker down in isolation. You would keep the home functioning like a Rolex timepiece.
You would be yelling at me substantially after consecutive days in close quarters, that’s fo sho.
I was making space on my phone last week, deleting unwanted files and came across a video that was over three minutes long, but the entire length of it was black. Knowing that it was obvious a pocket button click and unintended I was about to delete it and then I caught your voice muffled in the background.
The video ends up being you yelling at me for its entirety. We had people coming over that afternoon and I hadn’t mowed the lawn. Classic.
I miss being yelled out.
Anyway, I found a photo album on the upstairs computer that is labelled “print.” It only contains the below pics. I will get them printed for you during the week.
Happy wedding anniversary Lou Lou. Eight years married, I wish it could be 50.
Crazy crazy times right now. Do you feel like you’re in some kind in bizarre science fiction movie?
Personally, I feel remarkably fortunate. I live in an amazing house with more space than three humans and a stinky bulldog need, a massive yard with entertainment galore, plus the kids and I are drowning in toys and devices. The foreshore areas surrounding our postcode provide endless exploring hours and invaluable family time.
After 461 days without Lou and the trauma of trying to keep her alive. This Isolation mandate is effortless.
My work has definitely suffered, homeschooling is a serious challenge and sometimes I feel like pulling the arms and legs off my children as I would torturing a persistent grotty fly. But, all in all, I have nothing to complain about. I’m truly fortunate.
It takes just a micro thought to picture children in poverty, families in detention centres, people that are dying and those dealing with lost love ones during this global epidemic.
Right now I’m bunkered down with my two favourite people in the whole wild the world. We are healthy, we have each other.
I wish I could say as the months have passed that life has become easier and the levels of anguish have subsided. It hasn’t.
You quickly learn how to manage yourself and the people you are responsible for but this is simply survival.
While I might not have fully accepted the loss of Lou’s life, after fourteen months I’ve accepted that she’s not coming back. I was obviously fully aware of this the day that she died, but the perpetual daily reminders make it hard. You still have great support around you but the raw reality of being on your own sinks in.
Upon reflection, attempting to understand where my emotions and thoughts lie, I may have put some false hope on getting through the “year of the firsts.” Once I passed the anniversary of Louise’s death, I thought this was a milestone that would reduce some of the grief that I uncomfortably carry around.
Those close to Lou have all had to endure many of the difficult “firsts” that grievers dread; birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, school events. But the one-year mark really only signifies that we’ve learned how to live in a world without her. The more time goes on the more you don’t want to live in this world without her. That’s the hard part, that’s the part that is hard to accept. Not wanting to be in this situation, alone.
I guess that’s why depression is always number four in the five stages of grief, (I accept the stages don’t necessarily fall in order though).
I’m really happy where Noah and Evie are at, they are little mini-Lou-warriors. Words simply can’t express how much I admire my (our) children. Without them, It’s a scary thought how hard it would be to stay on the rails, travelling in the right direction. My two beautiful little dependencies give me direction, they give me purpose.
I think I’m at one of those little humps whereby you need to listen to your emotions and accept the reality of the loss.
It’s ok to hurt.
I found this today in one of Lou’s notebooks:
Look at the stars Look how they shine for you And everything you do Yeah they were all yellow
I came along I wrote a song for you And all the things you do And it was called “Yellow”So then I took my turn Oh what a thing to have done And it was all yellow
Your skin Oh yeah, your skin and bones Turn into something beautiful You know, you know I love you so You know I love you soI swam across I jumped across for you Oh what a thing to do ‘Cause you were all yellow
I drew a line I drew a line for you Oh what a thing to do And it was all yellow
Your skin Oh yeah your skin and bones Turn into something beautiful And you know For you I’d bleed…
A year on, I thought I would post Lou’s Eulogy. I actually haven’t been able to read it again, yet. I’ve uploaded it to preserve it for the kids and for anyone that wishes to read it.
Thank you for coming today. I hope that if I ever die prematurely that I will get half this sized crowd out at my farewell. It’s remarkable. But such a sendoff is only fitting for someone that made zero enemies, was energetic, fun, caring, likeable, loveable and irresistibly beautiful, inside and out.
I’ve always prided myself on speeches and ensured that I am well prepared. Putting pen to paper at 4 pm yesterday when I had family and friends due at 5 isn’t ideal. To tell you truth, I couldn’t find the motivation to do it any earlier, as my time here now is essentially a goodbye.
Making the slideshow took way longer than expected too. That was emotional. I let Conks know the song I wanted and that I would fit some photos to the song length. Two days ago I was like; “Jon, can we make it two songs? I’m having trouble culling all these nice pics of Lou. At 3 pm yesterday I called John again and said “Conks, can we make it three songs mate?”
I came to conclusion last night, for my own benefit, we have an amazing singer in Reigan and her guitarist Rhys, and the photos of Lou accompanied by a beautiful voice is much more entertaining than me up here on a mic.
While Lou’s health spiralled in her last living week, we were very fortunate the right sequence of events occurred in as good an order as we could have hoped.
Her final days were filled with 24/7 love and care. Having my mum and sister in Germany helped us give Lou the attention she deserved. Lou’s parents were with her all day, holding her hand, talking to her and telling her that they loved her. I was able to do the same through the night.
Two days before she left us, I brought the kids in to see her. Both Noah and Evie kissed and cuddled their mum and told her they loved her multiple times. It was heartbreaking to watch but a muchneeded event for Lou and the kids. Noah and Evie can go to their own graves knowing they cuddled and kissed their mum and expressed their love at the very end of her journey.
On that second last night, I kept telling Lou that her sister was on her way. I was even giving her updates by the hour. During the night she would have periods where she seemed a little stressed………………… Because she wasn’t conscious I was unaware if it was pain or she was going through an instinctive fighting moment.
Now in reflection, I think she was stressed that I was talking too much and being way too affectionate. She probably just wanted to rest.
I would kiss Lou and be like: “Lou, Elysia is going to be here in 12 hours, she can’t wait to see you, she loves you so much………………………………….. Lou, Elysia is going be here in 11
hours, she loves you, your mum and dad love you, Noah and Evie love you, I love you…………… and so on.
I have zero doubt that Lou made a final heroic charge to ensure she could spend her last living day with her sister and best friend.
That final night, as with the previous final days, I held her hand for eight hours straight. I would normally fall into a deep sleep when Lou did and then wake when she seemed stressed or potentially in pain. She was really restless for an hour or so around 4 am. While I was being a chatterbox and probably keeping her from sleeping peacefully, I did tell her I was worried she was in pain and if her pain and stress were unbearable, she didn’t have to fight for her family any more, she needed to do what is best for herself.
