‘The beat within’ 

The first sound a foetus and infant hears is their mother’s heartbeat while in utero. As the wiring of the brain makes connections for the ears to hear a song is created. It is a unique song and beat that harmonises the love between mother and her child. This sound is imprinted in the child’s mind. This particular song can be felt and heard again once the child is born. The mother holds them close to the left side of her body near to the heart and rocks them to the unique beat written specially for the two of them. This first sound of a mother’s heartbeat teaches that child to appreciate music. Babies move to music before they have the words to sing, they move their bodies to the beat, clap hands and shake toys and rattles ignited by the first song they hear. 
As we grow up and begin to feel the music within us we are individually drawn to certain styles of music that make us feel more alive. As I entered my 2nd year as a bereaved mother I made a conscious promise to myself that it was going to be a year of trying new things that I’ve never done before. I kept my promise to myself and in March of this year I enrolled in a local African drumming group. I placed my hand on the large djembe and drummed a beat for my son Jacob. The sound I made with my hand on the drum was a heartbeat. A heartbeat that Jacob had once heard. This was what connected us. It was our song – between mother and son. I played the drum loud and proud in the hope he could hear it and feel it through the vibrations of time and space. Animals too have their own unique beat too passed down to them as a way of connecting and communication. Gorilla’s beat their chest and kangaroos stamp their feet on the ground. 

Jacob’s own heartbeat stopped just as a special song had finished playing on the iPod. It was a song that he had introduced me to on the way home from having chemo one day. He said to me ‘mum you’ll like this song.’ I did like the song as I heard it with tears running down my face hidden behind dark sunglasses and I liked the title -‘it’s nice to be alive.’ I talk to him all the time in my mind and out loud and will always long to hear his voice in response. We have to find a different way to communicate and connect now he’s not in the physical world. 
Over the years trauma specialists have recognised that rhythmical music can be beneficial as a way to heal trauma and grief, particularly the studies they have carried out with children. The rhythmical patterns that are played impact the centre of the brain which helps the way humans process trauma. Just this weekend I enrolled in a drum circle facilitators course and met some fantastic people who work with diverse groups within the community like youth, special needs, refugee families and elderly with Alzheimer’s who use rhythmical musical patterns as ways to improve a persons emotional wellbeing (Course was run by Arthur Hull and Ryhthm2Recovery). Maybe that’s the reason why enjoy my drumming each week. I’m allowing my body, heart and soul to heal the hurt of losing Jacob. You don’t even have to be able to read music to play a percussion instrument, you just play to the beat within you, the heartbeat that you played for your child, your song that was written for the two of you. The song that I play will tell you more about me than I ever will. I will find pieces of Jacob in every song I listen to. 
To all those who have lost loved ones I hope you all find the song that’s written for you. Once you’ve found it, hold on to it and play it loud and proud so our loved ones can hear it. It’s ok to tell your heart to beat again. 

‘Play, pause, stop and rewind…’ 

I totally agree with Jason Silva’s wise words ‘I always loved watching movies because I loved what certain moments inside of films did to me.’ Film; it has the power to cross generations, cross language boundaries, and provoke us to deal with issues in our culture and personal belief systems. After experiencing the emotionally traumatic passing of my 20 year old son Jacob watching certain movies that I’ve already seen before tugs even harder at the heart strings. Emotions and feelings lay just beneath the surface just waiting for that emotional trigger to erupt the tears. We all have our favourite genres to watch – comedy, horror, action, Sci-fi, romance, thriller, adventure, documentary, animation, family, film-noir, musical, sport, war, biography, crime, fantasy, history, music, epic, mystery, western and many more that I may have forgotten to mention. Watching movies has the ability to take you away from your current life and existence and offers you an opportunity to switch off and zone out. It can give us a distraction of the mind by watching something that doesn’t require any physical concentration. 

