Category Archives: Death

A Hard Decision

Lotte at back door2

Lotte Baxter
Loving friend; Faithful companion
2006-2013
RIP

My darling, beautiful little girl was gently put to sleep late last night.  Her big, brave heart could no longer keep her alive; it was almost stopped.  And so I made the very hard decision to let her go.

I held her as the vet injected her, told her how much I loved her and those beautiful eyes looked at me one last time then she quietly slipped away.

Now through my tears, I console myself with the fact that though she had only a short life, she had a happy one.

So now my love using the same words I used on  my late husband’s memorial cards – “Soar High; Fly free; Breathe easy”

Lotte in bed

So goodbye and thank you for sharing your life with me.
You will be greatly missed my special friend.

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A Man on the Moon!

“Young girl in Calcutta
Barely eight years old
The flies that swarm the market place
Will see she don’t get old
Don’t you know she heard it
On that July afternoon
She heard a man named Armstrong
Had walked upon the moon”
Lyrics by John Stewart.

I am quite sure that everyone over the age of 50 can tell you where they were on that July day in 1969 when man first walked on the moon.  If you are not old enough or if you just want to relive that time watch this video.

I know where I was.  In a Holiday Inn in Montreal.  Having arrived with 2 small children from New Zealand via the UK, we were ensconced in two units while we decided on where to buy a house.  It was a very warm day and the children were playing outside and paddling in the pool waiting for me so that they could go into the swimming pool, while I sat goggle-eyed watching the scratchy video footage on this amazing event.

The audio and vision of the great moment came to us all through the Honeysuckle Creek tracking station just outside Canberra, from where it went right around the planet and people everywhere stopped what they were doing to marvel at this feat.

And over the years we have heard little or nothing about Neil Armstrong, the reluctant celebrity.  He lived his life quietly in Ohio away from the glare of publicity.  Then in 2011, Alex Malley the CEO of CPA Australia scooped a rare interview with Armstrong.  The interview was to mark the 125th year of CPA existence.  In fact, the interview was broadcast in four parts and was aired in Australia and worldwide.

During the interview, Armstrong talked about his love of flying and his determination to get a pilot’s licence at 15, his feelings about being part of the US Space Programme and how it was to land on the moon.

And now we hear that this stellar figure of modern history (if history can be termed modern) had died following cardiac surgery at the age of 82.  His family called him a “reluctant American hero who served his nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut.”

“And I wonder if a long time ago
Somewhere in the universe
They watched a man named Adam
Walk upon the earth”

How Lucky Am I?

“When we are no longer able to change a situation,
we are challenged to change ourselves.”
Victor Frankl, 1905-1997
Austrian Neurologist and Psychiatrist

I am  constantly amazed at the fortitude of my fellow bloggers.  When I read of the hardships and abuse many have suffered and overcome, I wonder at my luck of having been born into a loving and caring family and then having the good fortune to meet and marry my ‘Dashing-Young-Scotsman’ at an early age.

I tell people that I have lived a blessed life.  If you have read any of my earlier posts, you will see that I had a long and mostly happy life with my DYS; I have two children whom I love and whose support I can rely on and appreciate.

My family is rounded out by four strapping young grandsons all of whom seem pleased to see their Granma and offers of help are often forthcoming.

Of course, no life is perfect.  I left my family in the UK to follow my husband in his move up the corporate ladder which entailed us moving around the world.  My children therefore, missed out on the companionship of cousins that I had when growing up.  And they saw their grandparents on rare (bi annual) visits home.  So they were very much part of a nuclear family – the four of us in a world far removed from home.

I am also very lucky to have two sisters, one in London and one in Los Angeles.  Could we have landed any further apart even had we planned it?  While they are not within easy visiting distance we still are in regular contact by phone and now of course, the internet.  Aren’t we lucky to live in this technological age.

Mother and girls

Mother with her three daughters

There have of course been bad times in this long life of mine.  We lived in Montreal for a couple of years and I absolutely loathed it.  The French Separatists were very active and almost daily we heard of their actions against the English speaking population.  My children’s school was bombed and that coupled with the police going on strike, made the decision for us to leave and return to our adopted home, New Zealand.

This time we knew that it would be a permanent move and that family and friends in the Northern Hemisphere would see us only a rare trips home; but we made the decision in the knowledge that this was where we wanted to raise our children – on the beach in Takapuna, Auckland.  After a year my husband was transferred to Wellington, the capital city, but that’s another story.

