While I was gearing up for the celebration of the year, my fiftieth birthday party, which was partly inspired by the death of my brother twelve years ago, on the day of my party, I was abruptly reminded why it is imperative that we do not let our special moments and celebrations pass us by without acknowledging how very blessed we are that we are still here.
I had selected one of the most beautiful wineries nearby, Jack Rabbit Vinyard to enjoy the local cuisine. If you are spending the weekend down on the Bellarine, its a place you do not want to overlook, as it showcases the beautiful views of Clifton Springs with the backdrop of the You Yang mountain range so beautifully that I could not pass the opportunity to all meet there for lunch first then show off my beautiful beach retreat afterwards.
It was while we were dining at the vineyard that I had the most profound experience. I know this occurrence was directly meant for me and I cannot let it pass as a simple coincidence as I truly know there are no such things. While I was busy attending to my guests I vaguely noticed a group of women on another table nearby and had my aunty not gone to greet them I would not have taken much notice as I was busy with my own family.
I asked my aunty how did she know the group of women on that table and she told me they were mothers of the kindergarten children she had taught probably a good 20 years ago. I did not linger on that conversation and went back to eating lunch with my family, friends and work colleagues. Shortly after lunch one of the women belonging to the other group approached me and said hello using my maiden name. This lady had a knitted white beanie on which was clear to anyone there that she was going through chemo. As I searched her face for a clue how she knew me, she told me who she was, which was the sister of someone I went to school with and rode my bike to school with for 4 years. I realised that this family must be in a world of pain as she described so bravely that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer to which they thought they had treated and cured, however, after symptoms of knocking into walls and more tests, the specialist confirmed she was living now with 7 tumors inside her head and nothing they could do for her. This beautiful strong lady whom I have not seen in more than 30 years was standing in front of me on the day I was celebrating turning 50 telling me she was dying and would not see her 53rd birthday.
I have not stopped thinking of her ever since. Her words to me keep swirling around in my head. That brief moment in which she summed up the rest of her life, showed me pictures of her beautiful children, who are around the same ages as my own and asked me if I could take some photos of her and her best friends who had come away together for a ‘very special’ weekend will be imprinted into my mind forever.
As I hugged this woman goodbye, I had tears in my eyes, for the little helpless words I was trying to convey to her felt so small in the greatness of the battle before her. She left me with the most precious gift – a most valuable lesson for me on my milestone birthday celebration, to never take life for granted, each day is a celebration that we are still here and still healthy. Its a very stark reminder to not put anything off, don’t waste precious time worrying about things we cannot control or no longer serve us in our lives. Dont waste precious time fighting or arguing with loved ones about stupid small things and most of all, stop kidding myself that unhealthy eating will not take its toll, which reminded me again that its time for me to take stock on how I plan to live the rest of my days healthier and to begin to put into place a plan to stick with it.
With so many people I had to attend to that day, I did not get this beautiful woman’s number or address to send her a card and tell her how deeply touched I was for her to reach out to me that day. I left wanting to do so much more than help them with photos, however felt totally helpless as to what I could offer her. From what she said to me, outside of a miracle, the doctors have not given her much time, I sensed she was talking months.
I believe we are all connected and all have special lessons we learn from each other as we walk through this life. I used to admire this woman when I was a younger girl, she was always the fittest girl at school, strong and athletic and seemed she could do anything but I admire her so much more now for her dignity and bravery in facing her new battle. I hope the comfort of her friends who were with her for her special weekend bought some peace and laughter to her as she faces what is coming next.
For me, I realised that turning 50 brings new lessons, lessons of gratitude that I have been so very fortunate to be able to have children, see them grow up and now am spending quality time in a place my husband and I have dreamt about most of our married life. I am grateful for so many things, my family, the wonderful friends in my life and my health, knowing that I still have the opportunity to improve my health and stop making excuses for eating badly such as on my long commute and not having the energy to cook properly.
There are pivotal moments in each of our lives,
where we look back and realise that someone
or something made a difference to how we thought or changed our paths in some ways.
I believe this meeting was one of those moments
in my life.
I have no way of reaching this woman I once knew who now is facing her most painful battle of life. I want to pray for her in her last months, for strength, for love and for a painless crossing and most of all to her young family who she will leave behind, that they will find strength in each other to cope. If you are reading this and have time to offer up a prayer for this lady, I believe that prayers in numbers are more powerful and perhaps by saying one too, we together can make a difference, for I know she made a difference in my life…