I felt her breathing pattern change while I was sleeping at 7:30 am. I propped up onto my elbow to look at her face, she took two more short breaths and then peacefully relaxed. I just cuddled her and cried. I kept her company and held her until her parents and sister arrived so we could all say our final goodbyes.
Nobody wants to say goodbye to their most important person in the world, but as far as goodbyes go, it was a nice end to a tragic story.
A story that deserved so many more pages.
So. On this EXACT day, 8 years ago, in fact, in just a couple of hours from now, I asked Louise to marry me.
For those that don’t know. I had a proposalpoem published in a local American newspaper paper and gave her the opened paper to read ontop of one of the most picturesque ski mountains, situated above Lou and I’s favourite little town, which is Telluride, Colorado.
The first 15 verses of the poem are about Telluride, its history and why we love the place so much. The last five verses are more or less the proposal component. The conclusion of the poem reads like this:
We are in many ways different, certain things evoke a disparate connect, for instance, you prefer a cruisy carve, further to the west, your favourite run, Prospect. Where I’m in my element, on the Gold Hill chutes, the mountains ever so steep; but it’s in these words of suggestion that I take a bigger leap.
It’s the dissimilar pieces in our exclusive lives that join us together, so time to commit, and pledge to take care of you forever. I love you all the flakes that cover the Western San Juan, although I never doubted it, you are officially now the one.
There will always be challenges that try to divide, but I have no uncertainty we will conquer, by walking together, step by step, side by side.
So it’s in this setting that I think it’s fitting, do you need to reposition? Perhaps you should be sitting; all I need is both ears a brief moment to listen, for it’s today, right here, right now I have an exciting proposition; if you treasure something, then it should be kept, I am expecting a “yes” here, so you better accept.
Without hesitation, I propose this question, in this magic place, our favourite destination, I shout out loud, will you be my companion? It is echoed throughout this surrounding box canyon. In our favourite little town, Louise Maree DeCelis, I do confide, I am asking you to be my bride, right here, right now, in Telluride!
Firstly, don’t think by publishing a poem in the paper that I’m romantic in any way. This approach allowed me to propose without having to utter a single word. Plus it allowed me to have my full face ski helmet on, as well as skis connected to my feet so I couldn’t take a knee. Ensuring the whole process wasn’t too personal and emotional. I could pop the question, get my “yes” and then execute a bumprun under chair nine.
The main point I want to make from the verses I just read is; the line:
“There will always be challenges that try to divide, but I have no uncertainty we will conquer, by walking together, step by step, side by side.”
Having an immediate family member with a terminal illness is going to be one of the biggest challenges to endure with the potential to divide. Louise and I didn’t have one frictional moment in the last seven months of her life, not one stoush. It may have been much longer than that but
I was very aware of the fact that when her cancer went metastatic, we were, even more, rock-solid. Several doctors or health care professionals specifically asked about my own strain and also about the health of our relationship, it was like they expected our union to be challenged.
When couples pledge their marriage, they promise to look after each other in ‘sickness and in health.’ We gave the “sickness” component of that commitment a good run for its money. The first time Lou stayed with my family in Newcastle eleven years ago, I had just been discharged from a couple of weeks in the hospital and unfortunately, we would continue this theme over the years. Eventually with Lou casting a big shadow over any of my accident/healthrelated issues, taking on more pain and suffering than anyone I know. And somehow always doing this as she stepped out of a fashion magazine, with beauty and style.
As far as fortyyearold couples go, the fact that we had to care, feed and bathe each other due to injury or sickness, and we only grew stronger was a testament to our committed and undiluted love for each other.
I am proud of that.
We also conquered sidebyside too. Her looks combined with her personality and heart ensured we got beautiful children inside and out. Our business (up until two years ago) was a northpointing trajectory of success. We were happy people that made the most of our opportunities.
If you had asked me before I started working with Louise in our own business; “would you work with your wife?” I would have said “no thanks.” But when Lou was on bed rest for over a month with Evie, she was bored and asked if she could help with anything. I gave her a bunch of tasks to do and she ploughed through them way more efficiently than I ever could. I kept giving her more work that she did it with ease.
Within a month or so, even when Evie was fresh on the ground, I basically said; “you’re the boss of my business now, I will move into a functional role and you can be in charge.
Hey, I’d already done that in the family home many years before, so it only made sense to do it at work too.
In my wedding speech (and I thank Lynda for retrieving it from the bin at the reception on our wedding night, and I also I thank Jon for collecting it yesterday afternoon from Lynda’s so I could find some writing inspiration for this eulogy)
The majority of the speech was based around a key theme: ‘Family and Friends’:
And I will read a few sentences out from my wedding speech, verbatim: So this is what I said on the 20th April 2012.
“One of the biggest wins for Lou and I, is the assimilation of our own family and friends, the unification, gelling, integration and diffusion of both sides.
The biggest asset we have among our friendships, and as a group, is the support and encouragement we offer each other. Even when we are unaware we are giving it.”
My wedding speech continues with……..
“Unfortunately, life doesn’t always go to plan. Marriages may fail, people get sick, economies and poor decisions may bankrupt some of us or at worst we lose people close to us. We will be thrown speed bumps or mountains to climb, most importantly it’s not necessarily the material success achieved that mitigates such hurdles, it’s the family success that is the underlying strength. I have no doubt that this key ingredient is the core connector that brings quality people together, like this congregation here today. (which was the wedding congregation)
I wholeheartedly thank all of my friends, my closest friends which is you, for your friendship.”
Now. I didn’t have all of you at my wedding but the message and the wholehearted thank you, to my friends and Lou’s friends is the same today, for this congregation of Lou’s village, as it was on our wedding day 7 years ago.
I have been getting genuine and overwhelmingly positive feedback from friends and family on the way I handled our ugly cancer journey, how I supported Lou and how I was even an inspiration through my supportive effort in her fight.
The truth is, I couldn’t have done it without you. I know I have thanked everyone multiple times in my blog and fundraiser video speeches but I would like to thank you in person today. The only reason I could put all the energy I could muster, into Louise and the kids while she went to war with cancer, is because of everyone here. The collective support of small and large neverending gestures, from all of you, enabled me to give Louise, Noah and Evie the undivided attention needed to make our best attempt of winning.
Louise, the kids and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts. No matter how small or large the gesture may have been, the collective force of everyone’s love here today, truly carried us.
I will get around to thanking key people when time prevails. Some people have done some amazing things. For today, I’m just going to thank the McConkey family.
Another paragraph in my wedding speech that was addressed to John and Elysia, said;
“Who else would let me walk into their house, severely hungover, eat all their food, sleep on the couch for a few hours, not say a single word and just leave?”
