I was just sitting in the back of the car while Neil drove, Dad sat in the front, singing his heart out to Frank Sinatra. I was remembering. Times spent with Dad, in the home and the trips that we frequently take him on.
One such time, we went to Waiwera, and found ourselves in an area that was not too familiar with me. It was along a single road, on the beachfront, but in an area that was quite private. We parked the car, and I helped Dad out. It was a lovely sunny day, so we ventured onto the beach, however, Dad seemed a bit unstable, so I held his hand to steady him.
It was odd. I hadn’t held Dad’s hand like that, since I was sixteen years old. One remembers these things. The moments when subtle little changes become the norm, and holding hands with your father was no longer the ‘done’ thing.
But on this particular day, he needed me. And I was there. I guess the little girl in me, needed him in that moment too. It didn’t last long, but it was just us, just a special moment in our collective history, that will always remain with me.
Walking through the home, alongside Neil, I held Dad’s hand again today. He was a little nervous, as we had to walk a different way than usual, but he gripped my hand as I led him through the maze of hallways.
He can’t think of much to say at the moment, but he does remark time and again, how much he enjoys Neil and I! It’s lovely. His shock of hair standing on end, his teeth seemed to have moved and he’s developed a lisp now. His hands, like my Nana’s, are bony and slender. His appetite seems to have returned, which is a big relief!
I knew walking into the theatre, that I was setting myself up for an abundance of emotion and tears. And I wasn’t wrong. But it turns out, they weren’t mine. Well, not till the last five minutes, and then I felt myself crack.
To my left was a young couple, who found the content too much, and left part way through the movie, utterly sobbing. With all of the best intentions, I wanted to go to that young lady and tell her it was ok, that she wasn’t alone. I wanted to give her a hug and tell her I completely understand; but I actually don’t.
You see, for each of us who are the child of a Dementia sufferer, there are coping mechanisms we have formed; there are emotions we won’t show; there are areas where our experiential expertise don’t cover. And therefore, whilst we should have empathy and compassion for all concerned, we shouldn’t go butting our imposter noses into other’s suffering. We need to be invited into the suffering, then offer ourselves to the one hurting.
The movie, ‘The Father’ is a brilliant portrayal of a Dementia sufferer, through his own eyes. I clicked onto that notion with a couple of scenes at the beginning of the movie. As the storyline unfolded, evidence of my own Dad, came raring to the forefront, and I was left feeling somewhat vindicated.
The non stop comparisons. The nit picking. The angry outbursts of swearing and cursing. The silent treatment. The endless demands. The accusations of being up to no good. These are all things that my Dad heaped on me, time and time again. Fortunately I have a wonderful husband, great brothers and a mother with the patience of a Saint – although since long divorced from my Dad – still a loving friend and a great listening ear for me.
If any of you are either curious, or have a loved one battling Dementia or Alzheimer’s, then I thoroughly encourage you to go and see this movie. It helps tremendously. It gives such a compelling insight into the mind of a former intellect, who now is at the mercy of this dreaded affliction. Anthony Hopkins gives a stellar performance, bringing all the pain, emotion and frustration right towards you.
I walked into Dad’s Dementia unit the other day, and there he was, sitting having a cup of tea and biscuits. His hair sticking up like a scarecrow, runny nose and scruffy jumper aside, the smile that greets you, is immense. He’s like a kid in a candy store, and he knows he’s about to have a lot of candy! Always the question, ‘are we going out now for something to eat then a drive up north?’ Always, a kiss and hug and the words, ‘you’re the best thing in the world.’ Of course I am; I’m the Sugar Fairy and Taxi operator! 🙂
Coming back from our afternoon excursion, I was shocked to see a formerly vibrant and active resident, now needing a carer on both sides, to assist her walking. Colleen, was a gummy bear, who refused to wear her teeth; could swear like a trooper; and propositioned my husband on our first day there, asking him to meet her in the laundry afterwards! She loved dancing, and could flirt up a storm; if only in her own mind. It was nothing for her to stroke my arm and do a little jig with me, then start weeping. On the flipside, she could spot me across the room and start marching towards yelling expletives, and promising to ‘get me!’
My heart is saddened, for I know the day will come when my Dad will need that kind of help too.
In the meantime, when he sits in the café with us, his latest fixation is on the ‘fire exit’ sign, alongside the ‘toilets’ sign. His most recent revelation? Toilets are where you go poos and wees!!
