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The Unexpected

Recently my wife and I had to travel interstate to be present with family members to mourn the death and celebrate the life of my youngest step-sister who was a mere 53 years of age. This tragic event was unexpected for us all. It began with her having had a stroke and further medical examination revealing that Tricia had 2 aneurisms near her brain. The surgery was deemed successful and everyone heaved a sigh of relief. But on the third day after the operation she suffered a cardiac arrest from which she never recovered. The hospital staff kept her on life support for a time but all evidence suggested neural activity had ceased. Fortunately no family member had to be responsible to authorise the cessation of life support because she died naturally on the fifth day.

This was, and still is, an incredible shock to all members of our family, perhaps none more than her twin 22 year old boys (Ed and Tim) and her partner of 10 years (Bruce). Our family do not share the hope of our faith in Jesus. They are not godless in the sense that they acknowledge the likelihood of there being a god but they, to my knowledge, have no personal relationship with him. It is at times like this that one becomes acutely aware of the huge void that exists in terms of eternity and what really happens in the hereafter. Even though my wife and I have many years of experience in assisting people through death and dying no one invited us to offer any assistance in the funeral arrangements. That's OK, we respect that, but we did find that because of the depth of grief and heightened emotions that we were needed to "pour oil on troubled waters" on more than one occasion.

Before parenthood my sister had been somewhat of a celebrity in the literary world and for many years owned an alternative bookshop that was very popular with intellectuals, thinkers and university students. She really understood the industry and made a lot of friends through her ability to acquire the more unusual and hard to get book titles. This certainly set her apart from her working class family background, although my younger brother moved in similar circles through his music, world travel as a teacher and interest in political history. Despite Tricia's success my other sister believes that the sophisticated world was taking its toll on Tricia's life and that becoming a Mum was her opportunity to become grounded again in reality.

Necessity dictated that something needed to be done. Her parents rose to the occasion wonderfully by erecting a house in the backyard of their own home to house Tricia and her boys while she embarked on life as a single mum. The boys had the added benefit of growing up with their retired grandparents. Dad was very handy and because the boys were always by his side they learnt so much from him about life and how to create things. Their Nan constantly fussed over them (still does) and loved them to bits. So it was a fulfilling arrangement that contributed to the boys growing up feeling very much loved and accepted as part of a large, loving family which really developed their sense of personal worth and self confidence. As adults the twins are both employed in the building trade.

Eventually Tricia moved in with her long time partner and was really enjoying life garnering antiques, artworks and enjoying the wind in her hair with the occasional trip to the wine growing areas of the Barossa Valley in South Australia in their veteran MG sports car. Life was good when this tragic event suddenly overtook her. The warning signs were there in that she apparently suffered very severe headaches but bore them silently. She no doubt attributed them (the headaches) to stress or overwork because both featured in her life at that time. Anticipating the major surgery was a fearful thing in that it could be fatal. Sadly, while coming through the op well and being moved into the general ward, other complications triggered a cardiac arrest that took her young life.

It is a lesson for us all that the seeming ordinariness and permanence of life is not necessarily so and the journey can take us in an entirely different direction than that which was anticipated. In this case it is additionally sad for her 82 year old mother who has had to see her youngest child laid to rest. She repeats often that she is old and ready to die and it doesn't seem right that Tricia has preceded her. We feel her grief as we each one nurse our own. The question of eternity and the afterlife looms large. We can comfort ourselves with platitudes of being together again beyond death but it begs the question, "What have we done in life that will prepare us for separation and death?" I personally take great comfort in what the Bible has to say about this, especially in passages of Scripture like 1 Corinthians 15 verses 51-57.


Rachel Ann said…
So sad! While reading this I prayed for her family, that they would come to know Christ.
Thanks Rachel Ann, we really appreciate that.

Trevor (and Liz)

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