Babywearing with Jess

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Talking with kids about death

So if you’ve read any of the posts I’ve made like The Grandfather my kids will never meet, New Years Giveaway – in memory of my Nana MaysieTo Andy, on what would have been your 40th birthday, you would probably have already guessed, there has been more than a few really important people in my life that my kids won’t have the chance to really know as they’ve left us earthside already.

Whenever death comes up as a topic of discussion with children thought, I am really aware of what I am saying to them about it and conscious that it will influence how they think and feel about the topic not only now, but in years to come. I know this doesn’t sit well for everyone and sometimes makes people uncomfrtoable but its a reality in our world loss & grief and I think it might better prepare our kids for them if we can talk about it more…

Also I think personally as children, there is a lot more that we are spiritually in touch with before the realities of other peoples or societies opinions or our own questions or unsureness of these things really clouds our views.

I think children are much more connected to the spiritual world than we give them credit for. In a recent TED talk I watched by Phil Borges he told a story about viewing, from an outsider perspective, a relationship between a great grandmother and great granddaughter and they time they spent together in the village life as peculiar.

He said the tribe explained to him it wasn’t at all strange, the elder was just about to return to the spirit world and the young girl was just leaving it so in fact they had the most in common.

It made me think about being a very young girl and spending lots of time and sleep overs at my Great Aunty Fayette’s house.

I don’t know how old I was when we used to do these sleep overs but very young.

My mum is the eldest of her family and my dad the eldest of his, me being the eldest in my family, it’s kind of logical I am also the eldest of my generation, of my cousins, of my family line in both sides.

I do remember there being a time when it was just me. When I was the only grandchild, which would have been in my mums side of the family, up until my sister was born when I was three and a half. I think the sleep overs where probably around that age.

When I think about it now, it may well have been a way for my mum to prepare for having my sister and my Aunty Donna would have been pregnant with my cousin at the time too.

I remember handing out with the “oldies” lots during that time and as a little girl. They we all “greats” in the family line to me, my great grandmother and my great aunts (many of whom we not actually blood relatives but friends of my Great grandmothers, who we called Gran, and people who we all considered family).



Having four generations of your family alive is very special. I loved hanging out the “oldies” but when that is the case, death is also obviously something you come to experience before you even know what that means.

It would although avoided, a topic that came up lots. Reading the obligatory section of the paper was a common thing that was done as a group to see if anyone they knew where in them – more often than not, there was. But death wasn’t something spoken about with fear, it was almost like waiting for a bus. You never know when your one is going to arrive but you do know it’s on its way eventually.

Aunty Fayette’s was my favourite place to be though. Her and Aunty Dot, they were always my favourites.

But sleep overs at Fayette’s weren’t my favourite cause she was but because I got to sleep in her room with her and Honey, her wee dog. In my Great Uncle Jack’s bed.

I never met Jack. He was someone who dies before my time. But I feel like I know him.




When my Great Grandmother got dementia my Aunty Donna made her this big pin up board of everyones photos and thier names to help her remember when she got frustrated. I loved that it was this that my Aunty sent when I asked her for a photo of Fayette and Jack because not only is there them but right next me with Aunty Dot around the age I am reminising about right now, just above us “Jenny & Grahame” are my parents and in between us all, my Great Gran who this pin up board was made for before she passed…




On those nights I stayed at Aunty Fayette’s she always made sure she had Vienna Ice cream cake, we loved that stuff – both of us.

And she would cut us both a big slice and we would take it to her room and prop ourselves up in bed (it was the old school set up of two single beds-his and hers, with a small draws set in between) and she would turn on old school movies on the old TV set she has in her bedroom (she was also the only person I knew with a TV in her bedroom – which made her extra cool to me) and she would tell me stories about her and Jack travelling through Asia after the war.

They travelled to some crazy places and had amazing experiences at a time when travelling like that was just not something people did.

On Jack’s side of the room, the one I slept on, I slept in his bed, there was a chair at the foot of the bed and next to the dresser.

It was where he put his shoes on in the morning after he got dressed. I’m not sure if someone told me that and for some reason in my mind I have an image of him doing exactly that. As an adult I feel it must have been a photo or something I saw as I can’t rationally have seen him doing that as he died before I was born… The reality is though; I am not sure if a photo like that exists.