I wrote about a time when I was in danger of losing my leg and a black day when I wanted to Stop the World, but my blackest day was 14 years ago when my Not So DYS died and the colour went out of my world for some time.  But living and moving on doesn’t come with a choice and so I am in the next phase of my life and most of the colour has returned.

So daily I give thanks for my life and know that I wouldn’t swap it for anyone else’s.  Oh yes of course, there are parts I would gladly change.  Those that are shared in this post and others but mostly I say thanks to god, the Universe or whatever power is above us for giving me this life.

And above all I thank my fellow bloggers for being so open about their lives, in all the ups and downs and for sharing with us how they have overcome.  In reading about their problems I have come to realise just how lucky I am.  This is their gift to me.  Thank you thank you!

As each day comes to us refreshed and anew, so does my gratitude renew itself daily.
The breaking of the sun over the horizon is my grateful heart dawning upon a blessed world.
Terri Guillemets
, U.S. quotation anthologist, 1973 –

Associated Posts:

The Right to Choose

There are some things that I care about, somethings that I don’t and a few that I  care strongly about.  One of these is the right to die with dignity.

Now I don’t want to upset anybody with this post.  I have friends who are bitterly opposed to a change to the law that would allow one to make an end of life choice under certain circumstances.

Here in New Zealand this is a hotly debated subject.  There have been a number of cases where people have been charged with assisting suicide and in some cases have served jail sentences.

Currently, we have an Member of Parliament who proposes to introduce  an “end of life choice” private member’s bill to Parliament in about a month’s time.  According to the NZ Parliament website “Members’ bills are bills introduced by Members who are not Ministers. Every second Wednesday the House gives precedence to Local, Private, and Members’ bills. On these days Members’ bills are debated.

Only six Members’ bills awaiting first reading can be on the Order Paper on each Members’ day. When a space on the Order Paper becomes available, a ballot is held to decide which Members’ bill(s) will be introduced. Members enter bills in the ballot by lodging notices of intention on the day of the ballot.”

Maryann Street the proposer of the Bill has stated that the bill aims to provide end-of-life choices for people with terminal illness and irrecoverable conditions which make life impossible.   She emphasised the inclusion of protections within the proposed legislations for those wanting to die and those involved in the process.

The patient had to be of sound mind when making the choice and protected from coercion. This would be attested by doctors. There was also protection against the decision being overturned if the person was later unable to express their view.

“Similarly there must be protection against criminal liability-protection for family members who are asked, like Sean Davison** to do the unthinkable.”

**People who had lived autonomous lives should also be allowed to be autonomous during the end of their lives, she said.

In 2010 Davison, 50, a microbiologist based in Cape Town, South Africa, was charged with attempting to murder his terminally ill mother Patricia Elizabeth Davison, 85, a former medical practitioner, in 2006. The charge of murder was later withdrawn and he pleaded guilty to a charge of procuring and inciting attempted suicide.

The charges apparently stemmed from various emails and manuscripts Davison wrote about nursing his mother for her final three months. She died on October 25, 2006 at her home in Broad Bay on the Otago Peninsula (NZ)

Davison recounted how his mother had tried to starve herself to death but was still alive after 33 days. She was in pain and discomfort and asked him and others repeatedly to help her die.  He described giving her a drink of water containing crushed morphine tablets.

In her “living will”, Patricia, a retired doctor and psychologist, wrote to her four children: “My quality of life can only deteriorate. I do not wish for a protracted, disagreeable death and I think I can count on all of you in supporting me in this.”

The other side of the argument here in NZ is currently being led by John Kleinsman, the director of the Nathaniel Centre.  He is reported as saying

“I don’t think there is any law that can adequately protect against the risks. In fact the law would remove the most protective barrier.”

He launched a scathing attack on the Government’s inadequate funding of palliative care,  saying it was driving people to assisted suicide. If people could be assured of death without agony the voluntary euthanasia debate would be redundant, he said.

“Until every New Zealander has access to high quality palliative care I think it’s unethical to introduce euthanasia. Choosing to die can never be fully voluntary in a society that doesn’t provide palliative care options.”

Kleinsman also criticised rest home care, saying rest homes needed to “lift their game”.