Well, there are three of us doing that now (the kids drink less booze and they talk a little more) but we’re so fortunate we have a home and family that is an extension of our own. This is not just a thank you for the support of Louise and I during our fight but I am thanking you for the role you have already enthusiastically taken on board, which is bumping your immediate family numbers from six to nine.
Noah has already confused a lot of people, and this even before Lou go sick, when someone says; “do you have any brothers or sisters Noah? And Noah starts counting in his hands; Joshua, Sadie, Billie, Evie, Georgie…..
Thank you to John, Elysia, Sadie, Billie and Georgia for being the family we need to survive this tough time.
The only other person I have time to thank today is my wife, Louise.
Before Lou Lou got sick, I would question her ticker. The main reason for this is that she really didn’t like physical exercise. In fact, Lou has left us and I have never actually seen what her run looked like.
Lou had quite a unique walk. I never told her this, by the way, it wouldn’t have been worth my trouble. But I always wondered what her run would look like. I guess It’s something I will never know.
When she got sick she showed bravery and heart that I now emulate and have been inspired by. Any doubts I had on her mental strength were squashed. I knew she had strength in her when she chose to take on Noah and Evie’s birth without any pain relief.
But her fight against cancer was another level. While she fought so hard for all of us, I know her biggest motivator was her children. She did everything in her power to fight for them. Everything. She tried so hard.
I mentioned all the torture and suffering that Lou endured in one if my fundraising videos. It pains me today and I will forever feel anguish over the suffering she absorbed. She always kept fighting. She fought to the very last breath.
Louise never said, “why me?” She thought her situation was extremely cruel to the kids but she never questioned the unfairness of the ugly disease. She just got on with it.
Noah and Evie, you will probably get fed up with everyone here telling stories about your mum’s courage and how much she loved you and how hard she tried to stay on this earth to care for you until you had kids of your own. The love she had for you was impenetrable and immense.
Louise; You always told me that you wanted to die first and that you didn’t want to live any days without me. I know you didn’t mean it this early but I am so glad you are free from torment, pain, suffering and emotional torture.
I thank you for the short time that we had, the unconditional love that you gave me, the beautiful children that you gifted me.
I thank you for crafting me into a much more mature and sensible person. You somehow cultivated this by having me grow into a father I am proud to be, somewhere diluting my wild streak but still letting me be me.
Noah, Evie’s and my life will never be the same. You are irreplaceable. But the bravery we have inherited from the example that you demonstrated, will be enough for us to make it as a family of three (nine). To beat the odds. To not just survive but eventually thrive as individuals that are respected by everyone we come in contact with. Just as you achieved in your short but impactful life.
Beautiful warrior, I love you, Elysia and Jon love you, your mum and dad love you, Noad and Evie love you, your family, friends and village love you.
By chance; This same day 365 days ago also happened to be Lou’s funeral, where we said goodbye, forever. Uncanny.
Before we celebrated an ashes memorial with close friends on Seeforever. Noah, Evie and I took Lou’s favourite run in Prospect Bowl, we sprinkled her ashes along the cruisy and scenic route.
We talked about the ashes, what they meant, why we were here and why we were leaving a piece of Mumma in the beautiful south-west of Colorado. It was an exquisite blue sky magic day and with the sun shining on our exposed faces, we left some of Lou in our trails, to ski an area she loved for eternal life.
The wind in her hair, the sun warming her body and a sense of freedom that evokes a stoked smile only a skier would appreciate. “Ski-on Lou-Lou, you can now make those soft ‘controlled’ turns forever.”
Scattering ashes definitely stirred up some disconcerted feelings in Evie that’s for sure as she attempted to grasp what mummy had become. Grey bone matter in her hands, falling through her tiny fingers and into the cold pure white snow.
Following this quality and memorable time together, the kids and I made our way up to the top of chair six, where we congregated with friends and conducted a short but bitter-sweet memorial. We made a love heart with Lou’s ashes, we sprayed her beloved Verve and chanted; “Lou Lou We Love You!!”
We struggled for good sound in the video so the transcript is here:
“I have very little experience with any kind of ashes memorial but I know Lou would have wanted to have a part of her remain right here. So with a small portion of ashes, I will conduct a short, punchy and bitter-sweet, ceremony, that I know she will appreciate.
Everyone, thanks so much for coming to this memorial for Lou Lou. It means a lot to Noah, Evie and Me. Hopefully, it has significant meaning for you too.
There is a very specific reason why we are standing in this exact spot on this day. Before I elaborate on that, I will read a short letter from Elysia, Louise’s best friend and sister.
I thank Elyisa for those words. Elysia, Jon, their kids and my parents-in-law have played a significant role in our management of both grief and continuing on in our lives as best we can.
We went out for a morning ski, nine years ago to the day, give or take a few hours. It was a cold morning. Lou didn’t seem to think it was too odd that I was “reading” the paper on chairs, 4, 5 and 6.
When we got down to this location, Lou stopped to appreciate the view. I was like, “oh you should read this poem, it’s about Telluride, you would really like it!”
It’s funny that we stopped right here because it actually wasn’t by design. The fact we ended up at the junction of “Seeforever” and “Plunge” is very fitting and simply a coincidence and now part of a special narrative. The poem talks about Telluride, its history and why we like the place so much….
The poem is fairly long so I will read you just the last five verses because it is the wrap-up and proposal component, and it fits with the rest of what I want to say.
And it finished like this:
It’s the dissimilar pieces in our exclusive lives that join us together, so time to commit, and pledge to take care of you forever. I love you all the flakes that cover the Western San Juan, although I never doubted it, you are officially the one.
There will always be challenges that try to divide, but I have no uncertainty we will conquer, by walking together, step by step, side by side. So it’s in this setting that I think it’s fitting, do you need to reposition? Perhaps you should be sitting; all I need is both ears a brief moment to listen, for it’s today, right here, right now I have an exciting proposition. If you treasure something, then it should be kept, I am expecting a yes here, so you better accept.
Without hesitation, I propose this question, in this magic place, our favourite destination, I shout out loud, will you be my companion? It is echoed throughout this surrounding box canyon.
In our favourite little town, Louise Maree DeCelis, I do confide, I am asking you to be my bride, right here, right now, in Telluride!
So she obviously said yes and the rest is history…….
But for Lou, unfortunately, the history is very short and as of Jan 12 last year, there would be no more chapters to her book.
So this morning I added four additional verses to the proposal poem, just for today. And they go:
It was only nine years ago that we stood in this very spot, and laid the foundation to tie an official knot. In the following eight years, our love only grew stronger, unfortunately, today we only think, dream’n’wish that you could’ve stayed, much-much longer.
With this special ceremony, you are now in the mountains and the mountains are in you, as we stand here, celebrate and reflect surrounded by this magnificent Coloadro view. With your sacred body poured from the kid’s hands, soaked into the earth amalgamated with the magnificent San Juans.