But I do know as a little girl sometimes Aunty Fayette would be telling me a story about Jack and their adventures and we would be eating our ice cream cake and have old movies playing and there were times she would laugh as she told stories of what seemed like and probably were, very exotic and dangerous situations they lived through together and then other times she would finish telling a story and she would seem sad.

And I remember in those times literally seeing Uncle Jack, sitting in his chair at the foot of the bed, smiling, radiating love but kind of glowing, like he was see through in a way.

And he was there whenever she said, “I miss Jack”. And while she said it with sadness and she didn’t say it that often, when she did the overwhelming emotion was the nostalgia, rather than so much that of loss.

And every time – I would look at him smiling there in his chair – and I would look at her and say “but he’s right here”.

Like in a matter of fact way. In a three-year-old way. Like I didn’t overthink it, I didn’t grasp that might be a strange thing at all. It didn’t feel strange – it just was. He was just there. In his chair.

And she would wipe away the tear from her cheek and look at the chair and look at me and she could smile and say to me, “I know”.

And we would continue on as we were. Talking well past my bedtime, often eating a whole Vienna Ice Cream cake slice by slice and watching old movies or looking at her slides from her travels around Asia with Jack.

I didn’t even think of this story for such a long time. I do remember feeling this overwhelming desire from Fayette for me not to go to her funeral. When she totally unexpectedly dropped dead at her own doorstop many years later on Christmas eve, we found out she had long since planned and paid for her own funeral years in advance.

The funeral home called and said she had everything organised for it all, pretty much, “just bring us the body” kind of scenario.

We were all there for Christmas that year. I didn’t have to travel to get to the funeral, there was nothing stopping me from attending or staying around for it. Yes, it was going to be a few days before I had a big camping trip for New Year’s planned with friends and changing my flight might have interfered with that. That was the premise under which I took my intended flight back to New Zealand, to my home, days before her funeral and never attended it but it isn’t why.

I remember sitting on the front steps of the house I was boarding in at the time, which means I must have been seventeen when she died, and it was the night of the funeral.

I remember just at that moment having this guilt stricken panic, “oh shit! Why didn’t I stay for the funeral? I’m not even leaving for the camping trip for two days! I could have totally been there…”

And looking up at the stars, because I was told that’s where we can see the spirits of our loved ones, that the brightest star we could find would be them, shining for us to remember them. In that moment it was like I almost heard her say, “I don’t want you to remember me like that, remember me like Jack” and without even thinking about what that meant, any guilt or indecision I had was gone in that moment. I wasn’t meant to be at the funeral.

It was a dark phase in my life when Fayette died and things over the years got darker before they got lighter again. I had made my peace with my guilt and loss. In fact, despite being so close to Aunty Fayette, my grief and loss over her death was the easiest for me to seem to get “closure” on. I guess because it felt like she never left.

I didn’t even think about or remember the specifics of staying at her house actually until this morning. Someone mention something about their young child saying they could see a past relative. I commented on it about how I do truly believe we are closer to the spirit world when we are young.

I shared with them a story about Josh telling me when he was three he could hear and see Pa (my dad) but now he’s four he can’t and he didn’t “feel” the love the same way. I’m not sure if he’s incredibly insightful, if he has a great imagination, if it’s because of the way we’ve talked to him about these things or a combination of all of them.

He’s also talked to me about past lives lots. He once said as we were driving down the road to me, “we’ve been together before but you weren’t my mum then, we were brothers. We rode these big carts and had these costumes and horses pulled us around”…

He would have been three at the time. As I said he has an active imagination and had a new brother so maybe it was just a story he thought up, but James and I kind of exchanged glances for a sec..

“Was it a really long time ago?” I asked.

“Oh yeah. Ages ago!” he replied.

James said something like “I didn’t know you had seen chariots? That sounds like what you are talking about with the carts and horses?”

“Ohhh…” said Josh, just casually looking out the window deep in thought, “chariot… hmmm”

And James and I just looked at each other a bit bemused, fairly certain we have never exposed him to anything where he would have seen a chariot and not sure what was fact or fiction but not really caring either way.