Other considerations in the debate included societal changes such as the increase in elder abuse, and families living long distances from elderly or disabled relatives who believed they were a burden which encouraged life-ending decisions.

“Relaxing the law is fraught with possibilities for abuse. The right to die would very quickly become a duty to die.”  He said.

So where to you stand on this question?  Personally, I support the right to an end of life choice.  Having seen many people at the end of their lives, existing but not living I think it is important that people of sound mind, be given the opportunity to decide when enough is enough.  I certainly hope that my family will respect my desire to die with dignity; not being forced to live a vegetative life, being force-fed or worse still, being in pain and knowing that this is how I have to exist until a merciful god or other intervention decides it is time for me to leave.

My children are in no doubt how I feel on this subject.  It will be hotly debated for many months and maybe years to come here even if the bill is entered into Parliament.  I suspect it will be a conscience choice for Members of Parliament if it comes to a vote, rather than a party line.  I shall be following this bill with interest.

ANZAC Day 2012

“Those heroes that shed their blood, and lost their lives …
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore, rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side,
Here in this country of ours.
You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries …
Wipe away your tears.
Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.
After having lost their lives on this land, they have
Become our sons as well.”

A memorial containing those words was unveiled by the Australian Veteran Affairs Minister on 25 April 1985.  The cove has been named ANZAC Cove by the Turks.

I wrote about ANZAC Day last year in quite some detail. From being a day of remembrance for those who fought and lost their lives at Gallipoli, it has now moved into a day of  remembrance for all those who have lost their lives in war and honours those who served and returned.

The story starts in 1914 when cabled reports from Britain – the Homeland – reached Australia and New Zealand forecasting that Europe was teetering on the edge of war.

When Britons returned to work after the August Bank Holiday, war was declared on Germany and involved the whole British Empire.  All the colonies were quick to jump in and offer their young men in service to the Empire.

Australia was in the middle of an election campaign.  The leader of the opposition offered Britain  “Our last man and our last shilling” in any war against Germany, and the Prime Minister responded with “Our duty is quite clear – gird up our loins and remember that we are Britons”.  How the young men loved that.  And how they rushed join up.  Many of them falsified their age to be in the army.  And I wonder how many would do that today.

Excitement was in the air and all around and the young men seemed to think this was a great adventure.  Many were concerned that they would miss out on the fun because this war was  ‘going to be over by Christmas”.  Alas, as we know this was not true and so many of those young men lost their lives on battlefields far from home.

On April 25th 1915 the ANZACS  landed at a cove in Gallipoli (now named Anzac Cove) and the Turks were ready and waiting for them.  On the first day in excess of 2,000 of these young Australian and New Zealand men were killed.  They were forced to retreat.  A further advance against the Turks was made in August but with the same miserable result.  On December 20th the force was evacuated and this evacuation was the only successful operation conducted at Gallipoli.

Anzac flag

Now these young men and their bravery are commemorated on April 25th every year in both New Zealand and Australia.  It is a Public Holiday with shops being closed until 1pm in New Zealand.  And each year thousands of people attend the dawn service held at 5.45 am all around our country and in Australia.  Many of those attending wear the medals won by relatives in many wars.  Anzac Day is not just for the  failed Gallipoli campaign but to remember all those who fought for their country.

What a terrible waste of so many young lives.  But isn’t all war wherever and whenever it is fought.

The word ANZAC has become part of the culture of New Zealanders and Australians. There are ANZAC biscuits and rugby and rugby league teams from the two countries play an ANZAC Day test.  And people talk about the ‘spirit of ANZAC”.  The Spirit of ANZAC was suggested by official war historian C.E.W. Bean to have ‘stood, and still stands, for reckless valour in a good cause, for enterprise, resourcefulness, fidelity, comradeship and endurance that will never own defeat.’ ”

Click here for scenes from the time and to hear The Pogues singing “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” the song that was played as the ANZACS sailed away on that October morning in 1914 on their way to ‘the war to end all wars’.

Anzac Poppy

ANZAC Poppy

Laurence Binyon’s poem ‘For the Fallen’  – the fourth verse of which is so familiar to us today was quoted by Sir Winston Churchill,( 1874 – 1965), British statesman and politician, Prime Minister of Britain during the Second World War:

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

Trumpeter sounding the Last Post

Photo Mike Bowers, Sydney Morning Herald

R.I.P.