So I thought I’d be really smart and privatize this site just so that you guys could have the first look at my secret project – but that didn’t work! It turned out that you had to login or register via email, and that caused some issues, by some of the language I could hear in the other room!
Well, before I go ahead and do my reveal, I just wanted to give you a background on who Mirabelle is and why this book is important to me.
Mirabelle is based on a woman who was a dear friend for many years. She underwent most of her cancer journey before I met her, and over the course of getting to know her, the story she shared really impacted me.
I didn’t know many people who have had significant body parts removed in order for them to survive, but she is one of them. A large softball size tumour was discovered inside her that encompassed her bladder, bowel and internal genitalia. She had to have all three reconstructed over the period of a few years, and still to this day she doesn’t function fully. But you would never know. You wouldn’t know that her bladder is made from pigskin. You wouldn’t know that her bowel is made from some of her large intestine. You wouldn’t know that her internal genitalia were the last thing to be constructed, and she went without those organs for eighteen months.
So yes, to me she is one of the most inspirational women I have ever had the good fortune to meet.
Unfortunately, our friendship went south not long after I got married. My dear friend is someone who has an incredibly stubborn streak and if you seemingly wrong her, she cuts you off in the most powerful way. You don’t even know, she won’t even tell you, but slowly and surely, she backs off, like she did to me. And she will hurt you on purpose. Because so far, she has been able too.
It took me nine months to process the demise of this once incredibly close relationship. I’d never had a friend where things were shared so openly and honestly, so brutally and with so much humour! We were a dynamic duo when we went anywhere, and behaving wasn’t something that either of us thought to do 🙂 Going to Israel with her and with Neil was fantastic; I did feel sorry for the Tour Guide though – I don’t think he’s ever met a duo like us!
In amongst the pain, the despair I felt and the anger that would rise in wave upon wave, the Lord came to me one morning and gave me such love for this friend. Ex friend. I never call her that, but I guess that is what I am to her now. She has this book, and my guess is that she’s darn angry with me, but as I said to her, what started out writing about her, turned into a greater story that the Father wouldn’t let me leave alone.
I know that she loves Yeshua incredibly deeply, and I know one day we will reconcile. I also know that it will be different.
The character of Alex is based on me. It was with fear and trepidation that I wrote so much of my own personal story within these pages. To bare my soul so openly, I did query the Lord on this? But sometimes in order for others to heal, they need to know that some have been through the same thing. They need to know that they can reach out and touch someone who is similar to them. I know I am just a chick from Snells Beach, New Zealand, but God sees me differently to others.
When Mirabelle was released just over two years ago, we had just come back from a disastrous trip to Israel, and I was suffering from depression. I wasn’t in the right place to own this novel, or to accept the path that the Lord was leading me down, but somehow it seems right to do so now.
So, with all that background in mind, I am so pleased to show you the new cover that my brother (a 100+ Award winning Creative Director) has designed for when we re-release Mirabelle back out into the public!
We are currently working to get me out of my old contract with the Publisher in London, so that soon I can release this on our own logo.
The phone rang, I wasn’t going to pick it up. It was 9am and Sammy was just about to start his homeschooling. I then thought I had better do so, as I didn’t recognise the number.
I was in total shock and didn’t quite understand what was being said on the other end of the phone? My ex mother-inlaw had just dropped dead. My daughter’s two grandparents, divorced but amicable, had died in two months.
I spoke with Neil, and realising we live in the ever present world of social media, it was decided I needed to ring both the girls at work and get them home. As if grieving their Poppa (my ex father-inlaw) whom they were both very close too, wasn’t enough, now Nana had made her exit smack bang in the midst of Level Three Lockdown here in the greater Auckland area. There would be no rushing down to be with their father, no being with their relatives. No funeral, no memorial. Nothing. Covid rules need to be obeyed…..
The grief we feel is palpable. I was still very much part of the Hornell family, as is Sammy & Neil; we are a big blended ex inlaw/outlaw bunch who fight and love and have each other’s back at the end of the day. Things are day by day at the moment, but we hold fast to Yeshua, our rock and strong tower.
