Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer’s lease hath all too short adate; Sometimetoo hot the eye of heaven shines, And often is his gold complexion dimm’d, And everyfairfrom fair sometime declines, By chance or nature’s changing courseuntrimm’d: But thy eternal summer shall not fade, Nor lose possession of that fair thouow’st, Nor shall Death brag thou wand’rest in his shade, When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st. So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18
This sonnet is popularly believed to be a poem of love and admiration. That may be a fair interpretation of the first two lines, and I suppose that might be as far as some people read.
I have been contemplating Shakespeare’s 65th sonnet this weekend:
Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
But sad mortality o’ersways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?
O how shall summer’s honey breath hold out
Against the wrackful siege of batt’ring days,
When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays?
O fearful meditation! Where, alack,
Shall Time’s best jewel from Time’s chest lie hid?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
O none, unless this miracle have might,
That in black ink my love may still shine bright.
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 65
A year ago today, I was sitting beside my father in the last days of his life. Three days later, it was my beloved cousin and friend Helen whose hand I was holding as she, too, fell prey to time and mortality.
Saying my final farewells to them both in the space of five days was certainly a “wrackful siege of batt’ring days”. I wrote poetry and reflections to both express and process my thoughts and feelings. I wanted people to know how I felt. I wanted people to understand who both these jewels were and why they would always matter, despite their having been being reclaimed from this life.
I learned more about grief, and I learned more about letting go. I had no choice, because there is no human hand or will strong enough to hold back the relentless march of time and mortality.
This sonnet expresses a reality of life: nothing can withstand the relentless power of time. Erosion, degradation, and decay overwhelm not only the frail, but also the mighty. True, rocks and brass may outlast flowers and flesh, but they too will yield eventually.
It is a poem of contemplation and resignation, but also one of defiance: time may be relentless, and there may be no way to “hold his swift foot back”, but one who is immortalised or memorialised in ink lives on, albeit in a different way. We can continue to remember and honour them, and to express our love for them. Our memories and mementos remain long after those who have fallen prey to time and mortality.
In Shakespeare’s time, they had fewer options for immortalising those who passed away than we do. They had eulogies and poetry – the black ink in which “my love may still shine bright”. They could create drawings and paintings. Now, in addition to those, we have photographs, video, and voice recordings.
Poetry and eulogies still touch our souls just as powerfully, though— whether written in the 21st century or the 16th, our written tributes and reflections endure and move us still.
There’s a lot of controversy about celebrating Australia Day on January 26, and with good reason.
Some Aussies — in all honesty, mostly white ones – argue that there is nothing wrong with celebrating our country on that day as we do.
They would most likely be quite surprised to know that Australia Day wasn’t celebrated nationally until 1935: it’s not something we’ve been doing since 1788. Even more surprising would be the fact that it’s only been a public holiday since 1994 – not even thirty years.
A growing number of Aussies feel conflicted about the date. They are coming to understand that, as it is, it is a celebration that causes grief and hurt to the Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia. For them, it is ‘Invasion Day’ or ‘Day of Mourning’, which is a very fair call.
January 26 marks the anniversary of the date in 1788 when the First Fleet sailed into Sydney Harbour, set up camp, and began the first British colony in Australia. It is impossible to condense the history of the nation since then into just one sentence, but it’s fair to say that the story is characterised by dispossession, racism, violence, massacre and oppression toward the Indigenous people of the country. That is why celebrating that date is so offensive to them. Anyone who doesn’t understand that is either a. extremely white privileged, b. not trying hard enough or c. both.
It is common understanding that if one is doing something that hurt someone else, and if it is in that person’s power to stop, I should stop doing it. Even if there is an apology, the only way to prove the apology means anything at all is to refrain from doing it again. The only way to heal a damaged relationship is to change one’s ways. This is as true on a national level as it is for an individual.
There is no reason why we can’t change the date for celebrating our nation. There’s a lot to celebrate, but we can also do much better than we have in the past.
Some people suggest that we should celebrate Australia Day on January 1st – the anniversary of Federation. It’s a good idea, despite the complaints that people will be hung over from New Year’s Eve parties the night before. That’s a choice for each individual to make – but wouldn’t less drunkenness be a good thing anyway?
Alternatively, I suggest that the Australian government should commit to and sign a Treaty with the Indigenous people, as they have been pleading for the government to do for years. This Treaty, made in collaboration with Indigenous people, would acknowledge the past, shape the future, and enable us to move on together in a spirit of reconciliation and healing.
The date on which that Treaty was established and signed should be the new date for Australia Day. We could even call it Treaty Day, or Australian Treaty Day, to put the focus on the relationship instead of the painful memories of the past.
I’m not Indigenous, and I do not pretend to share their experiences or speak for anyone else.