Your favourite champagne popped and sprayed as part of this memorial celebration, this moment in time, your ashes, these people are now part of your cremation. While the last twelve months have been a challenging emotional blur, not a day goes by that we don’t think about everything that you were.
Our kids stand here looking out to “Seeforever” with so many good things to come, with friends and supporters like this we will continue to cushion their everyday plunge, without their beloved mum. Sadly it’s now just the three of us together, but fortunately, you not only live in Noah and Evie, you live in these mountains, forever and ever.
I’m just staring at my screen with nothing creative or notable to say.
One year has painfully passed since you died. Dealing with your absence hasn’t got any easier. Mentally the last few months have been the hardest.
JBoy made a video of all the #BTOTW images that were captured. All 52 of them. He mixed some great pics of you in there. I haven’t really stopped crying since I watched his great little compilation and that was three hours ago.
Evie is looking after me. She got me a lolli from her hidden stash upstairs and she’s been cuddling me and rubbing my back. Noah’s playing on his switch and steering around the day so far.
Evie’s asked well over a dozen questions about death today. The little Poppa’s arriving at an age where she’s slowly comprehending you won’t be coming home.
I’m glad we’re and in your favourite place right now. There is no location or activity in this beautiful town where I don’t vividly see you. Always adding extra vivacious decoration to an already stunning setting. Some times it makes me smile, sometimes it makes me sad.
Memories I need to stimulate to aid the healing process.
It’s the sunniest beautiful morning we’ve been treated to on our trip. Elegant blue skies breaking through a couple of days of snow storm. Thanks for saying hi…
We just really miss you and want you to come home.
If you’ve ever cared for a terminally ill patient, this song will likely bring a tear to your eye…..😢
I never thought for one minute she wasn’t going to get better.
The buttons of my coat were tangled in my hair In doctor’s-office-lighting, I didn’t tell you I was scared That was the first time we were there Holy orange bottles, each night I pray to you Desperate people find faith, so now I pray to Jesus too And I say to you Ooh-ah, soon you’ll get better Ooh-ah, soon you’ll get better Ooh-ah, you’ll get better soon ‘Cause you have to I know delusion when I see it in the mirror You like the nicer nurses, you make the best of a bad deal I just pretend it isn’t real I’ll paint the kitchen neon, I’ll brighten up the sky I know I’ll never get it, there’s not a day that I won’t try And I’ll say to you Ooh-ah, soon you’ll get better Ooh-ah, soon you’ll get better Ooh-ah, you’ll get better soon ‘Cause you have to And I hate to make this all about me But who am I supposed to talk to? What am I supposed to do If there’s no you? This won’t go back to normal, if it ever was It’s been years of hoping, and I keep saying it because ‘Cause I have toOoh-ah, you’ll get better Ooh-ah, soon you’ll get better Ooh-ah, you’ll get better soon Ooh-ah, soon you’ll get better Ooh-ah, soon you’ll get better Ooh-ah, you’ll get better soon ‘Cause you have to
When you’re greaving for a loved one that has been unjustly taken from you, you’re heavy. Your mind is heavy, your heart is heavy and your body is heavy. The anguish is a debilitating weight that slows you down. You can move fast when needed but it requires more effort. The issue is that the effort causes more fatigue and if you’re not careful, it can cause compounding stress.
The tough days are unpredictable and without warning, they can be sparked by the tiniest of ideas, memories or activity. The good days don’t last long enough. You often think you’re managing but hastily come crashing back to a melancholy state without any time to prepare.
When you have grieving children, it’s an additional sorrow that leaves you perplexed as to why these pour little angels have been forced to endure heartbreak at such a young age. Grief is a reflection of the connection that was sadly terminated. What bigger connection is there of a child and their mum?
Just looking at a small child that has lost their mum is an instant emotional swift punch in the chest. A punch I feel every day.
I talked about the five stages of grief in February this year. I made a point that depression is not a sign of mental illness in the case of death, it’s an appropriate response to a great loss. However, we can’t allow grief to destroy us. We need to use the extremely unfortunate situation to transform ourselves into better people.
This is easier said than done that’s for sure. While I’m honestly not sure if I’m on the path to be a better person, I know I am much more grateful for the people and good fortunes that I have in my life.
I’m happy to say that I’m proud of the way I have managed Noah and Evie this year. We’re fast approaching the anniversary date of Lou’s death and we’ve had to get through some big year-of-the-first milestones along the way.
From the day we left Germany I started to formulate the mental and physical plan to over-index the kids with my time, my energy, my patience and my love. I have succeeded at this.
Now we’re about to finish off the year and move into the next, spending six weeks travelling with Noah and Evie in the USA. We’ve been lucky enough to rent our home for two months to fund an overindulgent holiday that will be a real mix of emotion. Surely, the majority of that emotion will be weighted in fun.
Hopefully quality time away, as an unbreakable unit of three, will be a winning ingredient to help play-out the first year of our grieving process.
It will be hard to be away from the McConkeys and Lou’s parents for big days like Christmas and the anniversary of Lou’s death but I think this lengthy time travelling together will help with our bereavement.
I have a lot of nostalgic destinations and activities planned from my previous holidays and memories with Lou. We can talk about Mumma every day on our journey and hopefully our travels will lighten our heavy hearts. All before Evie starts big school.
Some of Lou’s ashes will join us and remain in the San Juan mountains of Telluride.
You came into this world crying and you’ve never really stopped. 😭😂
You were such a pretty little puffin the minute you wanted out of Mumma’s tummy and you get more beautiful every day.
I get emotional just thinking about how much you’ve grown up in the last twelve months. You are a real character. You’ve counted down the days and today is the day.
After cuddling me all night or searching for me in the bed if we parted, you woke up so excited. You slept-in which is out of character but I guess that’s your Halloween hangover. A plastic pumpkin head of overflowing ‘candy’ all transferred to your tummy will do that to you….
You woke with a big smile and exclaimed; Daddy, it’s my birthday!” Then stood up and said; “look Dadda, my legs are longer.” There is always a funny story to tell with something you say or do. One of my faves this spring is:
As the seasons have been changing and the weather is unpredictable, it’s six in the morning, you decide its time to select your first outfit for the day.
“Daddy, is it cold outside?”
“Yeah It’s a little bit cold, I think you should wear pants and a long sleeve t-shirt.”
Then you march over to the dog door and stick your little hand out the swinging flap so your fingertips reach the outside of the house and say;
“It’s warm Dadda, I’m going to wear shorts.”
“Perfect. It’s nine degrees Celcius, why not Evie?”
I know you won’t take any of my council so my only choice is to pack a warm outfit in your school bag and hope the carers at daycare have more influence over your rigid decisions than I do.