As I thought about myself at 3 this morning as I was in the shower and I thought of the story of Aunty Fayette and Uncle Jack and it all came flooding back to me, I thought, man there must be so much stuff we know but forget by the time we are old enough to express it.

I’m not really sure how you or I are “meant” to deal with and talk about death with children but for me, I try to follow their lead and always leave my answers as reflective, open ended questions because in a way they are not only their own, but my greatest teachers with this stuff.

I don’t have the “oldies” to learn from anymore but there is now a whole new generation and my kids and the opinions and ideas from them who haven’t yet been shaped or closed by their own adult perceptions or realities of life in this lifetime.

By being open, by admitting to them often when they ask questions that I’m not really sure how it all works, or if anyone really does, its all just different ways of thinking and believing and having faith and connection to something greater than us. And then most importantly I ask and actually listen when I say “what do you think?”

I continue to learn and develop and progress my own perceptions and ideas whilst also encouraging them to develop and understand them for themselves. Especially while they are still young. The might be able to answer their own questions better than I could in years to come but by then they would have probably forgotten it.

But I won’t. I will remember what they think life and death and all the big questions meant to them before the world encourages them to forget and I can be there, hopefully I will be there, to remind them.





Skylight Trust has amazing resources for helping support people through greif and loss, particularly with children. Check out thier site and the many different ways they can support you if this for you, like me, like many of us, can be a tought topic to discuss with your kids –


DISCLAIMER: Obviously we are not a family that prescribes to a set religion or school of faith but that doesn’t mean we are not open to them, in fact, there is lots we like from many of them, but for us, nature is our temple. Even between James and I we have slightly different takes on what destiny and God and all those things mean to us but one thing we have always firmly believed is giving our children exposure to lots of different ways to find faith and belonging in the world and encouraging them to answer those decisions for themselves. But this is not meant to be offensive to someone with different beliefs, my favourite tenants of the faiths that speak to me most are the ones about us all being on our own journey up the same mountain and that your relationship with something bigger than us is a very personal one.




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Grief, Loss & Acceptance

Grief is a heavy topic to cover, I get that.

And we all have different ways of perceiving the process, rituals and ongoing emotions associated with death, loss and grief. Not to mention different fundamental ideals and understandings about what “life after death” or even “what the point” of life is all about.

But grief and loss is something as people, we can’t avoid.

It is one of the fundamentals of life, you are born and you will die.

Sorry, again, I know that concept alone freaks some people out.

But it does happen to all of us.

And furthermore, someone doesn’t even actually have to die for you to feel grief or loss over something. As people we can feel loss at a failed project, we can feel grief over at the end of a relationship breakdown, fuck we all often feel grief over losing hopes and dreams of ideas or concepts of the ways you wish or expected things might have been.

And given this is something we will all face most of us will experience grief and loss in some form or another many, many times in our lives, but we are terrible as a social cohort about talking about it.

I’m not even talking about actually talking about death, don’t even get me started there, that’s a whole different post in itself. But just grief and loss alone.

I post about my Dad and other members of my life who are no longer with us because it keeps their stories and their memories relevant in my life.

If I don’t talk about them, create stories about them for the generation that never knew them, well, its like a fate worse than death, its like banishment. It’s like they didn’t exist.

And there had been stacks of research on how social media and other online formats can be really helpful for grief and how one might process it on an individual level.

But being vulnerable and sharing stories of grief and loss online isn’t me NOT coping, in fact, it’s the exact opposite.



There is ultimate beauty in imperfection…


Being vulnerable in life, having the openness and courage to be truly ok experiencing and living through (as well as talking about) the lows, gives us this ultimate opportunity to actually experience the amazing joys and happiness and euphoric fun and all the highs at different times as well.

Me talking about the biggest losses in my life, omg of course there are going to be parts of that which are sad. If there weren’t they wouldn’t be the “greatest losses of my life” would they…

But does that mean me and my soul are at that moment I press “Publish” or “Post” are sitting there crying into a pillow in sorrow. No, no, no, no…. not even remotely.

I mean I write from my heart, not from my head in these posts often. In academia and research and business it was always written from my head, but in this form, well you get raw writing from my heart sometimes. People probably don’t even realise, most of my blog posts now, are actually first written by hand. Then I type it… it’s more like selected bits of journal entry if you like…

But there is a key difference – you don’t get it AT the time.

