My father's death in July this year was not unexpected. His health had been deteriorating for some time and in his final few weeks he was able to do very little for himself. His passing was a release for both him and rest of my family. It's very hard to watch a person you love have no quality of life. What comforted me about my father's death, aged 81, was that he had lived a full life, containing experiences that he wouldn't have dreamed about as he grew up on a rural property in a remote part of Southern Tasmania.
My sister's death nearly four years' ago was quite different. Although she had been fighting breast cancer for over three years, we all remained optimistic that it was a fight she could win. Her passing was shocking and devastating. At age 44, Mary's life still stretched out in front of her for many years. Her first child, Ned, had just started school and her second child, Lola, had just celebrated her third birthday. Professionally, firstly as a teacher then as a school inspector, Mary had accomplished much and there was still much more on the horizon for her.
Mary's husband, Sam, along with Ned, Lola and Sam's partner, Martina, arrived in Australia two weeks' ago for their first visit since Mary's death.
I was a little apprehensive about how emotional I might be when seeing Mary's family without her present. I was sure my sense of loss would be sharp and painful.
I am happy because I got to know my nephew and niece a little more.
Ned is a focused and serious rugby fanatic, who trains every day in his father's gym to be the best rugby player he can be. He is inquisitive, loves animals and looks just like his mother.
Lola is a playful, wide-eyed free spirit who engages with everyone around her. Ned may look more like Mary but Lola has her mother's infectious personality.
Sam has done a wonderful job as sole parent in such devastating circumstances and Martina is delightful, a truly caring person who is committed to Sam and his family; I know Mary would have fully approved.
I am sad because I know how thrilling it is to witness your own flesh and blood make their way through childhood as they develop their own identity, passions and personality; an experience Mary only had a short time to savour.
The deaths of both my sister and my father and the visit of my niece and nephew have made me look more critically at the person I am and how I am impacting those around me every day, whether I realise it or not.
I choose to adopt the attitude that Dad lives on through me and Mary lives on through Ned and Lola. Of course, nothing or nobody replaces those I have lost but being present to life each day and committing to being the best me I can be each day, is the way I can be true to the spirit and values of those I have lost.
I want my life to count: As my father's life did and as my sister's life did.
All the best for making your life count in 2016.
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