Evie, this is your first birthday without your mum. I grapple to understand the cruelness of a five-year-old girl having to mature through the years without their mummy’s guiding light. The only saving grace is that your shores have admirable lighthouses either side in; Liesy, Grandma, Nanny, Aunty Egg, Aunty Boo, Aunty Emma……… friends and family, all channelling you and governing the route.
A mother’s love is one of the most powerful forces on earth, it is unconditional and eternal.
It’s now your warm human lighthouses that will keep the infinite flow of love that mummy created at full capacity to ensure you are carried to each destination.
Just like Noah, you are my hero. You and Noah are amazing, I have nothing but emulation for how you’ve handled losing the most important person in your life. You simply get on with it and lead by example.
Evie Pops, I can’t wait for our overseas holiday this December, to excite you everyday and create some beautiful memories. I will show you where your mummy and I made some of our best memories, events that were the building blocks to you. My favourite girl in the whole wide world.
I love you. I love you as much as your mummy did and you know that’s a lot.
I thought I would post this song before it blows up on the radio.
Adam Levine was one of Lou’s massive crushes. I think he edged out Bradley Cooper and Johhny Knoxville, even if they were combined. Hopefully, I got a run in there somewhere too…… 🤔😉😂
Has Adam pilfered my hairstyle?
Love these lyrics…………
Here’s to the ones that we got Cheers to the wish you were here, but you’re not ‘Cause the drinks bring back all the memories Of everything we’ve been through Toast to the ones here today Toast to the ones that we lost on the way ‘Cause the drinks bring back all the memories And the memories bring back, memories bring back you There’s a time that I remember, when I did not know no pain When I believed in forever, and everything would stay the same Now my heart feel like December when somebody say your name ‘Cause I can’t reach out to call you, but I know I will one day, yeah Everybody hurts sometimes Everybody hurts someday, aye aye But everything gon’ be alright Go and raise a glass and say, aye Here’s to the ones that we got Cheers to the wish you were here, but you’re not ‘Cause the drinks bring back all the memories Of everything we’ve been through Toast to the ones here today Toast to the ones that we lost on the way ‘Cause the drinks bring back all the memories And the memories bring back, memories bring back you Doo doo, doo doo, doo doo Doo doo, doo doo, doo doo, doo doo Doo doo, doo doo, doo doo doo Memories bring back, memories bring back you There’s a time that I remember when I never felt so lost When I felt all of the hatred was too powerful to stop (ooh, yeah) Now my heart feel like an ember and it’s lighting up the dark I’ll carry these torches for ya that you know I’ll never drop, yeah Everybody hurts sometimes Everybody hurts someday, aye aye But everything gon’ be alright Go and raise a glass and say, aye Here’s to the ones that we got (oh oh) Cheers to the wish you were here, but you’re not ‘Cause the drinks bring back all the memories Of everything we’ve been through (no, no) Toast to the ones here today (aye) Toast to the ones that we lost on the way ‘Cause the drinks bring back all the memories (aye) And the memories bring back, memories bring back you Doo doo, doo doo, doo doo Doo doo, doo doo, doo doo, doo doo Doo doo, doo doo, doo doo doo Memories bring back, memories bring back you Doo doo, doo doo doo doo Doo doo, doo doo, doo doo, doo doo Doo doo, doo doo, doo doo doo (ooh, yeah) Memories bring back, memories bring back you Yeah, yeah, yeah Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, no, no Memories bring back, memories bring back you
I wish the memories brought you back. ♥️💔
So many good memories though, it’s what keeps the kids and I going…..♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️
People that talk about losing a loved one and grief often mention ‘the year of the firsts’.
The first year enduring such a massive loss is likely to be the most difficult, especially as milestones approach. Birthdays. Christmas. Mothers Day. The fast upcoming anniversary of Lou’s passing.
I could be very wrong with the above comments though. I guess I’m thinking of the way it will play out for the kids and I. Grief journeys are as unique as we are. Everyone’s journeys are never the same. We will all mourne in our own unique way.
The only advice I can give is taking ‘one-day-at-a-time’. Do your best to listen to your feelings and mourn at your own pace. I’m still a newbie though so my advice is young.
I feel as though I have handled the big milestones reasonably well. It’s because I overprepare for them like its a grand final game. I smash through the day and think; “that wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be”, but then I seem to crash after I have succeeded the day itself like I’m coming down from a bender.
For me, often it’s the little things that catch me off-guard that rock me. Finding a message that expresses love. Looking at a picture that entails a memorable moment. The kids achieving something and Lou not present to be in awe. Desperately needing a back scratch and not being able to lay across Lou’s legs while she is reading a novel.
As the year has progressed, I’m often thinking about what we were doing this time last year. Unfortunately around this same time, things began to spiral into nothing but pain, suffering and emotional torture.
The hope never left. The fight never left. But the good days for Lou were over.
Addressing the unfavourable elements of the cascading journey towards death along with the awareness and unpackaging of thoughts into some form of candid expression seem to help with the acceptance.
The photos in this post are Lou’s last happy moments.
This week last year we were on a family holiday in Byron Bay, hastily organised to take advantage of an anticipated window of better health. The first few days went pretty well. The day after these photos were taken, I don’t recall Lou ever authentically smiling again. She smiled for the kids for their comfort but it was an extreme effort.
This clemency post is my first big apology to my late wife.
Ever since we moved into our new house in 2013, I’ve been asking Lou every few months if I can build a skateboard ramp.
Noah, our first child, was born the same year we moved into our dream home. I thought the combination of having a future skateboarding son (motocross rider and skier), along with enough space, would be an instant approval for a ton of wood to be constructed into a halfpipe. I mean, why wouldn’t it??
With Noah so young and yours truly balancing the other end of the age bracket, it was hard for Lou to warm to the idea. It was always a big fat; “NO!”
Lou wore the pants in our relationship. I’ve always been proud to say this. I loved the conformable dynamic and I miss it today. However as much as she was against a halfpipe at home, she would have eventually said “yes.” A combination of playing my cards right and her ‘beautiful innocent blue-eyed son’ getting on board with the requests, we would have eventually won-out. With a strategic double-pronged attack; Noah would be ‘front side tail grab nose blunt sliding’ on our brand new shiny coping before we knew it…….
Dear Lou, you had some awesome renovation and landscaping plans for our home. I promise I will do my best to manufacture these ideas into reality, hopefully getting some of these dreams crafted this year. But right now, please don’t strike me with lightning because our home has an epic little halfpipe of fun. Sorry for going against the grain on this matter. I know you would’ve eventually recognised all the good reasons that outweigh the negative and approve such an important project. Also, sorry this letter is so brief, but………….. we’re going skating.
