Gretel (46) writes to share parts of her life story with her family. She is in the process of returning to live in her childhood home, to be with her parents and wider family, to be closer to nature and to develop her new writing practice, in the months, hopefully years ahead.
Looking down on the hospital bed I saw my mother and father crying. I was emerging from a place I’d never been before, a big round and alluring sphere that had a warm, peaceful glow. I could feel the relief, freedom, lack of pain, the option to be carried away in this warm light. I knew I couldn’t let life go just yet. The timing felt out of sync with the order of things. And I felt drawn back to my family, whatever the consequences were going to be. I remember this feeling of floating above my parents, before choosing to drop back into my fifteen-year-old body, reclaiming all parts, including the numb.
As I was coming to, I overheard a conversation between my neurosurgeon Mr MacDonald and my parents. He was explaining to Mum and Dad it was unlikely that I would walk again. I had been so close to mortality’s front door, to the very edge and back again.
In the process of ongoing recovery many aspects of human resilience revealed themselves to me; within me, those around me, including my whanau and medical team. I’ve spent much of my time since, building these stores of resilience and endeavouring to help others build theirs also, on personal and community levels. It is this reservoir of collective human experience and ongoing strengthening practices that I find myself drawing on now, as the tumour cracks through my bones like an icebreaker. It helps me accept that thirty years on from this pivotal experience, I have what I need within and am now ready for my life to end several decades sooner than a ‘normal’ life expectancy, and probably before my parents. This enables me to move towards where I hope to be when I die; in my childhood home, with whanau and nature around me — trees, birds, bush, animals, the garden — life carrying on as I float away, this time for good, from the same bed my Grannie died in, with so much dignity, grace, strength and love, forty years ago.
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