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