Love Noah, Evie, Benson and Me Xxxxxxxxx – We miss you like the deserts miss the rain.
Now to ensure Noah trades his scooter for his skateboard, any tips?
Thanks to Modify Ramps for putting this epic halfpipe together, onsite, in a single day. Arrived at 6:30 am, all done, even painted, by 5 pm. 👊🏽
For years and years, for as long as I can remember, at 5:30pm on a Saturday, Jonny would raise his first beer and yell through the house, “Best Time of the Week”… as fate would have it that is also the exact same time when our beautiful warrior passed away in the arms of her one true love earlier this year. So every Saturday at 5.30pm we cheers her, our village cheers her. Together. 💛 #BTOTW#strongertogether#ourwarrior#icanmovement#blendedfamily
Elysia McConkey 31 August 2019
When Lou’s tortured body finally stopped working, it was 7:30 am in Germany, right on the dot. An amazing coincidence for it to be 5:30 pm on a Saturday night at home. It’s so cool that Jon started a tradition before it was an extremely meaningful tradition.
I can remember Lou’s last breath as if it happened this very minute. While I clung to hope tighter than I would a liferaft in a rough swell, I’m pretty sure I knew she was on her way out, I just couldn’t accept it. I still havent accepted it.
I like that we have a very convenient time to celebrate Louise, every week, forever.
I encourage you to toast a glass for Lou at 5:30 pm each Saturday. There is a good chance you will have a drink in your hand at this time anyway. If not, grab one and raise it towards the sky. Cheers it to Lou, our beautiful princess warrior.
Dressed head to toe in pink with heavy black plastic boots anchoring her to the snow-covered ground.
Evie’s dark brown hair is failing to find a place to rest as it blows across her sun-kissed cheeks, streaming to either side of her oversized pink helmet as she travels at seven kilometres an hour down a 15-degree gradient.
She’s putting all her might into staying upright while wrangling her tiny little skis towards the bottom of the hill.
Like music to my ears, she screeches a gallon of ‘high pitch crisp mountain air’ from her lungs; “I LOVE SKIIIING…!!”
My little spirited chocolate -eyed four-year-old, bouncing those magic words off The Kosciusko Mountain Range. Such bliss. This was an insignificant moment to everyone else on the hill, and around the world for that matter, but an epic milestone for her proud dad.
10 weeks ago I couldn’t convince her to put her ski boots on. Ski boots are not something you can simply slip on when your child isn’t looking either. Plus if you know Evie, shes doesn’t comply with anything her mind isn’t lined up to do. Getting Evie-Pops to conform to something she isn’t interested in, is like trying to roll up a garden hose the opposite way to its been resting. Improbable.
When Evie bellows; “I LOVE SKIIIING…!!” I respond without any pause. “I wish your mummy could see you now Puffin.”
Lou would have loved skiing with Evie on her first successful run down the slushy spring snow. In my own biased opinion, there is nothing better than a family ski holiday. Nothing even comes close.
Lou and I were both grateful and content with two beautiful children. I always backed-up this fulfilled sentiment with the analogy that chairlifts are made for four and we would soon populate a chairlift just perfect.
We never got to ride a chairlift together. There is an empty seat as we lap the mountain, there always will be. It’s such a blended cup of emotion to try and digest. To be doing the activity you love most, with the two little people you love most, but to be doing it one quarter short of a whole. It’s utterly painful elation. Go figure.
Today Noah said; “I’d probably be better than mummy now dad.” I’ll leave that for your mum to judge champ.
So looking forward to more amazing summery days like today ✨✨
Everything feels lighter in summer, doesn’t it?!?
This morning a question popped into my thoughts “I wonder how many more summers I will see?” to which my mind immediately responded “8, 18, 48???” And the answer is I really don’t know.
The truth is none of us do. I’ve just been forced to contemplate it. Even 48 does not seem long enough.
What I do know is I’m not going to live every day like it’s my last. That just feels sad and exhausting.
I’m going to live in every moment like it will never end. Savouring the every day, because that’s where the magic lies ✨✨ being strong & healthy in my body, happy & peaceful in my mind, alongside the people I love.
How would you spend your summer if you only had 8 or 18 left? 🌈✨💖
XoX #makethemostofeverymoment #ivegotthis
I love Lou’s optimism and hope that is in this post. Lou talks about eight years of summers. She didn’t get through one. She didn’t see five more months from this day. She saw her hospital room ceiling and deep into many a toilet bowl. She saw several more months of intense physical pain and suffering. Emotional turmoil and despair. Worry and fear. Clinging on to the occasional sunset to inspire some hope and keep up the fight.
Validate how I’ve been managing Noah and Evie’s grief; and
Decide if Noah or Evie needed any professional guidance living with their grief
After all, the kids did lose the most central person in their life, their anchorage for a sense of self and personal security. For the most part, I am blown away at how well they are coping but let’s face it, Noah and Evie will grieve forever. They will live happily and fulfilled lives but they will be reminded of their cruel loss until their own death.
The most rewarding part that I got from yesterday’s session is that I feel we’ve done close to everything right in how we have managed Noah and Evie. From the day Lou was diagnosed with cancer in June 2017, until the day she died on January 12th, and up until this very day.
A motto that my counsellor mentioned that NCCG base themselves on is; “Truth and Inclusion.” This really resonated with me as it’s been my own practical mantra throughout Lou’s sickness and death. I feel that on occasions I have swum against the tide here to ensure that the children were part of Lou’s sickness, death, funeral and the ongoing grieving process.
The NCCG say that children “need to be loved, understood and included in all aspects of family grief. They need to be able to trust parents and other important caregivers to tell them the truth, in simple, direct language, appropriate for their age. Don’t use euphemisms in an attempt to soften facts.”
Noah did show some regressive behaviour after bringing Lou’s ashes home and both my little monkeys have oozed a little more anger than one might expect. These small changes were the catalyst for following through with the recommendation to engage with professional support.
I got a good feeling for the centre and its staff. I’ll take Noah and Evie in to see if its something they engage with and are open to continuing in the capacity recommended by NCCG. It defiantly can’t do any harm.
So Elysia, Louise’s sister (and very best friend) wanted to take photos of our six kids to record memories and times together as a blended family.
I say “our six kids” and “blended family” because that is essentially what we have become. Elysia and Jon have taken over many of the motherly responsibilities once manged by Lou, to ensure that my two children grow up loved and nurtured like any other.
Lou had an extremely close bond with Elysia and Jon’s four little angels, I also did from day one and it is my intention that I always will.
All six children are as close to each other as any siblings and behave as if they are the same blood.
I personally wouldn’t survive in my present life if Jon, Elyisa, Josh, Sadie, Billie and Georgie were not in it.