I don’t post something I am feeling vulnerable about when I am still vulnerable about it because, well, because- the internet is mean.

People aren’t nice online.

This isn’t like a surprise or shock to me at all. There are scientific reasons for it.

Psychologists now, unlike in 2011 when we were campaigning about taking these issues seriously (Be Kind Online post) have many different studies and methods and models of why and how the internet does what it does to us.

Not only that they have stacks and stacks and stacks of case studies and stories, of people, and of the real damaging effects these issues have had on them and models and strategies about how to treat some of those.

This is something that despite people being more aware of it, has only got worse in recent years.

But the thing about vulnerability is it makes us uncomfortable because it allows us to truly connect with others.

To me, talking about grief gives it a greater opportunity to transform itself into growth.

Hiding or numbing or running from the very darkest parts of our own experiences means we do the same for the flip side of the coin.

I’m not going to start hypothesising about life after death or varying perceptions or ideas of that here but one thing I do know is that “love is a form of energy that swirls all around us, their love for you has not left this world, it is still inside your heart and is reborn as new love” (like that one? Kid’s cartoon, linked it below, its actually pretty awesome).

But the stories and the characters of the people we no longer have with us, they can only live on through us.

There are my boys and Eden particularly I think of in these kinds of things. I want them to know stories about these people. For my boys their grandfather, for Eden, its her father.

I am fortunate and grateful that I had my whole childhood with an amazing active and involved father as a role model and I know not everybody gets that. Not only death or absence can rob us of those. But as much as I am grateful, it’s also ok to be sad at times.

And it is easy to be bitter. At times before in my life I have definitely been bitter at the hand dealt to me for sure. Not just about my dad or death, but life in general. I was a rather bitter teenagers in retrospect haha. But bitterness gets you nowhere.



Paper boats, butterflies, bubbles, stories… they are ways for me to try channel my grief positively..


I don’t tell stories about those no longer with us or write letters to them FOR THEM…

I write them for myself and for those other who are still here missing them too. As a way to both process my grief into growth and to share my vulnerability as a way to connect but also to show others its ok to be vulnerable too.

When a little girl looks up to you mid blowing bubbles at her fathers funeral (your friends funeral) and says, “your daddy is dead like mine, hey?” and I can manage to blow another REALLY deep breathe of bubbles out, tears silently streaming down my face, look at her and smile, “yeah… yeah he is hunny..” and then scoot her in a bit closer to me as we continue to blow bubbles and marvel at them together, that’s both grief and growth.

During that moment I realised something, the person who helped me most when I was in Eden’s shoes, even if I was twenty years older, was another little girl, not much older than Eden at the time.

And the wise little girl who sat with me when it was my Dad I couldn’t get my head around losing had death with her own unfair share of death already in her life journey even at that tender age. She was the one who reminded me his “love is still all around us, when people die we just have to tell more stories about them so others don’t forget about them and their love. That’s all. OMG, look at that HUUUUUUGE bubble!!!”


Bubbles are magic.

Children are beautiful and wise beyond what many of us give them credit for.

And stories are legacies.

I talk about the people that I’ve “lost” in this lifetime lots because I love them and I don’t want others (including the kids) to forget about them or they love they are swirling around all of us.

Hahah I feel like I should sign off “Namaste” 😛

I’ll leave ya with this instead… Its only ten minutes, watch it, its awesome…


It’s from a kids cartoon explanation about chakras, its actually really cool but pre warning, maybe a bit scary for little kids, I wouldn’t show my boys right now… But Josh is maybe more sensitive to “scary” stuff in show cause we don’t watch TV but use your discretion…




If you haven’t seen this video which is a TED Talk by Brene Brown about vulnerability its also very much worth watching…



To Andy, on what would have been your 40th birthday


Happy birthday dude.

Happy 40th. Fucking 40, that’s all. That’s how old you were meant to be today.

But you’re not, you’re not here and you haven’t been for a while. There are times when it still hasn’t sunk in you know.



There are times that James and I look at each other when something poignant happens and go “just wait till we can tell Andy” before the smiles drop from our faces and one of us reminds the other that we can’t.

