Category Archives: human spirit
I published my last post just before my birthday. I was as excited as anyone could possibly be – not only was I showered with great gifts from family and friends near and far, but it was capped off with a premiership win by my AFL team – a win that is the equivalent of the American Superbowl. But just a week later, I found myself in a depression – feeling lonely and alone.
This, of course, I know, is not true. I have family and friends who care and love me.
And now we’re just over a week away from Christmas. This is traditionally a happy time for everyone, with parties and gift-shopping and everyone winding down from their busy year. I’ve attended three separate work Christmas parties within 8 days and ended the week on a high note and sore feet from hours of dancing. Sadly, however, when I woke up yesterday morning and checked my Twitter feed, I saw nothing but sadness, for it was filled with breaking news updates about the latest massacre in the US.
48 hours ago I had never heard of Newtown, Connecticut. Now, this small town has embedded itself into the hearts and minds of people all over the world. My heart broke with every tweet and every news article I read of the lone gunman who arrived at an elementary school where his mother was a teacher and shot and killed 20 young first graders and six teachers who had tried to protect them.
Everyone has a story to tell of where they were when a significant news event happened: I was late to school the morning I watched the Challenger explode shortly after blast-off in 1986; I was with my Dad and brother-in-law buying a new air-conditioner the afternoon news broke that Michael Hutchence (lead singer of Aussie band INXS) was found dead in his hotel room in 1997; I was with my parents driving into the city as news trickled in with reports of the car accident that eventually took the life of Diana, Princess of Wales that same year.
Of all the global tragedies during my lifetime so far, there is no doubt the attacks of September 11, 2001, will forever be ingrained in my mind. I remember, as if it was only yesterday, that fateful day when the twin towers of the World Trade Centre (WTC) came down after two planes hijacked by terrorists crashed into those buildings in the heart of New York City.
It was late at night in Sydney when the first plane flew into the North Tower. I had been working on an assignment in my study. My TV was on in the living room – I was waiting for The West Wing to start. It was nothing unusual that programs regularly did not start on time. I kept going out to the living room every couple of minutes to check if the program had started yet. At first, I thought the TV station had changed its programming to some late-night disaster movie when I saw smoke billowing from an office tower. Then I realised it was “Breaking News”.
Like everyone else, I was stunned and horrified at what I was seeing. There was no real explanation as to what was going on. Reports told of a tragic plane crash – everyone thought it was an accident. It had to be. How else could you explain what had happened?
Less than two weeks ago, I wrote about a friend of mine, Mary, who married her long-time partner, Rodney, in a beautiful, yet simple, ceremony in Sydney (see “Picture of Love, Togetherness and Strength“). Last Friday, I was so proud of myself for using my new-found Windows Movie Maker skills when I made a short wedding video with the photos I had taken at their wedding and put it to music with a couple of Bruno Mars songs. It was my little gift to Mary for her 39th birthday. She had replied back, via Rodney, to say the video had put a smile on her face. Rodney was excited about being on YouTube.
Sadly, today, I awoke to the news that Mary had passed away this morning in Adelaide, having lost her brave battle with cancer. The news has greatly upset me all day for many reasons and I have been trying to find the right words to express this. The passing of a loved one is never easy to accept. The loss of one so young – a contemporary, well, actually younger than me by several months – with a young family and so much to live for, just adds to the craziness of how the world works. Perhaps the most frustrating (is that the right word?) part about this loss is that I feel like Mary and I only just “found” each other again 2 years ago after having only seen each other once or twice since we finished high school. When we caught up in November 2009 in Adelaide, we had even talked about meeting up in Melbourne one time when my football team, the Sydney Swans, played hers, Collingwood Magpies.
On Friday 29th April, 2011, an estimated TV audience of 2 billion tuned in to the “Wedding of the Century” as Prince William of Wales married commoner Catherine Elizabeth Middleton at Westminster Abbey in London. They had met at university and had been together for 9 years (bar a short period of separation) and for almost as long, the world had been asking “when will they tie the knot?” Once their engagement was announced and a wedding date set, then more questions followed: “who is she going to wear?” (making it sound as if she will be wearing a person), “who will be invited?”, “where will they have their honeymoon?”, etc. And now that the ceremony is over, the next big question to the happy couple is “when will they have a baby?”. And when that question is eventually answered, no doubt the next one will be “when will they have another one?”. Ah, so many questions!
We are all fascinated to some extent by people who lead very public lives and, of course, the British royal family is one of the most famous and most public for many reasons. Like all newlyweds, we wish the happy couple much joy and happiness. But when all is said and done, the confetti has been cleared from the London streets and royal wedding memorabilia have been sold out, we return to our normal day-to-day lives, and our reality is a very different picture.
Although I was not among the invited guests at the royal wedding, I was fortunate to have been able to attend another wedding a few weeks ago of an old high school friend to her partner of some 15 yrs (or more?), and the father of her two beautiful daughters. It was a much smaller and more intimate affair – something that I am sure Will and Kate wish they could have had, being surrounded by close friends and family. There were no formal invitations sent – a simple message on Facebook announcing to friends the wedding date a mere 4 weeks ahead of the special occasion, followed by another one announcing the time and location of the ceremony and reception. No formal RSVPs were received other than some messages posted on Facebook. For Rodney and Mary, this was their perfect day.
I was only in primary school when I left Hong Kong to come to Australia. I knew nothing of Australia’s history or the “ANZAC spirit” but to this day, I will never forget my first introduction to Australia’s involvement in WWI. It was a rainy day in 1983 and our class was gathered in the school library. There were a few beanbags scattered around the open space on the floor and some of us were quick enough to have been able to dive for one. As we settled down, our teacher told us we were going to be watching an Australian film called “Gallipoli“. Neither the title, nor the film’s now-famous director (Peter Weir) and stars (Mel Gibson and Mark Lee) meant anything to me, but as a TV and movie addict even way back then, I was happy to watch anything. But by the end of the movie, I was sobbing, and as I looked around the room, so were my classmates, including the boys. My appreciation for Australian history and its involvement in WWI would never be underestimated again. In the 1980s, the Australian film and television industry was in love with the Aussie war stories and I devoured every film and mini-series that was made on the subject including “The ANZACs“, “The Lighthorsemen” and “A Fortunate Life” based on the autobiography of A.B. Facey.