I am, however, a History teacher who seeks to teach Australian history with empathy and awareness of the experiences of Australia’s First Nations people, and to encourage my students to understand that our nation’s story began long before 1788. I am an Australian who loves my country, but also one who is deeply sorry for the suffering of the Indigenous people, past and present.
As such, I cannot help but think that either one of those two ideas would have to be better than what we have now.
I will not be attending or watching any Australia Day celebrations tomorrow. Instead, I intend to mark the day by signing the Uluru Statement From The Heart, which is a call to Australians to rally together to achieve constitutional recognition for our First Nations peoples and to establish an Indigenous voice to Parliament.
It’s high time we did better, Australia. Let’s change the date, and move forward in a common spirit of reconciliation and healing.
Australia Day: We Can Do Better #changethedate #AustraliaDay
This tattoo honours my late father, my family, and my unique identity within it. My family’s surname is Dutch: Groenenboom, which translates to ‘green tree’.
I am thankful to be starting the new year by doing something to deeply meaningful. It is a positive way of acknowledging those who have passed, including my dad and my beloved cousin six months ago, those who remain and are still flourishing, and my connection to them all.
I spent months choosing the tree design, as there are myriad options available and many are gorgeous. I chose this one because it symbolises strength, beauty and grace. The maple leaf represents me, obviously— unique among the other leaves, but strongly connected and coming from the same source.
I am so proud that this symbol is now part of me.
The word tattoo is interesting because the one word has two completely different sets of meanings that have come from entirely distinct sources.
That makes it a homophone, a homograph, and a homonym all at the same time: as it is pronounced and spelt identically for each of its various meanings.
I’m usually a real kid about Christmas. It’s one of my favourite times of year.
This year, though, I’ve really had to try hard to muster my Christmas mojo, and I’m not sure I really succeeded.
Christmas Eve was particularly hard this year. I felt so disconnected and indifferent, and I didn’t know what to do with that.
My response was the same as always: write something!
Verbalising these feelings helped me deal with them. They were — and are — still there, but I have been able to relax and let them coexist in counterbalance with my enjoyment of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Today is what today is. My feelings are what they are. It’s all part of the process of grieving and moving forward and reconciling conflicting emotions while continuing to live.
Joy is elusive this Christmas Eve, Anticipation is aloof. The empty chair, the missing gift, The place not set at the table, All murmur a silent, sorrowful chorus Like a incantation, warding off The overruling spirit of the season. The magic of tinsel, baubles and tree Cannot dispel the indifference Cast by Memory and Grief as they linger, Neither out of sight nor mind Amid the coloured lights and carolling On Christmas Eve without you.
This morning, my sister and I visited Mum and Dad’s grave on the 67th anniversary of their marriage.
On this date, every year since 2011, I have been purposeful in spending quality time with Dad as he spent the anniversary without Mum. He often had some tears, as did I, and we would talk about family times and happy memories. There would invariably be coffee and cake involved at some point of the day.
This year, Mum and Dad are together again, and we are without them both for the first time.
Instead of coffee and cake, we went out for breakfast together before heading up to the pretty little cemetery on top of the hill.
Nature blessed us with a beautiful morning: sunshine, blue sky, white fluffy clouds, and a light breeze. The grass is starting g to cover the grave now, so it looks less fresh and confronting. Still, it was the first time my sister, brother-in-law and husband had been back to the grave since the day of Dad’s funeral, so in that respect it was harder for them than for me. I quite like cemeteries, and I have been back to visit Mum and Dad’s grave on several occasions.
Neither my sister nor I had a big howly cry, which we wouldn’t be ashamed to admit because we have both done it several times before, but we both had some tears. We’re not ashamed of those, either. Crying is healthy, and so is owning your emotions.
Christmas won’t be the same this year. For the first time in our lives, we will be doing it without our father. I haven’t bought boxes of chocolate-coated ginger or liquorice allsorts for the first time in decades.
It’s all kind of weird, and it hurts, but we are doing our best to make it positive and memorable. Before visiting the cemetery, we went out for breakfast with our husbands. We bought a little Christmas poinsettia, which Mum always loved, to decorate their grave instead of taking fresh flowers this time.
Most importantly, my sister and I are spending Christmas together. I am so enormously thankful that, after months of lockdown and closed state borders, she and my brother-in-law can be here.
There are gifts under the tree, plans for special meals and treats, and neither of us has to navigate the first Christmas as orphans on our own. Our other siblings and my nieces can’t be with us, but they will be with family. We will video call and spend time together that way. It’s not perfect, but it beats not being together at all.
As I observed in my post on Dad’s birthday, the firsts are hard. There are so many feelings, and it can be challenging to know how to mark the date without being morose. It’s good to honour the memories, but the fear of people thinking you spend too much time in Memoryville or Griefland is real.
