Tag Archives: Facebook

Promises to tomorrow #16 Die Wise

There is a lot of cosmic energy in the air this time of year with the change of season and various religious rituals. And in my own life I have had my fair share of hatched and matched and dispatched connections around me. It is so often that new life is paralleled with deaths.

The news of one of these deaths of along-time friend came in a phone call. It was a life short-changed. Her death marked by a note in the informal and bleak, cold space of a facebook page, where the smallest group of readers weren’t all across the last details of her life. She set the page up years ago to post a few photos and it had not served her in any way as a community platform. Scratching through archival emails I was able to find some addresses and my forensic skills failed me in being able to find a sister that I knew was out there somewhere. An empty hole, dug to put a body, but not one to put in. A mutual friend and I went to our memories to put into that hole the laughter, quirky, difficult, cantankerous, generous, inspired, learned sojourner and friend she had been to us. On the street, the day after I heard the news, I saw shocks of white hair on every corner, little reminders of the sacred monkey she was in our lives.

I am preparing for the next Salon we are making and it is on the future of death. Unlike the wisdom cultures we are not so easily able to find ways of keeping the generations past with us into the future. We bequeath precious material objects, legally passing from one generation to another those items we want to live on.

A bequest literally means “about speech”, and so what do our bequests have to say about us after we are gone or when we are alive and making the decision about what we want to say to others when we are gone. Stephen Jenkinson, affectionately known as the Grief Walker, says we (of the non wisdom traditions) want to leave things and letters to the living behind because we are frightened of being forgotten and that is the biggest fear most people have when they are dying (once the fear of pain is longer realised). Jenkinson believes, having listened and been with thousands of dying people, this fear is because we have forgotten those who have gone before and not paid enough attention when it happened to others, and now when our turn comes this is the instinct that kicks in. He doesn’t let the dying off the hook and implores mothers to keep mothering, children to keep being children, partners to keep being married, all in the act of dying. The work of this time, and indeed of our whole lifetime, is to learn what it means to be human and to bring that wisdom to life, to die wise. Our bequest is to have our lives speak into the space made by knowing we will die.

We all know we are going to die, yet most of us don’t live that way, cherishing and nourishing every moment. My friend did – she squeezed every moment of life out of every day – truly living life to the full and that is her bequest to me. And only those of us who knew her, got a taste of that indefatigable spirit hungry for life and thirsty for adventure. She traipsed through laws and codes deciphering and searching for justice, turning stones over that refused to be turned and leveraging them out of crevices, often causing her more pain than was really required. She knew from an early age her body would be ravaged and let her down and her mind would probably too and to find her in that state the last time I saw her was devastating. I saw her in a public hospital, the very place she had brought her skills and advocacy too when we first worked alongside of one another. She believed in the public purse, public good and public service. She rioted for equity and access. She demanded a fair go for all and put herself in places where she could contribute to making that happen for others. Fiercely private she died with barely a soul knowing and no public mark or bequests to show for her life. Memories will live on with the small family she shared DNA and for those of us who are scattered, like her ashes in favourite places, we will catch the memories in the wind and help them find a home in our hearts.

Living a life to bequest, to die wise is a big promise to tomorrow, inspired by those who have died recently and the dying I share my living with every day.

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The Backstory

Every story has a backstory, every forest an undergrowth, every river formed by an avalanche of drops of rain. I am intrigued by how far back the narrative reaches before the story comes into view for the world to see. I want to share a backstory of mine with you Hildegard.

Several weeks ago Dr Anne Summers, a prominent elder in the realm of Australian feminism hosted two conversations with Australia’s first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard. During the lead up to the events the hosts invited those unable to be there to send through questions that might be used in conversation. Having an insatiable appetite for social media, conversation and prophesy I sent my question via twitter as requested: It’s 2050 what does Australia look like? Among the hundreds of questions tweeted in, two were chosen and mine was one of them – I was suitably chuffed! The answer was well constructed and thoughtful (you can see it on You Tube my question is at 54:41), and the backstory deserves a mention.

In the front row of the audience was the first woman Premier of Victoria, Hon Joan Kirner who had been a great support to me when I ran for Parliament and it was heart warming for me to know she heard my name after more than a decade. I received several tweets that night from women in the audience letting me know my question was asked – each woman has a different backstory that intersects with mine, politics for one, community engagement for another and another a twittersphere only connection. One of the features of the conversation that had transpired was around the issues of misogyny and sexism and its role in politics. My backstory here was very real as well. When I campaigned with four children in school, I was subject to vilification by some saying I should be home with them and a whispering campaign was mounted in church and community groups that leaked its way into talk back radio and impacted on my campaigning. I advised the local political apparatchiks of the issue and they didn’t really see the problem and very little was done. I forecasted this was the tip of the iceberg and the level of organisation we were seeing around the issue would grow and indeed it did. In addition the cloak that was thrown over the abuse was done in the name of God (a God who bore no resemblance to the one embodied by Jesus). The political wing even gave itself a name Family First, and in good time the candidate opposing me left his party and joined Family First where he remains a member of Parliament (another backstory for another day).

I love social media and its capacity to influence and organise at the micro and macro level in real time. My skills and experience in these media, set me apart from many others in my age group who use some of the platforms like Facebook to mainly keep in touch with younger family members (and I definitely do that as well).  Tools like twitter, facebook and instagram, are charged with dynamic properties for advocates and activists like me. So it is then that the Melbourne Town Hall, and now embedded in You Tube, my question of less than 140 characters was asked by a leading light and answered by a former Prime Minister. The accessibility of these tools in the hands of ordinary everyday people like me are ground-breaking. The Arab Spring will go down in history as the first twitter fed revolution. Without filters and editorial, questions can be posed, thoughts shared and amplified.

When I finally got around to watch the You Tube of the event last weekend, and saw Anne Summers peer into her mobile device to read my tweet I enjoyed seeing the next chapter unfold, knowing that without a back story no question can be formed or asked.

Just as we see the light breaking through at the end of a lane, so  my little tweet connected me back to the story that had taken me along that lane in the first place and by being asked got a whole new audience to consider what the future might be like.

Every tweet has a backstory as real and as true as any other kind of narrative.

And there are backstories down every lane as se hace camino al andar (you make the way as you go, Antonio Machado, Spanish poet).

Lane at Glenstal Abbey

Lane at Glenstal Abbey