Category Archives: bittersweet

‘Sounds, seasons and scents…’ 

I have to be in the right frame of mind and emotions to be able to listen to certain songs and music as they can take you to a thousand different places as they stir up so many triggers of remembrance of times in your life. The playlist on my iPod is one of the most intimate things I can share with anyone. I find that If I ask people to listen to a particular song it’s because the lyrics mean everything that I’ve been trying to say. One particular song that I will treasure deep in my heart is a song that Jacob introduced me to on the way home from having chemo one day. He said ‘you’ll like this one mum.’ I did love the song as I hid the tears behind dark sunglasses while driving – ‘it’s beautiful’ I replied. This was the song that Jacob took his last breath to as the song finished on his phone. The song is aptly called ‘it’s nice to be alive’ by Ball Park Music and a song they used on the movie with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore called ‘Blended.’ The words of the song are catchy and upbeat with an occasional swear word that can be heard so I apologise if you take offence when you hear the song being played. Jacob was never one to swear (at least he didn’t in my company). But singing the swear words in the lyrics don’t count. I can sometimes sing along but other times it tugs too hard at the heartstrings and tears flow freely.

We lost Jacob on the 7th October 2015 at 4.33pm on a cool spring afternoon in Australia. The sun peaked through the clouds, and shone down on his face all the rest of the afternoon as the Beatles played ‘here comes the sun’ as we continued to listens to songs off his iPhone. They say Spring is the season of new beginnings – our family beginning to learn how to live without our beautiful brown eyed boy. My heart was still in winter with him all wrapped up in his snuggly clothes that covered his shrinking frame and made him need lots of layers on to retain his body heat. With his famous beanies and comfy tracky-dacks that became his new fashion sense. At this point of his life he dressed for comfort like an old man before his time, not for vanity reasons like he used to do to attract the opposite sex. I still have his favourite jumpers that he wore when his body filled his shape and also the ones where they just hung loosely off him like it was hung on a coat hanger.
I wasn’t ready to be bathed in the warmth of the sunny weather that lay ahead. How could I bask in the glory of the sun when was heart was dark and cold? I want to go back to winter where we shared lots of time together when he was away from home, snuggled under the blanket watching movies, falling asleep on the lounge together as mother and son, Jacob exhausted from treatment and me too emotionally drained to keep my eyes open. Another reason why I’m reluctant to embrace the warmer weather is because Jacob wasn’t able to swim since he had his port put into his chest to administer the chemo. Having a swimming pool at our home that he couldn’t use was a major tease so I felt guilty going in and enjoying myself when he could not. But Spring is a time to find out where you are, who you are, and move forward where you are going. How do we carry on?
Scent is the most powerful memory trigger. I love the body spray Jacob used after a shower before going out. His brother Ben uses the same one as well – Lynx Africa. I can visually see the picture of the spray in my mind, the black can with green and red stripes. It brought a smile on my face as they went out the door on a night out smelling and looking really attractive, proud mum moments knowing I’d brought them up well by taking pride in their appearance and hygiene. He’d use the scent while having chemo treatments in the hospital to freshen himself after a shower before getting visitors. These scents are emotions which are bought to life. Eating warm popcorn at the pictures stirs the senses as these were Jacob’s favourite food on these trips as we settle down to watch the latest blockbuster. I can’t bring myself to heat weetbix up in the microwave as he always used to for breaky, for the smell of sweetness floated through the kitchen. Heating up his heat packs in the microwave reminded me of this too. The distinct smell of warm wheat. As a loyal Bunnings employee he’d always buy a sausage sandwich for lunch at the regular fundraising tents outside near the entrance, and I can’t resist buying one either. Nothing smells as good as a sausage cooking on the bbq.

All of the triggers of memory that come up in sound, seasons and scent involve the senses. We hear the songs and music with our ears, we see the beauty of the changing seasons with our eyes, and smell the fragrances with our nose and they all touch our hearts. It consumes us and we feel grief with everything we see, feel, smell and touch. As we think of the things that remind us of loved ones lost, we use the last of the five senses – we taste our tears as they leak from our eyes. The love we have for our loved ones is like poetry for our senses.