There are four movies in particular that speak to me more now than ever before because of what has happened in my life. I have always loved these movies but they now take on a whole different meaning within the story lines, words spoken and the final scenes. In the movie ‘The Wizard of Oz’ the Tin man meets the Wizard to ask him for a heart. The wise Wizard tells the Tin man ‘you don’t know how lucky you are to not have a heart – hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable.’ The tagline that got the audience intrigued about what the movie ‘Frequency’ starring Dennis Quaid was all about. What if you had the chance to travel back in time and change one event in your life? What would it be? I know what I would change. Another movie which dealt with time travel and changing the past is ‘About time’ – What if every moment in life came with a second chance?’ P. S. I love you is about a young widow who discovers that her late husband has left her 10 messages intended to ease her pain and start a new life. There are many phrases from that movie that sting my face with salty tears ~ We haven’t lost everything, if we haven’t lost our hope. Am I OK? I’m lots of things. I’m lonely, I’m tired, I’m sad. I’m happy, I’m lucky, I’m unlucky. I’m a million different things every day of the week. But I suppose OK is one of them. She felt relieved to have known him, to love him and to be loved by him, and the relief that the last thing he saw was her face smiling down on him, encouraging him and assuring him it was OK to let go. Just from these movies alone I now wish I had an unbreakable heart and I could go back to a time when cancer is only a zodiac sign, so I wouldn’t have to see Jacob suffer and succumb to a horrible disease. 
Our family does have a love of movies with ‘horror’ being our favourite genre. So many memories of us all together watching the latest scary movie together with fingers and covering our faces as we anticipate a fright going to happen in the scene and we’d end up all asleep with the movie replaying the menu screen. Jacob had inherited his dad’s love of movies which inspired his career choice of becoming a cinematographer. You never know what you feel like watching when you get a chance to stop and relax in this busy world of ours. But as I do chose one to watch I can’t help but think ‘what would Jacob like about this movie.’ I’m using his camera now, the very one he created his clever and funny clips on his YouTube channels. You can find his creativity at CobbyFilms and JDScreens. He would have had his name in lights had he had more time on earth. His name proudly scrolls down along the credits from an Australian film he was a camera assistant for called ‘Forbidden grounds.’ He went to the black tie premier party for the release of the movie for Anzac Day and was proud, honoured and a bit crushed that they had spelt his surname wrong. As I use his camera I’m seeing the world through his eyes, the lens of his camera, keeping us connected as he helps guide me to what I capture. 
One of the photographs that accompanies this story about the power of films and the hidden messages within them shows Jacob and Cate Blanchette. Jacob was given a dream from a wonderful Australian charity called ‘Dream2Live4,’ an organisation that grants dreams to adults living with metastatic cancer. He worked on set for 2 days for the movie ‘Truth’ starring Cate, Robert Redford, Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace while they filmed in Sydney. This photo of the two of them can be seen in the movie on Mary Mapes notice board in several scenes. We have the movie on DVD now and pause it when we see it and proudly say ‘found you’ everytime. People have commented that Jacob looked a little bit like Heath Ledger and Jason Segel as he was growing up. We won’t get anymore photos of Jacob just like the world won’t get any more of Heath, but as Jason continues to age and mature over the years in the public eye I may get an idea of what Jacob could have looked like in the future. 
I will leave you with another quote from the movie ‘About time’ ~ No one can ever prepare you for what happens when you have a child. When you see the baby in your arms and you know that it’s your job now. No one can prepare you for the love and the fear. No one can prepare you for the love, people you love, can feel for them. As I listen to the soundtrack from ‘About time’ my favourite song plays from my iPod shuffle ~ ‘How long will I love you’ by Ben Coleman, Jon Boden and Sam Sweeney. How long will I love Jacob? Forver, till we meet again. 

‘Keeping their spirit and memory alive’ 

Since the loss of our beautiful brown eyed boy Jacob, at 20 years of age after a short 13 month battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma, I have made a promise to myself that I live out the rest of my life in ways that would make him proud. I talk about him often and own the bad days and the tears. I am proud of the tears because it means I have loved and lost. When I speak or write about Jacob I don’t do it for sympathy I do it to keep his memory and spirit alive. So how do I live my life in ways to make him proud and how do I keep his spirit and memory alive in everything? I’m still learning how to find ways to do this. No one knows how they are going to handle the grief of losing a child. I’m not sure if I’m doing it right – if there is a wrong or right way. But I just know it’s the right way for me. It is as individual as DNA and a thumbprint and unique to that person. 
How is it possible that it has been nearly two years since I’ve seen his face, held his beautiful hands, kissed his warm forehead, wiped his sweated brow and heard his raspy voice and contagious laugh. The world keeps on turning and life is passing us by without our beautiful brown eyed boy in it. The first year of loss was a blur. It was if I was in a dream with memories of Jacob’s diagnosis and treatment on constant replay in my mind. It’s hard to pull all of those vast memories of his past to the forefront of my mind. I just want my life to go back to the day it was before diagnosis, treatment, grief and loss. I can’t remember what it was like before this time – I was a happily married mum of four adult children. We all lived under one roof in a 3 bedroom house with 2 cats, 2 dogs, a bird and fish. My children were beginning their own journey in life and travelling in the directions of their designated career paths and my husband and I were coming up to that period of our lives of ’empty nesters.’ I am hoping that with time those memories will return and distort the visions and distressing memories that are stuck on replay in my mind. 
I returned to work 3 months into my first year of loss, which included our first Christmas without Jacob. My beautiful workmates let me own my tears with a hug and kind words. I thought being busy would take my mind off the devastating grief I felt inside. There were so many triggers that opened the flood gates of tears – when a particular song came on the radio, when someone asked how I was, when I was shopping in the supermarket thinking about the food he loved, when I looked at photos and family videos and when I saw Facebook updates from his friends enjoying their lives when Jacob’s was cut short. I couldn’t go to church as the hymns made me cry and I was questioning my faith quite a bit at the time. 
I felt the need to talk to others who understood how I felt. I searched online and reached out for others in groups from all over the world. I have found so many beautiful people who I’ve never met before but have since become like family and I look forward to catching up, connecting and sharing stories online. 
Since losing Jacob I have rediscovered my creative side of my brain which gladly needed tweaking and awakening as the feeling of grief and loss tends to leave you pretty numb and unresponsive to finding new things to get you through the day. Some of the creations were created by all the good emotions guided by all the wonderful memories and moments of his life and others were created by the all negativity and sadness that comes hand in hand with grief of losing a child. But the total amount of effort for the all the pieces of artwork regardless of what emotion that was driving force behind the creation was equal. 