I have so many memories and stories I could bust out here. At the moment I am sitting not far from the last place I saw you. The last time you came over before we never saw you again was in this cottage.

It was a night-time visit and the kids were asleep and I didn’t want you to wake them. You were always so loud, larger than life-those aspects of your gregarious personality where my favourites bit I was in “mum-mode” and “don’t you dare wake those kids I just battled to sleep” mode.

I remember watching you and James talk here in the cottage and thinking, “fuck, sending you guys down there only cost me the opportunity of talking to you too”. I remember in that moment and many, many times since thinking, I wish I didn’t do that. We never had the chance to see you again after that.

And it wasn’t much longer than that I got that fateful phone call from Katie. We knew something must have happened as both James and I had a few missed calls from people. But we had no idea. Nothing prepares you for those calls.

But as soon as Katie answered and spoke, it hit me. She had the same nature to her voice as Mum had when she called about Dad. That tone, that quality to it that was of someone having to tell someone else something completely heart-breaking when they hadn’t yet got themselves around the words yet.

Unlike the call from mum which I can remember almost word for word what was said, I can’t with Katie. Of course my heart sank and on her behalf too when she told me you had died but it was my heart skipping a few beats-just stopping momentarily when I thought of Eden. Your beautiful little girl Eden.

I was in my mid-twenties when my dad died, she’s just a little girl. And I’m sure some of my thoughts and grief I felt for her where projected from my own, not that distant experience, but that confusion and shock and complete inability for her poor broken wee heart to take in the situation was just written all over her face the minute I saw her a few days later.

And even if some of it might have been projected, fuck I was glad to have thought about some of the things that pulled me through when it was my face that looked like that. When it was me who was the one who just couldn’t get over the shock that I don’t have my dad around anymore-even as unfair as it seems that other people do.

So while you had the second least ordinary and normal service and send off (and I only say second because it came after my Dad’s equally strange by normal standards, loud music blaring and photo slide shows like yours), this time was different, unlike at dads where I got into character, it was a performance, there was even a “jeans and tee” blues brothers inspired dress code that helped in that aspect haha and I had to speak!

This time ALL my attention was on Eden. As soon as the procession was made in, some music played and people started talking, she got restless. It’s a really hard thing little people at funerals and I know lots of people have various takes on this.

I remember with conversations about this on “mummy groups” that at some funerals there may be outside expectations that it wouldn’t be appropriate for children to be present, particularly little ones – but I guess ones view on that probably depends on how they view funerals and what the purpose is. And yours, well it featured the breakbeat music you used to DJ and mix and a lot like dads, it was a true celebration of your life and your friends and family did you proud.

Beyond that though, I have always believed children should be included in these rituals and events- to not let them be part of it may rob them of the opportunity for closure and peace that they have had the chance to say some goodbyes in some sense, even if it is later on in their journeys and lives that they gain appreciation for it.

Anyway I did the one thing that sure helped me when I couldn’t cope and I was 26, but it didn’t matter because the thing that helped most was bubbles. I wish I could say this was the only time in 2016 I found myself focused on a group of children (my sons peers) with one of their parents now dead and tried to shield the youth of the room somewhat from the shock and sorrow of the adults around them with bubbles, but it wasn’t.

See to me it’s important for them to be there, but I have also many times been that child at a funeral with the overwhelming sense that something horrible I didn’t understand was happening and also, “why is no one telling me anything?!”

So, bubbles.

Just blowing bubbles. Because I have had to stipulate this in times before I will again here now. I mean good old fashioned soapy water bubbles, not champagne.

You can learn a lot about life and death and magic and faith and the beauty of the world from bubbles.

The ephemeral nature. The various sizes and shapes and colours. The fact they both appear and disappear again like magic. The unpredictability. Even just the deep breath you have to take to blow them in the first place.

Bubbles. That’s always been my first solution to overwhelming grief.

So we blew bubbles, who doesn’t fucking love bubbles? I mean if I ever meet someone who doesn’t like bubbles, I would be very interested in their life story – I can’t think of a reason someone could hate bubbles!

Anyway, I digress, we blew bubbles for you. Lots of us looked out for both Katie and Eden for you and lots of us continue to do so. I hope they realise how many of us will forever do that for them and for you because you did so much for all of us.



