Thursday, January 15, 2009

The best laid plans

After this time and distance, it's been hard to come back to this blog – for many reasons. I've been away from Melbourne and the internet for nearly a month, I haven't really felt like writing much for an audience, and I would have to explain – to put into words – why I've been away for so long. But I will anyway, because to do otherwise is to pretend nothing has happened.

A couple of days ago, I emailed some friends to explain what happened, so I'd found the words to explain the events, but not quite the words to express how I feel or what it means to me. I think that will come later. So I've decided to post here an edited version of what I wrote my friends.

A lot happened in the last weeks of 2008 - particularly something very shocking and sad. My Dad passed away from a sudden heart attack on Saturday the 13th of December, and I rushed up to Brisbane that evening.

My partner Shelley, our boys and I were meant to go for a holiday at the Sunshine Coast on the 16th for three nights, and then we were going to spend Christmas and New Year with Mum and Dad, and celebrate their 70th birthdays together. Mum's birthday is on 27 December, and Dad's nearly a month later. I was suggesting a joint party while we were up there.

Of course, all the best made plans are tossed in the air by cruel chance.

Shelley and the boys joined me in Brisbane that week, but Shelley had worked wonders to change our travel and accommodation arrangements so we could delay our coastal break to the end of our stay up north.

My sister and her family were in Europe on the tail end of their extended holiday and they rushed back from Rome as quickly as they could when they got the news. They were wrecked.

Peter J. Lawrence

My Dad was so well, so we thought, and showed no sign at all of having anything at all wrong with his heart or health besides the usual things associated with ageing and high cholesterol. What we didn't know is that he had serious heart disease - his coronary arteries were severely blocked, and had been for many, many years, leading ultimately to the sudden heart attack.

I was pretty much in a state of shock for a while when I got the initial pathologist's findings from the Queensland Coroner's office a few days after the death. It was a very, very heavy sense of dismay, incredulity and pain that this had been building up so long with no sign at all that we could interpret to indicate heart disease.

Cruel, cruel chance. I think you could imagine the anger, frustration and deep sadness I feel at not being able to see my dad again. I don't know about these different stages' of grief – I seem to be feeling them all at once, and at various times. In the previous two weeks, I was more numb than anything.

We held the funeral on Friday 19 December, the day my Dad was intending to drive up to Noosa to pick up my family and I to bring us back to Brisbane. This would have been the first time I'd seen him since he and Mum came down to Melbourne in November 2007. I gave one of the three eulogies (and a poem reciting) at the funeral, a blistering hot day in the sweltering Catholic parish church my parents had been very active in since they retired to Brisbane some 12 years ago. Three Catholic priests officiated at the Mass. That doesn't happen very often. My parents' co-parishioners were wonderful, sharing our grief and truly supportive of my mother. They really love my both my parents, and miss my father terribly. But not as much as we do.


Shelley, the kids and I spent 3 nights in Noosa after the New Year, and the break and rest has done me much good. We go back to Melbourne last Friday, and I've been back at work since Monday. Thankfully, it's pretty quiet and still a bit cruisey, so I can get lost in the background and mope for a little longer.

I'm still worried about my Mum, of course, as this is very, very hard for her. She has a large and close group of friends up in Brissie, through her parish, and many close relatives there, and my sister and her family are there, but it is not the same when you've lost the person you've loved for nearly 50 years, and been married to for 45!

But I'll see Mum again soon - next week, in time for Dad's birthday on the 21st. And I'll be going up again on 28 February when we hold the commitment of Dad's ashes into the Columnbarium at the parish church he and mum went to.

I haven't yet decided whether I will publish my eulogy for Dad online, although I'm inspired by other examples to do so. It's a bit long for this blog, so if I decide to upload it somewhere, I'll post the link here. What I can say for now is that my Dad was a great man, and a good man, and we loved him very, very much.

Meanwhile, I just want to say a big thank you to all my good friends and family who have been a big help and support to me and my family at this time. You're wonderful and I love you.

I certainly intend to make the most of each moment we share together.

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At January 15, 2009 5:34 pm, Blogger jebni said...

My thoughts are with you and your family. I was worried something had happened to you, but nevertheless hoped you were just enjoying the holiday with the kids. Given your particular investment in the theory and practice of fatherhood, which I have cherished as you've blogged about it, I can only begin to imagine how you are making sense of your loss. I don't know what kind of father he was, but there is no doubt some kind of continued animation of him in your relationship with your sons. Take care.

At January 15, 2009 6:47 pm, Blogger David said...

I was also wondering 'where you were', Mark. Very sorry to hear this happened, I wish you all the best at what I know is a very difficult time.

At January 15, 2009 7:31 pm, Blogger Pavlov's Cat said...

Mark, how awful for you all. I'm so sorry.

At January 16, 2009 3:17 pm, Blogger Tim said...

Mark, I'm very sorry to read this. My thoughts are with you.

At January 17, 2009 10:42 pm, Blogger parlance said...

Mark I'm sorry to hear such sad news. When it's the right moment you'll know whether you want to publish the eulogy or not. Wait and see.
Be kind to yourself. It's a terrible loss.

At January 20, 2009 11:18 am, Blogger Mark Lawrence said...

Thank you, everyone, for your kind thoughts and words. They are a great comfort to me.

jebni, that is one of the nicest things anyone has ever said about my blogging and writing. Thank you!

My dad was a good father, though firm many times, and his business travels took him away from us far more often than either he or us would have liked. But I still respected him as my father.

With more time and headspace in his semi-retirement, he was a wonderful and very active grandfather (especially to my sister's kids), and a great role model to me as a father. jebni, it was lovely what you said - I would dearly like to think that there is some 'continued animation' of my father in my relationship with my sons.

At January 20, 2009 12:58 pm, Blogger unique_stephen said...

Oh Mark.
I've only now read your blog and read this terrible news.
I hope you and you family are OK.
My condolences.

At January 23, 2009 11:05 am, Blogger Kirsty said...

Oh, I've only just read this too, Mark. Like Jebni, I thought you might be enjoying your holiday. I'm very sorry to hear about your father. You write so wonderfully about him. Stay well.


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