We have his memorial bar outside with a plaque on it saying ‘capturing the chaos and creativity in Heaven on film.’ A couple of permanent markers are on the bar so people can write him a message, it’s the one time graffiti is allowed. We ring his bell when we are outside using his bar and will ring it to announce a toast to him as we raise a glass in his honour. I am using Jacob’s camera to capture the world through his eyes, keeping us connected by what I see through the lens of his camera. A banner with Jacob’s beautiful face hangs proudly on the front of a truck at the annual Illawarra Convoy to raise money for Camp Quality, helping children and their families through their cancer journey. Thousands of people line to streets to wave the trucks past along their 70km journey. Never in our scariest nightmare would we ever think that Jacob would become part of the convoy as we watched this event from the side of the road as a family of 6 since it began. 
As the saying goes ‘The most precious jewels you’ll ever have around your neck are the arms of your children.’ I don’t have their arms around me anymore like the quote at the beginning of this paragraph, and I don’t have jewels. But I do have something just like a precious jewel that I wear around my neck and close to my heart. We had some extremely unique and exquisite jewellery made from the titanium rod that was put into Jacob’s leg to replace the space where the tumour was. As I write these words on my iPad I’m tapping away with one hand while the other hand spins the pendant around the cord like the ‘circle of life.’ I’ll hold you in my heart until I can hold you in Heaven. 
Jacob is with us every step we take in this different life we live now. Although he’s not physically here with us anymore, he works his magic to be seen and felt in everything we do and the places we go in our travels. We take his ashes and scatter him in our favourite places on land and oceans. Jacob’s name is permanently on a trophy that is given out each year for the most inspirational person in the disabled sailing club after coming first in a sailing regatta just 4 days before we lost him. 
My daughter gave her brother a wonderful present for his 21st birthday (our first birthday without him) – a life size cut out of Jacob to stand out larger than life. Our warped sense of humour will get us through tough times and we will continue to ‘get Jacob out of his box’ to join us in all family gatherings to come. For our first angelversary of our beautiful brown eyed boy we had a star named after him where we mapped the coordinates in the dark sky eating his favourite pizza surrounded by family and friends. 


What will our family do this year as the date becomes closer on the calendar? In my search to connect to other parents who have lost children I found a beautiful mum on Instagram who creates art for angels that grew their wings too early. Bereaved mothers come forward to her with their children’s names, signs and symbols and special quotes or phrases that were unique to their memory and she then creates a colouring in artwork honouring them. The picture I was given is a really special artwork to colour in and feel him close as I slowly breathe him in as I create with pencils, textas and crayons – in the words of American artist Georgia O’Keeffe ‘I found I could say things with colour and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.’ 
Broken crayons still colour. 

‘Connections’ 

connection: The word connection is good for talking about the way things relate to each other. Your special connection to your cousin might have something to do with your mutual love for science fiction and barbecue.