And I know you would have then and today too feel soo fucking proud of them. We are too. And it wasn’t even a year ago we lost you.

But today’s your birthday, and it’s a big one.

One of the milestone ones we were meant to get inappropriately wasted for, one we were meant to be loud and talk shit and be obnoxious, as long as it was kind, no one was getting hurt and its fun, let’s do it – lets push the fucking boundaries.

Cause we saw the world the same way-like a big fucking party that shouldn’t be taken too seriously all the time.

Man I am currently reliving some amazing memories and stories from someone else’s head line grabbing 40th birthday party not that many years back which we all shared together!

We have been thinking and talking about you a lot lately too. Some of the stuff I cope flack for in life, for being high energy, fast paced, in ya face, “larger than life”- they were all character traits we shared.

They were the lessons passed to me by my grandfather and father, from my elders, but when I lost them, there you were. Helping me “fight battles” when we didn’t think the people who needed to hear certain messages were listening.

There you were helping me reassure James as I helped you reassure Katie that it was all good. That the way they saw the problem, the way they viewed the world was true and valid and needed to be a complimentary one and for balance, but the way we saw it was all good too.

And while I remember they were continuing conversations about the really heavy stressful shit we were all going through together-you and I proceeded to pretend to race the giant stuffed dinosaurs of Josh’s while Eden and Josh laughed their heads off and started pushing us off to have their own turns.

Just to change the mood. To remember the fun.

And I miss that person to have those times with me now. I miss the people who balanced my crazy way of viewing the world cause they are all “up there” or wherever the fuck your spirits go or whatever.

So tell my Dad, I can clearly remember the mayhem his 40th birthday was – god that’s another story completely- but can you tell him, I expect him to do even better for you today because we can’t and that, well that’s really hard. For all of us.

And me, well with my fractured fucking ribs even blowing bubbles hurts, but that’s what I’ll be doing, even if I can’t be with Eden and am still hiding away from my own family and the world in my little recovery hut. I’ll be blowing bubbles and thinking of you and all the stories and experiences we shared that I could never put into writing!

And we will, like normal, have a tequila shot in your honour my friend-just don’t tell my doctor 😉

Happy birthday buddy – miss ya loads

Jess x





The Skylight Trust page has sooo many better resources than a simple bubbles answer by the way and they provide an amazing service I have called on and used for both myself and others, particularly when it comes to explaining death to children. I can’t recommend them more highly. –



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New Year’s Giveaway – in memory of my Nana Maysie

I have had some amazing leaders and teachers in my life. One I dearly miss whose birthday would have been the 1st of Jan, is my Nana, my Dads mum.

It was in her memory and honour I decided to list this competition and the stories and messages shared there had me overwhelmed about just how to honour that, and you, and her and her memory.

She was born on 1st January 1933 and died just a few years ago at 81 on the 6th of Jan, 2014.


Listed on my Facebook Page

I remember calling her for her birthday, that last one she had and when I got off the phone, I just burst into tears.

“Is she ok?” James asked.

“She said so, but she always says so. But it didn’t sound like her. It didn’t sound like Nana.” I cried into his arms.

We were staying at my Mums house and she and James sat me down with a glass of wine over lunch and talked me through it. “She’s old Jess, she’s been unwell. I know you are close to her but you need to prepare yourself for the inevitable…”

I mean Nan had been ‘preparing’ herself for years. Every visit back she had sold or given away yet another piece of furniture or something and downgraded it. She told me, my sister and my cousin it was so we wouldn’t have to worry about getting rid of it later.

My Nana was an amazing lady. She was so well loved and admired. She put up with shit most of us would never dream off. And even with us kids even at our most trying, the worst she would say is “go fly a kite”. It was her version of “I am so fucking frustrated right now and want to scream at you but instead I am going to breathe deeply and tell you to go away nicely”.



My Nana’s 60th birthday on New Years Day in Canberra, (from L-R) Kate (my sister), Dad, Mum, Me & Nana – Kate & I were so hung over we missed the first flight to the party haha


I haven’t yet mastered that one but she told me once, “I think we make better grandparents than we do even as parents in life” so I am holding out hope for myself yet!