My last great Aunt died too. Level Four Lockdown. Her daughter is stuck in Australia and can’t come back at the moment. My Aunty Tuppy was like a surrogate Nana to me. In fact she was the younger sister of my Nana, and when my Grandpa died, her and Uncle Fred made a solemn promise to be there for us and be the surrogate grandparents. They did so well in that role. The only thing that bugged me about Aunty Tuppy, was she insisted on calling me Sarndra. I allowed it out of respect, even though my actual given name is Sandra. It was her term of endearment for me, and I understood that.
So yes, three deaths in three months, all in different levels of Covid19 Lockdown.
Poppa Ken, insisted on calling me his ‘Number One girl’, namely because I was the first daughter inlaw. We had the most amazing chats, he was a great conversationalist, who had big dreams, a grumpy temperament and so much untapped potential. He was gruff and hard at times, but never with me. I could get him crying easy! I loved him, and I miss him so much. He would turn up in his beat up old four wheel drive, and just beam with joy when he saw me. His health had given him what for the past decade, but that smile always came out when he was with us. He didn’t believe in God like I do, but he sure did believe in his love for us. He saw things very differently to me, but he taught me a great deal. He had the biggest, bushiest eyebrows I had ever seen! They grew so wide and deep, he longer had to wear sunglasses 🙂 Typical Ken, it was always his way.
Nana May, well she used to scare the daylights out of me! She was a hard taskmaster of a woman, who seemed to live most of her life hiding. Again, I managed to reach in and hear the heart of a woman who had been deeply misunderstood and so incredibly broken. I ended up being the only one who knew she had a heart condition, and that has puzzled me. She had three sons whom she adored, and yet no one but me knew. I found that out the day of her death. Again, so much untapped potential and dreams locked up in a woman who lived mainly alone, later in life, and who didn’t allow people deep into her heart. I guess I am fortunate – for I know some of those precious secrets.
I pulled up the family tree on the MyHeritage website, and with tears streaming down my face (what else is new?!) I put in the three recent death dates.
Ah, this year really has been shite for breakfast, hasn’t it? I don’t think there could be a living soul out there that would say 2020 has been a true blessing from Heaven. No one would believe them if they did. But what I am learning to do is seeing things from both a Heavenly and an earthly perspective. Some areas just aren’t as black and white as we’d like them, but they’re not meant to be. Yeshua reminded us, our Kingdom is invisible, not for this earth, and therefore as my tagline says, we are just Pilgrims passing through. We can’t make this world the be-all and end-all because it’s not. This is just a mere vapour, and one day soon, we will all be with Him, forever. Until then, we must occupy until He comes, and share our Beloved Yeshua with this cold dying world.
So yes, as I said a couple of blogs back, I had been feeling spent, until the Lord showed me the word ‘grief’. There’s no time limit on grief, and I’m not one to walk away from a challenge, so moving through this with the family in tow, is quite the journey indeed.
He sat me down, closed the door, cancelled his appointments for the next hour and asked me one huge question, ‘Sandi, do you still believe in God?’
I looked at him with tears streaming down my face, and quietly uttered the word, ‘yes’.
I did and I do. But I was terrified. Terrified I’d never feel God’s presence again, or hear His voice. What kind of world was I signing up to, taking anti-depressants and walking into a world of counsellors, psychiatrists and psychologists? How did this fit in with my faith, God’s word and everything else I held dear?
The Doctor looked at me as I responded, and said, ‘good, now I know you will be ok.’
He was a Muslim doctor and I was a Christian patient. He was amazing, very humble, very capable, and yet he and his wife were my clients too! I was a Domestic Cleaner and I cleaned their home every week. It was nothing for me to watch the Doctor walk inside, take off his shoes, position his mat and do his prayers.
I didn’t care. I just wanted to know that I wasn’t going mad. Apparently I was having a Emotional Breakdown….
Those words resonated with me, simply because Mental issues were a big deal in my Maternal Grandmother. Mum witnessed Nana have at least one emotional breakdown, and declared that she would never allow herself to become that way – she often would say I was cursed with my own emotions and Nana’s. Funny how it all came to a head when she watched her own Granddaughter have a full psychotic breakdown. Actually it’s not funny at all, but if issues aren’t dealt with in one generation, they will come back in another – and another until they are sorted.
I’ve witnessed a disturbing trend or recent years. People who seem to have it all, or seemingly have a great life etc, suddenly up and commit suicide.