A connection can be physical, like the leash that provides the connection between you and your German Shepherd, or emotional, like the connection you feel with your best friend. Any kind of direct relation is a connection as well, such as the connection a detective makes between a footprint at a crime scene and a suspect’s favorite pair of shoes. The root is the Latin connexionem, “a binding or joining together.” – taken from vocabulary.com. How do we connect to someone who is no longer with us anymore? 
I still have his iPhone 6 that sits on his memorial shelf along with his straw hat, wallet and other special items that belonged to him. His hands held tightly onto that phone as his life became to end. Even though he wasn’t capable of using it he wanted it to be left with him within reach of his hand as he lay in bed. But I can’t connect it to him now as I could before when he was physically here. I still have all his messenger inboxes and sms texts sent from him on my phone and I’m dreading the day my phone dies as I will lose all those precious moments in time. His last words to me on messenger were – ‘hey can you roll us over’ on the 26th September (11 days before he passed) as the disease had made him a paraplegic and he couldn’t reposition himself in bed. His last phone text message was ‘Oops sorry 😮 😥’ What did he have to be sorry for? I was the one who was unable to fix him. I’d love to listen to his voice mail message again – to hear his voice on the line. His older sister Amy used his phone for awhile before getting a new one. She copied down some of the communications with family members as we knew that when she put in her SIM card in the phone we may lose the content from the phone. I was happy that she was using his phone and he would have liked that too. 

I can still connect to loved ones around me, my husband, Jacob’s older siblings, my family, friends and work colleagues using the hand held device. If only Heaven had a phone. As I browsed online for words that offered comfort in one of my sad moments I came across this anonymous verse – ‘I cannot dial your number, I can’t get through to you. I called the operator, she did all that she could do. There is no code for Heaven, I cannot place the call…there are no numbers left, because I’ve called them all. If Heaven had a phone! I’d call you everyday. If Heaven had a phone! There are things I would like to say! I’d tell you that I love you and that I miss you everyday. But Heaven doesn’t have a phone, and so for now…in our hearts you will always stay.’ 
As Heaven doesn’t have a phone, I have to think of other ways to connect with Jacob. Sometimes I have to think outside the box from using all the ways of connecting with him. Not everyone believes in psychic mediums. I was hesitant to go to one at first. But something beckoned me in to seeing a lovely lady who sat me down and began to tell me things no stranger would ever know, even if they scoured the Internet or Facebook. She revealed information that broke me into flowing tears and turned them into smiles. She even knew precious names that had been picked out for a baby that was too beautiful for earth. She said a young male with a curly mop of brown hair was with me with a ‘J’ sounding name. She gave me a message from him – ‘hi mum, I’ve been waiting a long time for you to come.’ I visited this lady only 4 months after his passing as I was more than a bit sceptical of the whole thing. Hawaii 5 O was mentioned, I explained that we had scattered some of his ashes there but she was adamant that it was more than just the country Hawaii itself and kept adding 5 O after saying it (implying the television series). I covered my mouth with my hand and drew a noisy breathe in as I remembered that Hawaii 5 O was filming an episode at a motel that backed onto Waikiki beach on the day we scattered his ashes and I had said to my husband that Jacob would be in his element with all the fancy equipment of cameras, lights and action as the career path he had chosen to follow was becoming a cinematographer. She said he ‘was’ there with us on that day. I have a recorded copy of the reading as a remembrance. I walked out of there wanting more and I have had the pleasure of seeing 6 different psychic mediums now over the last two years. They have all been highly skilled at their given talent, all having unique way of connecting and communicating the messages from our loved ones.   
The last talented man I saw took a walk through my house and could visualise where things were situated. He took a walk in my family room where Jacob had passed away in and mentioned their was a framed picture on the wall with writing on it. Yes, we had a piece of paper in a frame which was a letter Jacob had written to his future self. He pointed out that there was also a framed piece of clothing. This was a caricature of Jacob painted on his t-shirt on our last family holiday in Hawaii. The man asked who the painter and decorator was – he was talking about my husband who had recently ripped up the carpet in bedrooms upstairs and polished the floorboards underneath and he said that Jacob approved of his bed being used again by his brother although in a different room. There were so many more beautiful verifications that he was still here with us all. He knew that a particular photo that was placed on his coffin at his funeral had been used many times. This photo was used on the front cover of my book titled ‘strong words from a wieckling’ in which 58 copies have been printed. 

I will continue to connect with Jacob through my periodic fix from a psychic medium just as I communicate to his dad and siblings and family and friends with conversations, with hugs, with body language, with the wink of an eye and an ever burning love in my heart. Oh how I wish I could connect like that in the personal space again with Jacob. I will continue to find all the beautiful ways to feel him near. In each sunrise, sunset, rainbow after a storm, the appearance of a feather, pennies from Heaven, butterflies and dragonflies, shells washing up on the shore, songs that play on the radio, in things that are ‘orange’ my new happy colour, using his camera and seeing the world through his eyes. 
I will finish on a slightly humorous note (Jacob had a wicked, dry sense of humour) Why did the medium cross the road? To talk to the other side. Just as Adele’s song belted through the iPod shuffle on the eve of his 21st birthday, our first one without him. ‘Hello from the other side’ sang out just as the clock hands ticked over for his 21st birthday. Thanks for the continuing signs JCW love mum x 