Alec Campbell
Last Gallipoli survivor from Australia
(died May 2002 aged 103)

Alfred Douglas Dibley
Last Gallipoli survivor from New Zealand
(died 18 December 1997 aged 101)

Just Another Thursday

“Death crept quietly into the room
Where once there was laughter, talk and tears
Now it is no more
Silence reigns
Death has replaced life.”
Judith Baxter 1938 –

It was just another Thursday for me and for many others.  But for one family at least, it was not.  I arrived at the hospice to be told that a patient had died.

I had got to know this particular patient over three weeks that he had been in the Hospice.  A cheerful youngish man (difficult to say just how old he was – maybe 40) he was a joy to speak to and was always surrounded by his wife and family.  I do not know this man’s name.  Only first names are used at the hospice, but I was cheered by him on Thursdays when I saw him.

He had obviously come to terms with his life ending but I don’t think his wife and family will have yet.

So for his wife and family I offer this poem from David Harkins (replacing the pronoun she with he):

“You can shed tears that she is gone
or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all that she’s left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
or you can be full of the love you shared…………
…………Or you can do what she’d want:
Smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”
David Harkins 1959 – Silloth, Cumbria, UK
Read the full poem here

Rainbow

My rainbow

And I will share my rainbow with them.

Another Wedding

I dreamed of a wedding of elaborate elegance,
A church filled with family and friends.
I asked him what kind of a wedding he
wished for,
He said one that would make me his wife.

~Author Unknown

Yesterday was my wedding anniversary.  If my late husband was still alive we would have celebrated 54 years!    As it was we had only 41 years together.  What a lot of years to devote to one person.

I have a nephew who celebrates his wedding on the same day but it is nowhere near as many years as ours.

Yesterday was Thursday and lunch at Mary Potter Hospice.  I love Thursdays.  I come away filled with hope and admiration for the folk who are facing the end of their days with such equanimity and peace – well usually they are.  I am sure in the dark of night they maybe are not quite so calm, but the face they offer to the world, in this case a volunteer, is one of acceptance.

So yesterday….I went into one of the rooms and hanging on the rail around the bed was a long dress carrier.  One of the visitors apologised and took the carrier down.  I commented that it looked like a wedding dress, whereupon all the visitors laughed and said that was exactly what it was.

Lunch orders were forgotten for the next few minutes as they told me that there was to be a wedding in the hospice chapel that night.  The patient and his partner had decided to ‘just do it’.  Of course, I asked if I could see the dress.  I not only saw the wedding dress, but in the carrier were the dresses for the bridesmaid and for the mother of the bride. What a symbol of hope and acceptance that was.

I told them it was my anniversary and they all congratulated me.  Hugs all around (except the frail patient of course).  His son and daughters were there and there was excitement in the air.  About 30 people were expected to attend and a small reception had been planned.

So at this time of grief there was also a ray of hope.  I don’t know the patient’s name – we use only first names – nor do I know where he and his family live, so I shall have to check next Thursday with the staff to find out how the wedding went.

And to this couple I wish only the best for the time they have now together.  We know that life is transitory and who knows whether tomorrow will come.  And if tomorrow never comes?

“Love is a symbol of eternity.  It wipes out all sense of time, destroying all memory of a beginning and all fear of an end.”  ~Author Unknown

Rainbow

My rainbow

More Than The Spoken Words Can Tell

For you are beautiful, and I have loved you dearly
More dearly than the spoken word can tell

It’s 7.30am; I am sitting at the computer in tears.  They have just played Roger Whittaker singing The Last Farewell on the Radio.  I have written before about music and how it takes us back to another time and place in our lives.

I seem to go to many funerals these days.  My friends are mostly my age and so it is to be expected.  But this song immediately takes me back to the most moving and beautiful funeral that I have attended.  I have no recollection of my husband’s funeral although I am told by family and friends that it was beautiful and moving.

My husband’s closest friend died after a long fight over several years.  I saw him a few days before he died and we talked about Bob (my dashing not-so-young Scotsman) and of the fun the four of us had over many years.  And even though the death was not unexpected it was still hard, particularly for his wife who was lost without his guiding hand that had been there for more than 40 years.