Will they want to read another Facebook post or blog about it? The fact is, some won’t, and that’s okay. At the same time, there are plenty of others who will. We are not the only ones grieving for a loved one for the first time this Christmas.
It matters to me, and to them, that we know we are not alone in our feelings, nor are we weird or wrong for feeling the way we do. It’s completely natural, and the best thing to do is acknowledge it: cry and laugh when we need to, retell the family stories, share memories, and deal with it in the most positive and constructive ways we can.
It’s also important to be deliberate about creating new memories and treasuring our time together, so that we make this first Christmas as merry and bright as we can.
Our local council has created this gorgeous candlelight memorial for all the people in our local government area of Corangamite Shire who have passed away in 2020.
Most of these people‘a families were very limited in how many they could have at the funeral. The way we have mourned and comforted one another has had to change. Our ability to travel and see each other has been limited or, at times, impossible.
Gestures like this help us to feel less alone, and to know that our loved ones are remembered. It’s very touching that the community as a whole is able to acknowledge their absence from the towns and social circles in which they lived.
There are 129 lights burning through the night. That’s 129 families like mine that have been changed forever. And, I’m sure, it’s 129 families who appreciate the thoughtfulness of a local government that thinks beyond budgets and logistics to stop for as long as it takes to light 129 candles, and invite the community to stop, remember and reflect.
My sister and I went to see the memorial tonight, to pay tribute to our dad and to share the sight with our family interstate via video.
Thank you to the Corangamite Shire and the local community members who helped make this happen. It is very much appreciated.
It’s the first time in my life that I will not be able to wish him a happy birthday. It’s the first time in many years that I will not hug him, kiss his cheek, and provide the cake, complete with candles for him to blow out while we sing that silly song.
I miss him so much. I miss his big laugh, his cheeky grin, our talks when I got home from work, our hugs, our days out together, shared dinners and coffees, cheeky afternoon teas at the bakery, and holding his hand just because I could. He was part of every day, whatever else I might have been doing.
The “firsts” are pretty awful, to be honest. The absence of someone you love on a day which you have always celebrated with them is jarring. It feels as though the world has tilted again, and everything is just a little more out of kilter. It feels… wrong.
My siblings have all experienced their first birthday without him since he passed away in June: two in September, and one just last week. I called and wished each of them happy birthday, but I also wept for them because I knew what they were thinking and feeling, even if they didn’t admit it. Some things don’t need to be put into words.
And yet, for children to bury and grieve for a parent whom they loved dearly, and who has lived a long, happy and faithful life is also so …right.
Therein lies the awkwardness of it all. We are all glad he is no longer suffering, and we would not have wanted him to linger in a realm of pain or disease or anguish but, at the same time, I miss him so very much. The emotions are so powerful that they threaten to overwhelm, but not one of us would bring him back to go through it all again. That would be cruel and selfish.
On the first Father’s Day since his death, I chose to do positive things in his memory. Now, on the first birthday, I find myself trying to achieve that again. There is still pain and grief, though. regardless of how I try to window-dress the day, and it’s important to acknowledge those feelings and not suppress or deny them. The healthier choice is to experience them and work through them in appropriate ways.
So, a visit to my parents’ grave with flowers was my first priority for the day. I made a video message for my siblings and their families, all of whom are long-distance from me, from the final resting place of our parents. At least that way, they could share in the visit too. I chose yellow roses, because Dad loved his roses. Yellow roses are symbolic of friendship, but also of remembrance and new beginnings or rejuvenation of spirit, so they are perfect for Dad’s first birthday in heaven.
My best friend and I visited one of Dad’s favourite bakeries — the same one where I took the picture of him enjoying his coffee — and drank coffee and ate sweet things in his honour.
Later on, we will be having Dad’s favourite thing for dinner — pizza — followed by birthday cake, because there has been one on every other November 17th that I have known.
I have also spent some time in quiet contemplation and giving thanks for my Dad. I know I am incredibly blessed to have had such a loving and supportive father with whom I got along so well, when so many people don’t ever get to know what that’s like. I am thankful for my family, for my husband, and for my best friends, whose support helps make days like today a tiny bit easier. Again, so many people don’t have that, and I know I am incredibly privileged to have those people in my life.
I have thought, too, about what comes next. Soon there will be the first Christmas. The first New Year’s Eve, and the first calendar year that hasn’t had Dad in it. And 360 days after his graduation to heaven, I will have my first birthday without him. And then, soon after, the first anniversary of his death, and then of Helen’s.
These anniversaries and the emotions that go with them may be painful, but they are poignant reminders of deep love and the profound blessings of knowing and sharing life with such amazing people.
On such occasions, there should at least be cake. Dad would have insisted on it.