She and my grandfather were a formidable pair who did so much for the communities around them by working together (much like my own parents and the World of Difference award but that’s a separate story in itself, I did put a video link here though if you are keen to see below which mum downplays her role in for the record). But it is my grandparents I have been thinking about lately…


When Nana died we all went down to clear her house and prepare for the funeral and such (a process I know too well as apparently I just know a lot of people who have died) and found a few small folders of my grandfather’s stories she had kept. Actually I knew exactly where she kept it as I had regularly made her pull it out on all my visits.

It wasn’t’ stories he had written himself but a collection of varied stories from all over the world, different religious texts and some colloquial ones or stories of different cultures. He was a story teller my grandfather, but I knew him as a Unity Church minister and my Nana as a nurse and heavily involved with many different charities and organisations, one of them including the Unity Church.

When I asked my Aunty Sue for more details, well the list of just how many groups my Nana was involved with right up until her death speaks for itself really. But she started he life working on her Dads farm and it was when she started her nursing training that she meet my grandfather. She really wanted her Dad to walk her down the aisle (who doesn’t, my sister and I missed out on that one too) but he was very ill and it did look like he would last till she finished her training for when they had planned their wedding.

Her and my grandfather moved their wedding forward by eight months or so (my Nana’s dad actually died just six weeks later) and so she had to drop out of college as that’s how things worked at the time. My grandfather was still finishing his theology studies and was also told he couldn’t get married while studying as well. His dean of college said it would be too distracting to be married (meaning because they could have sex and wouldn’t be living in sin and all that) and my Pa told him it was far more distracting waiting.



So they married, I think in March of 1958 and it was my grandfather who took charge of setting up the reception venue because my grandmother had to help her dad finish the sheep dipping before the wedding.

After they got married they became missionaries in a small New South Wales town called Hay, where my Dad was born. It was a role called “Inland Missionaries”, they were waiting for my grandfather’s registration as a Minister for the NSW Methodist church. He was refused and so they set off to South Australia where he better fit the entry requirements.

As soon as he was qualified in SA and was assigned his first post, my Nana always ran the women’s fellowship meetings and supported my grandfather in his support role for the local community as well as focusing on raising my Dad, his sister and their brother (thanks again to my dad’s little sister, my Aunty Sue for filling in some gaps here and digging up some photos for me).



My Dad as a baby in 1959


All of my elders have been progressive and ahead of their times, my Nana was the committee secretary for a group recognising gay rights in the church (this was a long time ago-it had a name that had something about justice?). She was also a strong supporter of groups helping refugees settling in Australia. She ALWAYS donated to world vision. Her and my grandfather and another couple they were close friends with set up Lifeline in Broken Hill.

In her later years she volunteered with a different kind of call centre support which called people who lived alone or were elderly or otherwise at risk and just made sure they were ok. She was always involved with services like Meals on Wheels, in fact I can remember doing a few support runs with my mum and grandmother for that cause as a young kid myself. She worked with and supported the Kidney foundation and Motor Neuron Disease Association visiting, talking and supporting people.

I spent time with them when they where living in Taiwan working for big companies like DuPount as a developer or coach in the area of social/cultural models. This is all stuff I am only just beginning to learn about now! I had no idea what they were up to in Taiwan..



Which is funny cause I spent like a two months living with them there at the time while my parents traveled Asia, but I guess I wasn’t paying attention to that kind of thing and its was like the late 80’s so… this was me at the time…



When her and my grandfather were posted in Stirling they worked hard together to support bush fire relief efforts. They even bought a few caravans to help rehome people – but they didn’t make it common knowledge, it wasn’t something done for praise or recognition. My Aunty Sue shared a gem that Nan had told her when she asked why they didn’t tell anyone, my Nana said, “That isn’t the point. The doing is for someone else, the telling is for you-you need to work our why you are doing your good deed, for you or for others”.

She was also a nurse despite never formally finishing her training (rules were different back then!) and she also took five years off her age for her whole professional career! She was a matron of a nursing home and worked in aged care, even just supporting and nursing those in the wee retirement village established to support life members of the church like her, right up until her death.

I was always very close with my Nana, even when I was a young girl. I have many, many fond memories but in a bitter sweet tragic way – we got to share something more than a lot of people I know may have had a chance to do with their grandparents.

In 2010, my dad died. Her son.

