‘I have no fore­bod­ing of the dif­fi­cult path that lies ahead’

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - INSIDER -

She found fame through her pop­u­lar tele­vi­sion roles on Gar­den­ing Aus­tralia and The Catch-Up but it was her warm and per­son­able mem­oirs that made Mary Moody one of Aus­tralia’s best- loved non- fic­tion au­thors. In her lat­est, The Ac­ci­den­tal Tour Guide: Ad­ven­tures

In Life And Death, Moody comes to terms with life af­ter the death of her hus­band

In those first few se­conds be­tween the soft noth­ing­ness of sleep and the in­evitabil­ity of wak­ing, I have com­pletely for­got­ten. Ly­ing on my right side, I open my eyes and see David’s fine pro­file, as ever. His smooth olive skin; his sil­very hair on the pil­low.

Then I re­mem­ber. He died last night, just af­ter eight o’clock. He’s still here with me, in our bed of more than four decades. I slide my left hand across the space be­tween us and on to his belly. Still warm; just a lit­tle bit warm. It’s late March and very cold at our farm in ru­ral Yetholme, but our bed’s well cov­ered with woollen blan­kets and ei­der­down. I reach up and touch his icy cheek. It’s true then. It re­ally did hap­pen.

I feel dis­ori­ented. It’s only nat­u­ral: these are the first mo­ments of a very dif­fer­ent life.

I can’t be­gin to imag­ine what that life looks like from here. I know that I must get up and start the day. There’s so much to do, to or­gan­ise, to set­tle. There are thir­teen peo­ple stay­ing at the farm­house — our four chil­dren, some of their part­ners and most of their chil­dren. We need to call the doc­tor (the death cer­tifi­cate), the pal­lia­tive care team (to no­tify), the un­der­taker (the body), the Angli­can min­is­ter (a plot in the lo­cal ceme­tery), close fam­ily mem­bers (David’s brother and sis­ter), and dozens of friends and neigh­bours. We have a fu­neral to plan.

I kiss his fore­head; it feels so strange. I need tea, proper leaves in a teapot. Our bed­room opens onto a wide hall­way head­ing down to the kitchen. David’s huge por­trait is on the wall op­po­site our door­way; he looks melan­choly, eyes down­cast. That’s how the artist saw him; that’s how he saw him­self. There’s a small child wear­ing py­ja­mas in the hall­way, skip­ping and singing to him­self. My grand­son Owynn. Obliv­i­ous to my pres­ence, “Gran­dad’s dead, Gran­dad’s dead,” is Owynn’s re­peated chant. He was here in our room last night; ev­ery­one was cry­ing. This surely must be his three-year-old way of pro­cess­ing that col­lec­tive del­uge of grief. Poor lit­tle chap, I hope he’s not per­ma­nently trau­ma­tised. Yet his song has made me smile, al­most laugh, re­as­sur­ing me that life will some­how go on.

He’s hun­gry so I make toast while the ket­tle boils. I throw some small logs into the wood stove, tickle the em­bers alive.

One by one, fam­ily mem­bers emerge from the bed­rooms that also open to the wide hall­way. There are chil­dren and teenagers sleep­ing on var­i­ous so­fas and blow-up beds. No­body is feel­ing chatty; they look at me, won­der­ing how I am to­day. We all go through the mo­tions of break­fast, try­ing to ease into this very strange new day. I’m fine re­ally; numb but func­tion­ing. Cud­dling kids, let­ting cats and dogs in and out the back door. Won­der­ing if any­one re­mem­bered to shut the latch of the chicken shed last night. Prob­a­bly not.

I take my sec­ond cup of tea back to bed, to where David still lies. He brought me tea in bed ev­ery morn­ing we were to­gether for, per­haps, the last thirty years. Dur­ing our first decade to­gether I was usu­ally up be­fore him, wran­gling ba­bies and small chil­dren. But af­ter that phase he cheer­fully took over, com­ing back to bed him­self with a cof­fee and the news­pa­per. It oc­curs to me that this will be our last morn­ing in bed to­gether, ever. I drink my tea slowly, de­lib­er­ately. I must never for­get these last few hours.

A de­ci­sion is made to keep David here un­til later to­day, when our daugh­ter Miriam’s hus­band and her four sons will ar­rive from Ade­laide.

I want the boys to see their grand­fa­ther one last time, at the farm, in his own bed. They have spent all their sum­mer hol­i­days here with us for fif­teen years. Run­ning wild. It’s their place of happy mem­o­ries and cousin time.

I don’t need to make any of the dif­fi­cult calls; our adult chil­dren swing into ac­tion or­gan­is­ing ev­ery­thing. I am al­lowed to float, to ask ques­tions, to make sug­ges­tions, to add a name to the list. I can’t be­lieve we didn’t dis­cuss any of this un­til now. In spite of the last two years of cer­tainty, know­ing it would end this way, we have never dis­cussed one sin­gle as­pect of what will hap­pen in the hours, the days, the weeks and the months that will fol­low the death. I never brought it up with David; he never brought it up with me.

I am so ap­pre­cia­tive and over­whelmed by this love and sup­port. Our chil­dren work­ing to­gether to make all this eas­ier for me, just as they have worked as a team these last four days to sup­port their dy­ing fa­ther. I am grate­ful.

It will take me four years to feel like my­self again. The “old” me needs to stand aside and al­low the re­made ver­sion of my­self to emerge.

How­ever, in those few days be­tween the death of my hus­band and his fu­neral, I have no fore­bod­ing of the dif­fi­cult path that lies ahead. EX­TRACT FROM THE AC­CI­DEN­TAL TOUR GUIDE BY MARY MOODY, PUB­LISHED BY SI­MON & SCHUS­TER AUS­TRALIA, PA­PER­BACK $ 35

“The last Christ­mas pho­to­graph of us with our eleven gor­geous grand­chil­dren rang­ing in age from four months to 20 years. Eight boys, three girls, Look­ing at the pho­to­graph now, I can clearly see how gravely ill David looks.”

“David’s 45th birth­day in 1984, where we dressed as a bride and groom just for a lark — we didn’t of­fi­cially marry for another 10 years.”

Mary Moody as fans of Gar­den­ing Aus­tralia will re­mem­ber her.

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