My Doctor asked if I had suicidal thoughts – hell no! I had too much terror to reign on people and too much life to live yet!
But I needed to sort out my mind, and apparently going on Aropax was going to help me do that.
I got a burst of energy for the first twenty four hours, so I went out and dug a vegetable garden at 9pm that night! The rest of the time, it did nothing for me, so after six weeks, I flushed it all down the toilet. People are amazed, simply because here in New Zealand, there had been many cases reported of the withdrawal symptoms from Aropax actually being so bad, and some leading to suicide – but somehow I knew God was with me and that I was gaining inner strength.
The point to all of this is not self pity, or even about me. This is about not being alone. This is about reaching out and sharing your troubles. If that person is unable to help you, there are lots of places to reach out too.
I made one phone call. That lead to an amazing charity called Strengthening Families. These people were brilliant at helping me get sorted through the myriad of mess and emotions that I was dealing with. They helped my children. They helped my friends. And by some amazing stroke of serendipity, I opened the door for this charity to help many others within my community.
So, the long and the short of it is, we are never alone. Every single person on this planet matters to God – despite race, gender, religion or ethnicity – and every single person has the God ordained right to be seen, heard, appreciated and loved.
If you are having Mental issues or need to chat with someone, I encourage you to reach out – and please stop believing the lie that you are alone – it’s simply not true!
One week before we as New Zealanders went into total Lockdown, the Rest Homes and Aged Care facilities made the decision to go into full Lockdown for the sake of their ailing Residents. At the time, we were lead to believe that the Coronavirus, Covid-19 or Sars-Covid-2, was most lethal towards the elderly and infirmed. Unfortunately for our country, this proved to be true. Most of our small cases of deaths, were indeed in the Rest Homes.
Dealing with not seeing Dad was something that I was consciously aware of when our Prime Minister started to make daily addresses to the public regarding Lockdown. Then the day hit when I realised there would be no visiting him at all, and I didn’t get the chance to warn him! However, all was not lost, as I was able to speak to him on the phone, and the home was able to arrange a couple of Skype calls.
Dad was actually quite funny on those Skype calls – he recognised us, but couldn’t understand why our faces were appearing on a computer! The whole conversation lasted three minutes and fifty one seconds.
Yes folks, that enabled me to stop worrying indeed.
When I was able to visit Dad eventually after ten weeks, I had to go through a whole routine of sanitisation, form filling and mask wearing. Dad didn’t even realise it was me until I quickly lifted the mask up so he could see my entire face!
He understood that I wasn’t able to take him out, he actually was more concerned that there were other patients coming up and staring at me, and he was trying to shoo them away J
I have to say, in this instance there was so much unprecedented things happening in our world, but I learnt not to worry about Dad. The staff again, were utterly brilliant and would keep us informed with emails, texts and the occasional photographs of Dad. He was being entertained and kept busy, so that relieved a whole lot of pressure off of me. Phew!
With every message that goes unanswered, every email that no one seems to respond to, excuses made and heartache booming in my soul – there you are. For the longest of times, you have stood by me, loved me, helped me, cherished me, made me laugh until I cried and been with me. You believed in me when everyone gave up, you cheered me on when I made the smallest of steps, and now here we are. I cannot remove the pain of the past or the wounds of such terror, but I can be a safe place as you are to me. I can love you, as you have loved me. In the darkest of souls and the deepest of nightmares, I will stand with you as you have stood with me. I adore you. I love you. My sister and trusted confidante. And so I dedicate this poem to you, My Dearest Friend.
Ancient Ruins, 2002
I walked through the ancient ruins today
And saw some ghosts of yesteryear
I looked through the brokenness and found
You were still sitting amongst the mess
Won’t you come my way sweet child?
And walk into the fresh air,
Breathe and let the sun’s rays warm your body
Let the light fill your cold soul.
I wandered around and saw many things
Images I recognised from years gone by
I felt the pain, but it was no longer mine
I let it go, many moons ago
I saw things that could have haunted me
And walked all through the mess
But nothing can touch a heart that is now
Wrapped with grace and armed with forgiveness.
I left the Ancient Ruins today
My heart completely in one piece
I took back my inner child and now – she’s safe again in me.
It’s day three of this enforced lockdown, here in Snells Beach, New Zealand. The sun is on full display and it really is a beautiful day, beckoning the mixture of both cool and warm temperatures that are symbolic of Autumn.