She had not only buried two husbands but now she was having to do the same for her son.



Nana and Dad in 2002

This, like lots of us, totally took her by surprise and left her heartbroken. I remember in her grief her saying to me, “sure you might have to bury husbands and friends, that’s hard but that’s life, but it’s not fair to bury your child.”

It was near the end of 2011 and I had been throwing myself into work, almost trying to escape the loss of my dad. At least desperately trying to search like a mad man for the “silver lining”.

I was copying (well kind of) with my Dad not being around but I wasn’t ‘dealing’ with it. I wasn’t processing my loss. I was feeling lost and made myself sick in such a state and got to the point where I was like, “I just want to go to Nana’s!”

And so I did. As a 26 year old. I just went and stayed at my Nans for over a month. We tried to heal together. We relived things, she told me stories about Dad and Pa. She took me on road trips to places they had lived and worked before. I learned so much from her in that time.

We bonded so much in that time. There is something to be said about the intensity of a shared experience that isn’t comfortable or “normal” that brings a deeper closeness to that relationship.

Anyway as I have mentioned before, anniversaries and rituals are something we have really thought about and discussed for our family as we are aware it will shape our children’s understanding and experiences of these things, as well as our own.

And unfortunately for me, I have quite a list of loved ones that did/do (I’m never sure of the appropriate tense in these settings) but they mean the world to me, just like my kids do and while I was lucky to introduce Josh, my eldest son, to my Nana once before she passed, she will just like my Dad and grandfather, only ever be a story or character to my kids, not someone they will have the chance to know in the current physical realm.



Nana Maysie & Josh (almost one year old) end of 2013



So when it comes to anniversaries for my grandfather, I share some of his stories by reading them aloud, in his eccentric, largely exaggerated gesture style to the boys and James, geez anyone who will listen, or just aloud to myself. It’s not too hard to get an audience though, many of his stories where very kid friendly, we as his grandchildren has the same ones read to us by him at the age my kids are now…

Like this, The Little Dog… (don’t laugh at my poor attempt at telling this, my grandfather was much better at it than me! My Aunty assures me its because I haven’t added the characters to it right yet :P) – listen here at you’re own peril hahaha – 

For my Dad, I know he would want us to share the element of fun and adventure, remember him but not dwell on the loss of him. So we make paper boats and send them out to sea in various water ways while we talk about all the cool and crazy adventures I had with him as a kid and what he would have loved to experience with the boys now.



Paper boats for Grahame Maher 3 years on, before his grandsons first birthday celebrations! from Jess Maher on Vimeo.



I want to try and maintain a positive aspect to loss, not just for myself but my kids. The stories are the only way they will know their ancestors.

But when it comes to my Nana, well I don’t know I really had a “her way” to celebrate and remember her for those ‘hard dates’ and I wanted to think of something that captured her spirit and essence and what she would want me to establish as the way we remember her.

And of course, it had to be something about helping others. When my Aunty Sue said “Mums big thing was always to look out for others and to relieve their pain/suffering or hard work” well that really summed it up for me.

But I’ve been struggling to “draw a winner” for this New Year’s Giveaway in her honour and now I know it’s because that style, of like “announcing one” just wouldn’t be her thing.

She would want me to help as many people as I could but she would also not want to make a fuss about it. “Consider why you’re doing the good deed”…

So also because I have fractured several ribs and am on some seriously kick arse pain meds so my brain is fuzzy – I’m going to take my time getting in touch with “winners”. And I am going to do it via PM, so there won’t be an “announcement” here and my contact might not even be immediate…

And I know there are at least one or two other awesome people and brand that want to help me make some new years wishes come true so I will keep you posted and make sure I give a big ups and shout out to them, but yep, this was is being drawn in different styles for a change 😛 so if there are more awesome people who want to help me out, keep the PM’s coming 😉

In an ideal world I would hope to talk to all of those people nominated and who posted there as I was very moved and touched by your stories. But even if I can’t get to you all, I hope you do realise you already brought a wee bit of a positive boost to the start of 2017 for both you and the person you nominated (if applicable) because you acknowledged the hard shit from 2016 and validates the struggle then put it out to the universe that you hoped 2017 would be more positive.

So I hope it is, for all of us!

Happy New Year,

Jess x