Elysia’s intention was to manage the photos privately and to record memories for the kids but Jon and I were keen to continue with the transparency that started with Louise and her killer disease.
So I have added an Instagram social page to this blog https://louisedecelis.me/social/ that includes a feed of Elysia’s beautiful photos of our beautiful children. Giving some insight into six loved hearts guided by three loving parents.
Your socks are rolled up in a ball, stuffed in the top of one of your tiny pink running shoes, ready for a gym session.
Your book; “Book Of Joy” by The Dalai Lama is neatly placed at your side of the bed, bookmarked on page 123 with 228 pages to be read.
Your toothbrush is still in its holder above the sink.
But. You’re not here. You never will be. Ever.
Evie asked me yesterday; “Will I see Mummy for Christmas?” I’m not sure if she still doesn’t get it, if she doesn’t accept it or if she just dreams that one day I will say; “sure Puffin, you will see mummy for Christmas, she can’t wait to see you.” I get choked up when she asks about your whereabouts and when you’re coming home. The lump in my throat will never go away in that conversation. It’s in my throat now just thinking about it, like a small dry ball of bread lodged in the oesophagus.
Evie talks about you the most of anyone. She talks about you every single day.
I dropped her off at school this morning as little red riding hood for book week. She definitely inherited all your beauty and flare.
I told her she is encouraged by her teacher Emily to take a book to school, so no prizes guessing what book she packed in her Hello Kitty backpack along with three additional outfits for the day. Yep; “My Mumma.”
Noah came up to me while I was hanging clothes on the line last week and grabbed me around the leg like an orphaned koala, wanting to be picked up and rescued. He just started balling with big wet tears squirting from his eyes, “I want my mummy daddy.” He cried, we cried, cuddling for 40 minutes on the sofa, wishing you were here. It was good for us because we haven’t done that in a while. I’m not sure what set him off but it was much-needed therapy for the both of us.
July was a tough month for me. None are easy but for some reason, it just ticked over with a little more discomfort. The last couple of weeks have been much better. Hopefully August is an easier month in handling your absence.
You were very missed last week at my dad’s 70th birthday weekend in the mountains. Well, you are very missed at every event. You’re missed every week, every day, every minute.
Anyways, I just wanted to say hi and that I miss you. We all do.
Not an hour goes by that I don’t think of you. I was telling Noah and Evie on Wednesday night that I miss you yelling at me. They thought that was pretty funny.
Evie still asks most weeks; “When is mummy not going to be died anymore?” She enjoys wearing your clothes and makeup. She talks about you with enthusiasm pouring from her larynx.
When Noah cuddles me in the morning he sometimes mumbles “mummaa!!,” as he is giving me a big squeeze. He is cuddling you through me.
As I mentioned in my last post, Noah has had a tough time in the last few weeks digesting that you are back in your bedroom, as six kilograms of dust. It’s mind-boggling for me so I can’t imagine the thought process for a six-year-old boy. A beautiful little boy that was infatuated with you, his mum, his security, his life.
You would be so proud of the kids. As each month sneaks by, I increasingly want you to see how the kids have grown. I would love you to hear the conversations I have with them.
Remember when we would all lie in bed, cracking up laughing at Noah’s stories before he drifted off to sleep? I looked forward to this time in the preceding hours. I still do, it’s probably my favourite time of the day.
We miss you so much.
I’ve been really busy with work and am having some great wins. You would be very proud.
As a family of three, we are doing really well considering. Everyone is supporting the kids and me to a level I could never forecast. We’re off on another road trip tomorrow. The front passenger seat empty but our hearts and minds full of the reason the three of us are together as a tight little team, the reason being YOU!
I wrote this post with tears on my traditionally arid cheeks 😢, struggling to see the words i was typing on the screen. Time has moved so quickly this year but it feels like an eternity. Six months is so fast in the scheme of things but so slow when an endless pit of anguish fails to repair. Such a juxtaposition of time.
I carry some respite knowing how much you loved me. The kids do too. Yesterday in bed, Evie said; “mummy tried so hard didn’t she?” I love that your spirit is embedded in her little firey soul.
Hi Kids. Now, I know you know that I am no longer physically with you anymore but your dad knew me so well that if I could send a letter, he knows exactly what I would say. He’s pretty smart your dad….😉
Dear beautiful babies, I know you miss me like crazy but I am so happy that you smile every day. Your laughs echo into the heavens and all the angels and fairies, like me, flutter their wings with joy.
Mothers day just doesn’t sound right when you don’t have a mum. But you are so lucky. You have a dad that loves you all the snowflakes in the world. You have Aunty Liesy and Jon-boy that look after you every day and love you as equally as they do; Josh, Sadie, Bill-Bill and The G. You have Grandma, Grandpa, Nanny and Poppie that think you are two of the most beautiful people in this whole wide world. You are the most beautiful people in this whole wide world.
I miss you like crazy too. I want to reach down and touch you, cuddle you and make you feel warm and safe. I want to kiss you one more time, I want to tell you that I love you. Well, I do love you, so so much. I tried so hard to stay with you in this world. I wanted to be your mother until I was old and wrinkly like nan-nan. I wanted to hold your babies in my arms. I fought with everything that I could, I never gave up. Your dad will tell you how brave I was.
Thanks for remembering me so well. Thanks for talking about me every day. Thanks for my birthday cards and thank you for my mothers day cards. Keep placing them under the tree, I will keep looking at them there.
I remember the last time you came to see me and bring me flowers and heart-shaped rocks. You cuddled and kissed me and told me that you loved me. Even though I was sleeping, you made me feel so happy. I was able to keep sleeping with your endless love in my heart.
You are both getting big now. I can’t believe how much you have grown. You are very special and are doing so well without me. Some days will be harder than others but if you miss me, tell your dad, he will be able to make you feel better. When you’re cuddling daddy, you are cuddling me too.
Tell your dad that I miss him too. Tell him to slow down, I know he was speeding on your Easter holiday road trip. I still have one eye on the speedo you know.
Evie Pops, you are so beautiful, you always look so pretty in all those colourful dresses. I’m being a bit modest here but I used to light up every room I graced. You are that light switch now. So Pretty with a confident and spirited soul.
Noah, you are so empathetic, generous and strong. You are a beautiful looking boy. The emotional connection you and I had is what brightens up the nighttime sky. 💫⭐️🌟✨
NoNo’s, Evie, I love you. I miss you as much as you miss me. Keep having fun, you are so good at it. Keep smiling, keep laughing and keep your dad on his toes like I always did. I am so proud of you.
About a month ago, on the first weekend of April, I organised a weekend away with a few other dads that lost their wives to cancer.
Unfortunately one of the dads had to pull out at the last minute because his daughter was very ill during the week. He’ll be on the next widowers weekend away for sure.