What an incredibly strange time we have found ourselves in. Sure, I was warning people to be prepared, and yes I was marvelling at how people were just laughing in my face. But I didn’t expect THIS to happen quite so soon. What is THIS, you may ask? Being told that as a nation, the whole of New Zealand will be in enforced lockdown for four weeks.
My daughters and husband have their certification to prove that they are Essential Services. Much to my dismay, so was Sammy – as a paper deliverer. However, after alot of complaints and much abuse hurled our way, we have just been notified that we are no longer ‘essential’ – thank God for that!
I’m a homebody and I love being here. We are so incredibly fortunate that we have a majestic outlook over Kawau Bay and a big portion of Snells Beach. We have the good fortune (or at least I do as I’m ususally the first one up!) of seeing God paint such wonders and beauty across the sky each morning. But the thought that I can’t drive up and over the one entry/exit point from here, well that is taking a bit to get used too.
We have made the most of Zoom, WhatsApp and Marco Polo apps, and Sammy is doing online learning care of Google Classroom. The school holidays have been bought forward and now he is supposedly on a break; I’m still getting him to do a bit of work each day to catch up though 😉 I don’t usually get into all the techie stuff as that is normally Neil’s department, but I am so grateful that we can stay connected, worldwide.
I have been in touch with dear friends in the States, London and in Australia, and have been trying to maintain contact with family in Wales and well as home. I am particularly grateful for what I call our ‘Skywatch Family’ – friends we made on our last tour of Israel. They have been at the forefront of contact and have been keeping us up to date with the goings on in the America and the UK. I do believe some of them are in total lockdown now, as we are.
I guess there are some really amazing benefits and opportunities for all of this. I am not going to blast our government or lay blame anywhere, I am just going to accept this enforced lockdown as time with my family that is well needed. Time to set aside from all the busyness that crowds in and takes over, and time to reconnect on a more personal level. We’ve gotten the garden sorted, we’ve rearranged our office space and there is a HUGE cupboard that we are sorting through, gradually! The garage has had the car removed and Neil has set up another space in there for his work.
It all sounds ok, but I do wonder about our infrastructure? With so many businesses going online, and so many schools going online, will we be able to manage the overloading? I wonder about our already stretched healthcare system. We already had a problem with people not being seen on time, doctor and nurse shortages, and endless protests by healthcare professionals, looking for more pay. Do we really have what is necessary to weather this new healthcare storm? I don’t think so. But we must remain positive, and turn our worries into silent prayers of supplication to the one who knows it all – the end from the beginning.
So dear friends, whilst I sit here with a Unicorn headband on and laugh at my family wearing large green St Patricks Day hats, I trust that you have a great day and stay at home!
Well I guess one of the talking points the last few weeks has been the ‘outbreak’ of the Coronavirus in Wuhan, China. The loss of thousands of lives and seeing videos of van loads of dead bodies being transported out of the Provence, has been truly disturbing.
Reports have suggested that this came about due to people eating bats – me thinks not.
I’m a borderline conspiracy theorist in that USUALLY the truth is there somewhere in the middle, but it pays to go digging to find it!
The purpose of me writing this is to provide you with links and thoughts that aren’t necessarily being reported or broadcast on your nightly news. Actually, we don’t watch the nightly news and haven’t done so since our Prime Minister came into power. So how do we know what’s going on then?!
I’m so glad you asked 🙂
We decided a long time ago to watch alternative news media, simply because we KNEW we weren’t being told the truth. Never had this become more true than when the American elections happened in 2016. Something was off, and it wasn’t either Clinton or Trump – it was the ‘powers that be’ here in NZ that decided when and what to report, and not report…
Now back to Wuhan.
Check out this news story that I became aware of last week:
I recently sat my Mother down and shared a little of what I posted here. Please don’t be like the Generation of 70+ who bury their heads in the sand and say it won’t happen here. The fact is, we live not even one hour away from where a couple of hundred people are in quarantine, having come back from Wuhan, China.
One more note on this: IF things were to break out and you had to self-quarantine, would you have adequate food and water in supply for yourselves and your family for three weeks? Do you have a good medical kit available? Do you have enough resources in stock to keep from going broke if you weren’t able to work for three weeks?
Just think about it.
Then do what you must to be prepared for you and yours.