His family had been involved as undertakers for many years and although the business was no longer in the family’s hands the funeral was conducted in that chapel.  I was given the supreme compliment of being asked to read a poem at the funeral.  My husband of course, would have been asked if he had been alive. The poem was Death is Nothing At All by Canon Henry Scott-Holland, 1847-1918, Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral, London.

So on this lovely summer day here in Wellington, on the 54th anniversary of my wedding day, I am once again reminded that life is transitory and we must make the most of each and every day.

“…Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other that we are still……
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well.”

Thursday Lunch

“The caterpillar dies so the butterfly could be born.
And, yet, the caterpillar lives in the butterfly and they are but one.
So, when I die, it will be that I have been transformed from the caterpillar of earth to the butterfly of the universe.”
John Harricharan, award winning author, lecturer and businessman.

MPH Logo

Today I went to the hospice to serve lunch for the first Thursday in several weeks.  Firstly, a friend’s husband died and she needed my support, then there was a memorial service for another friend who died last year and last week I had the lurgy so I couldn’t take my germs to the patients (or the staff).

All of the patients were new to me.  They don’t seem to stay in the hospice for any length of time, but rather come for a few days or a week and then go home, to return again at a later date.  Quite often they are there to have their medication sorted out or perhaps just to give their carers a much-needed break.

So I had to introduce myself to all of them.

One patient was surrounded by her two daughters and some of their small children.  That was a noisy room with children laughing and competing with each other for Granny’s attention. Apparently, another daughter is about to give birth any time so she wasn’t visiting today.

Another patient was celebrating with her husband.  They had just heard that their daughter had given birth to their eleventh grandson – he was one hour old.  The grandfather had been to see mother and child and reported to his wife (and me who happened to be in her room) that all was well.  The baby was strong and thriving and the mother was radiant.

How lovely to think that as these two lives are coming to an end, other new lives are just beginning.

Baby boy

And when I came home I read this post from Winsomebella and I thought again how great life is.  I think grandparents have the best of all worlds.  They have these small people to love, to nurture and to assist in so many ways.  Many grandparents in today’s world also have the responsibility of sharing the raising of these children.  I have responsibility for my grandchildren only until they are returned to their parents.

And I thought of how quickly the years pass and how these little folk grow and become their own people.  They change, they mature, they learn and they repay all the love, kindness and help given to them by their grandparents many, many times over.  I only wish my late husband had stayed around with us long enough to see his grandsons grow into the strong young men they are each becoming.

“To be a really brilliant grandmother remember what it was about your own that you loved most, then imitate her.”
Judith Baxter – 1938 –

Yesterday – A day Without a Post

On Monday evening I received the news that a good friend had died.  It was not altogether unexpected as he had been in and out of hospital quite a lot in recent months and always came out cheerful and looking ready to continue with his place in the world.  But not this time.

And yesterday I spent time with the widow.  How that brought back those early hours and days when my husband died.  And even though I have been there, in that self same situation,there was no way I could really understand just what she was going through.  We have to come to terms with the death of somebody so loved, and so close , each in our own way.

I phoned early in the morning and got the answerphone and it brought this poem by Michael Laskey to mind.

“After he died he went on speaking
On the ansaphone: he’d apologize
For being out and ask us to leave
Our names and messages after the tone.
At first we couldn’t, we just hung up, ….”
From Life After Death by Michael Laskey
English poet. 1944 –

How often in the months following my husband’s death did I find something that was so full of him that it brought a fresh wave of grief and tears?  A slip of paper on which he had written himself a note, a card I had given him on a celebration day that he had used as a bookmark, his notebook with his writing, his Cross pen that always went everywhere with him.

It is always the little things that undo us.  We think we are strong and coping and then something small happens and we are right back into that trough of despair that we thought we were climbing out of.

So what could I do to help?  I cooked a fillet of beef so that it could be there for when people call in to express their condolences.  I remember my daughter-in-law saying how much she appreciated those gifts of ready prepared food in the days and weeks following my husband’s death.

It was too soon to exchange remembrances of her husband and so I could only sit with her and hold her when the tears came.

I found that those friends who just came and sat with me, speaking only if I wanted them to, were those that helped most at that time.

So I shall go back today to see what I can do, if anything, to help.  And sit with her while she processes what has happened in her mind and somehow gets herself ready to face the months and years ahead.  There will be time for memories to surface and for laughter to accompany most of them in the months ahead.  But for now I shall just be with her.