Out of the three dads that joined me, we had nine kids between us. Thomo; three, Craig, Josh and I each have two little munchies. A nice little posse of motherless families that were dealt a rough hand.
My original goal was purely for the children to understand that they are not alone and that there are many other kids in the world that don’t have mums. The weekend was a real winner, not just for the kids but for the dads too.
Tennis, swimming, dolls, motorbikes, horses, dress ups, tip and bullrush on the lawn, a dinner out at at the Sir George Hotel in Jugiong, a cracking BBQ on the farm, beers (for the dads) and some good chat for all.
The best win for me is that the kids loved it and they all got along like a house on fire.
Although I didn’t originally plan it like this, having this weekend leading into a big month that contained school holidays, Lou’s birthday and mothers day was good timing. I think it settled the kids a little. The county air and being off the grid can do this on its own, add a few solid families in the same unfortunate circumstance and the lasting result was invaluable.
I am looking forward to doing this again when Rory and his little tin lids can join us. But thats it, this is a group that DOES NOT need any more members…….
I hope all is well and you enjoyed your Easter break to the Gold Coast. Evie has been telling us all about Movie World and the water park you went to. I just wanted to discuss the topic of Mother’s Day with you. I know this is a sensitive topic this year and we have definitely been thinking about you and your family with this day coming up soon. We would love for Evie to honour Lou and today we began making our Mother’s Day gifts, which are decorated coffee mugs. I asked Evie “Is there someone special you would like to make the coffee mug for.” She said, “I want to make it for mummy and then daddy can drink his coffee and coke in it.” So today, Evie decorated her mug and drew some lovely pictures. She drew a star, a skipping rope, yourself and Louise, and a fish. We are also doing a questionnaire with the Banksia’s, which will contain lots of questions about their mother’s. Evie is eager and excited to do this this afternoon. I also wanted to ask you if there is a way you would like us to go about the ‘Mother’s Day’ topic with Evie and if there is anything you would like us to do with Evie to celebrate Lou as the wonderful mother she was. We do have a Mother’s Day afternoon tea coming up next Friday the 10th at 3:00pm. You are more than welcome to attend with Noah and Evie also mentioned that she wants her Aunty to attend too.
Kind regards, Emily Pride Only About Children
Dear Dominic and Elysia,
I just wanted to let you know that Noah decided to make a card for his mum for Mother’s Day and has been freely talking about Mum and happily working on his writing.
We did initially talk about whether he would like to make a card for someone else too, but he said he would prefer to make one card for his mum. I asked him to let me know if he needed some time out or a break but he hasn’t taken up that option to date.
We finished the writing today and will complete an artwork early next week, so the focus will start to change soon.
The Mother’s Day breakfast will be at school next Friday. You are more than welcome to attend. The morning consists of an open classroom until from 8:10am where children can show their work and what they do in class.
There is also food and coffee available in the playground I believe. This will be followed by a Mass that is due to finish around 10:30am.
Noah is an amazingly resilient and diligent student. You must be very proud of him.
Please let me know if I can be of further assistance over the coming week. Kind regards, Martina
When Lou turned 40 this time last year, it was during a very short period that we thought she was cancer free. Our original plan was to throw a big combined 40th birthday party when she was feeling 100% and we were confident the nightmare was behind us.
At the last minute, Lou decided to organise a party at short notice with close family and friends. She loved a party and she loved being the centre of attention, I’m really glad she organised this get together and seized the opportunity. Unfortunately, even though you hear the optimism in the words of the poem, this birthday would be her last. 😔
I have such positive memories of you and the way you appear in my thoughts. My momentary or flash style thoughts of you typify who you were; happy, excitable, motivated, high energy, contagious with affection………
I’ve been a little quiet on the blog posts lately. I’ve commenced a few but have lacked spark and creativity to continue. If the motivation has been missing I haven’t bothered pushing it. I’m attempting to roll with the punches as best I can and not put myself under too much pressure in any way.
There is no consistency in how I am feeling. My emotions, motivation and daily mental health are very unpredictable. If I have several really good days, especially on the weekend, then I tend to crash in the proceeding days. It takes me a while to get back on an even keel again.
I think I’m doing as best as I can given the unfortunate circumstances. The whole situation of losing your closest companion is one major adjustment process.
There has been a lot of tedious administration tasks to sort through. We bucked the trend compared to most household financial management roles. Lou was good at managing money and all the tasks that surrounded both our domestic and work-related accounting matters. Even when I sold my investment property that I had for ten years, I had her manage both the process and the funds, all transferred and managed in her name. She was good at it. For a technically progressive guy, I didn’t even have online banking activated. When I needed money I just asked for it, a bit like a 1950’s housewife but not oppressed, a convenient situation by choice…..
I liked it that way. I will have no problem managing the money from this point forward but I preferred the previous arrangement better. In many ways, Lou “wore the pants” in our marriage and I loved it like that. Until Lou died, I had never even logged into my own work accounting system. Lou and I didn’t have a will either, so all of our accounts, except one, are currently frozen. I’ve had to source birth and marriage certificates, many re-applied for, as I don’t know where Lou stored such paperwork. I was required to have all the family papers officially translated to German so that I can get a formal death certificate and I am now in the process of getting the death certificate translated to English for legal purposes back here at home.
It’s a real grind doing all of this painful, monotonous administrative stuff. Mainly because I keep shaking my head and wonder why the fuck am I doing this shit in the first place?
Sorry. I’m not complaining. I just miss the old system where I worried about very little because I had someone in my home conveniently managing it all for me. I am currently getting some great help by several people to sort it all out and handle it moving forward.
So who’s seen the Netflix series; The After Life?
You might ask why would I watch a series about a guy (Tony, played by Ricky Gervais) who had the perfect life – until his wife Lisa died of breast cancer.
I watch very few series, I watch zero television and only occasionally watch the odd movie. I guess I was rolling the dice deciding to watch The After Life. The main drawcard was Ricky Gervais. I’ve always been a massive fan of his productions and I was curious how he would put together such a narrative.
In the already successful series, which is made up of six easy 30 min shows, Tony, formerly a nice guy, changes dramatically after the tragic event of his wife’s death. In several episodes, Tony both talks about and contemplates taking his own life. He carries on in a depressive state saying and doing whatever the hell he likes. He doesn’t give a shit about himself or anybody else. I won’t give too much more away than that, in case you decide to watch it.
The series made me feel better about myself because Tony is pretty messed up. If it wasn’t for my kids I am sure I’d be much more like Tony.
Has anyone else seen it? I’ll give you the reasons why I liked the show once it has aired for a while as I would need to talk about the last couple of episodes. Ricky is one funny dude. He wrote, directed and starred in this Netflix series himself.