‘Lemons + Lemonade’ 

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” is a proverbial phrase used to encourage optimism and a positive can-do attitude in the face of adversity or misfortune. Lemons suggest sourness or difficulty in life, while lemonade is a sweet drink. Since we’ve lost Jacob I think our family could make enough lemonade that would hype up a party full of 100 five year olds. Just like life with that rush of hyperactivity from the sweetness and energy of the lemonade the sugar hit has to crash and fall again. But it’s the plan to get back up again and make more batches of the lemonade that keeps you going, regardless of how bitter the lemons are.

Life handed him a lemon,

As Life sometimes will do.

His friends looked on in pity,

Assuming he was through.

They came upon him later,

Reclining in the shade

In calm contentment, drinking

A glass of lemonade.

Four days before Jacob passed away we had such a brilliant day. It was a sunny day on the 3rd Oct 2015 as we set out for a trip down the coast to Nowra for Jacob to sail in a sailability regatta (designed for people with a disability) on the Shoalhaven River. A very good friend of mine was going to be in the boat with him too as Jacob was too fragile and paralysed to drive a car yet alone steer a boat in the water. This wonderful event came about as we were writing up a bucket list of things Jacob would like to do. I had contacted an old friend of mine, the very one who took Jacob out in the sailing boat and asked him for his help in getting Jacob in the water again for a swim as this was on his bucket list too. Well the list was long when you have so many things to do in so little time left on earth.

At the sailing regatta there were many boats in the water, moving around on the slight breeze. Jacob had to be lifted in the boat with a hoist and our great friend Lenny was already on the boat as the master and commander. Once settled, they were off and racing. Ben watched his brother sail around the river on his stand up paddle board with his cousin Paul, catching glimpses of the fun unfolding with his GoPro. Lenny asked Jacob had he had enough after being out on the water for a bit and Jacob said -‘nah!’ They stayed out for 2 and a half hours. Family and friends cheered them on from the shore and enjoyed a picnic when they’d finished. It was nice to see him happy and smiling as he dangled his hands in the water from the side of the boat. We later found out that team Jacob had come first in the doubles.

It’s funny how people come and go in your life and you go for such a long time in between seeing them and just pick up where you left off when you see them again. Well that’s the case with Lenny, Jacob’s partner in the regatta. When I was in my early teens I used to attend the local roller skating rink on a Friday night. This is where I’d catch up with friends, including Lenny and we’d often join forces for the couples skate. The years past and lives moved on till the next moment of meeting when I looked after him as a nurse after his tragic accident that saw him becoming a double amputee – losing an arm and leg and helped him with a short part of his rehabilitation. We both chatted about who we had married, the family that my husband and I had started and the family him and his wife were planning. I was in awe of his sheer determination and strength throughout his hospital stay. How was he so positive with what life had dealt him? I was always aware of what Lenny was up to over the years as he appeared in newspaper articles and on the television doing some wonderful things with sporting events for people with a disability, like disabled sailing, surfing and using an amphibious wheelchair on the beach that can be wheeled in the sea. He was the perfect contact to help let Jacob have the swim he so desperately wanted as it had been over a year since he’d been able to have one (because of his Hickman’s line that prevented him from swimming).
Three days after the sailing event Jacob was given another treat. A chance to get wet in the surf using the amphibious wheelchair. This was where he was awarded with his medallions for winning the regatta in the doubles with Lenny. Everything was captured on video and aired on the wintv news. Jacob passed away the very next day, just before the segment aired on television.

In May of this year Lenny surprised us by telling us that Jacob’s name would be on a trophy that will be given out every year to the most inspirational person. His name will live on in the trophy – Sailability NSW – Illawarra Jacob Wieck Memorial, Most Inspirational. We were also given our own trophy to keep – In Memory of Jacob Wieck – Most Inspirational Perpectual Cup in his Honour.

These are what I’d call our moments of positives that has come from our unimaginable loss. I’d like to think I’m as strong and positive as Lenny and Jacob in the face of adversity. Turning these moments into blessings amongst all the sadness and sorrow. The times to make lemonade from the lemons that land on life’s path in the hope that you avoid getting knocked down. I hope there will be many more positive opportunities and memories to be made in our families future that will quench our thirst as we toast Jacob with sweet lemonade, forever being a part in everything we do.