‘Pause’ 

Week 46: ‘Pause’ 
When I first saw this weeks photographic word prompt ‘pause’ I immediately thought of time. This photo was taken at Sydney airport, this time at the departure lounge. The photo isn’t that great and I’m sure my mobile phone could have taken better. The one I tried to capture kept getting light reflections off it and was too blurry. This one was the only one that looked just okay. Maybe my mood had a lot to do with the taking of crappy photos, for I was sad to be saying goodbye to family. You see if I could pause time the lovely holiday shared with my UK relatives wouldn’t be so short as it was only just two weeks ago I shared the photo at their arrival. We’d pause the best bits of their holiday to take one more photo in order to capture everything that happened and the time to say goodbye would come much later. 

Oh how many times would I have loved to ‘pause’ time. There are way too many moments in life worth pausing. If I did pause life for all those precious moments time we spend with each other on earth would be longer. I’d pause the moments of my children’s birth. I’d pause that wonderful moment when I met them for the very first time. I’d pause time at all those developmental milestones – first solids, first smile, first tooth, first words, first steps, first time riding a bike without training wheels, first day of school…I’d want to pause them growing up just so we have longer time with Jacob before having to say goodbye. Twenty years was not enough.

I’d pause the moment that I first met my children’s father, our first kiss on the hill of Bong Bong Picnic races, our wedding, our relationship that created our beautiful children. I’m sure there will be many more moments yet to come that I’ll seek out the pause button of time – when my children get engaged, buy a house, get married, have children and I become a grandparent. It wouldn’t be fair if we just paused time on just the most happiest days. We may learn the hard lessons in life differently if we had more time and could pause it. Even though I know the outcome of what happened on October 7th 2015, if I could pause time I would get more opportunities to say all those extra things I could have said but didn’t. I’ll always wish I had of said this and said that to him before he took his last breath. But I’m sure he knew what was in my heart if the words never passed my mouth. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if could use these buttons in life – PLAY the moments, PAUSE the memories, STOP the pain and REWIND the happiness. 

‘Treasure’

Week 45: ‘treasure’

I’m not one for speaking out loud and making speeches. My words form better in writing. I get nervous when I have to speak and the words come out way to fast and people comment that they can’t understand me. Although I can play the part of a character in our local theatre pantomime. Maybe this is because I’m playing a part and not being myself. I remember when my son Ben (this handsome lad with me in this particular photo prompt was at his recent PE teaching graduation at university) was graduating year 12 at high school his friend who was school captain delivered a very motivating and fantastic speech that has stuck in my mind for many years. He quoted a few words from the Disney movie ‘Treasure Planet.’ 

The young man from Ben’s school reached out to the audience confidently, highlighting to the student the journey they soon would be on leaving high school and finding out who they are and where they wanted to be when they left school – ‘and I want a moment to be real, wanna touch things I don’t feel, wanna hold on and feel I belong’ and ‘they can’t tell me who to be, ’cause I’m not what they see. And the world is still sleeping while I keep on dreaming for me…’ 
‘Now you listen to me, James Hawkins. You got the makings of greatness in you, but you got to take the helm and chart your own course, stick to it, no matter the squalls! And when the time comes you get the chance to really test the cut of your sails, and show what you are made of….well, I hope I’m there, catching some of the light coming off you that day.’ I did catch some of that light coming off my children as they ventured into the wide world outside of the comforts of school. Amy has followed my footsteps and is an Early Childhood Teacher, Rachel is a chef/event manager at a local winery, Ben is teaching at one of our local Catholic High School and Jacob was well on the way of becoming a cinemaphotographer. As a proud mum I would say these words from the film – ‘look at you, glowing like a solar fire, you’re something special Jim. You’re gonna rattle the stars, you are!’ All my children glow a bright light – on the outside and from within, with Jacob shining bright from the dark sky at night, guiding us all along our journey in life. As we look into the stars at night we feel him there – 
‘and I feel you now, 

I’m not alone 

I always know 

I’ll always know where you are  
And when I see myself 

I’ll always know where you are 

And when I feel the sun 

I’ll always know where you are’ 
These are the words from a song from Treasure Planet called ‘Always know where you are.’ We’ll always know where you are Jacob and you’ll always be with us 💕

‘Connections’ 

Week 44: down the road 
This particular walk down the road (and a long drive) led us to our local international airport. We set our alarms to wake up before the dawn to drive to greet our relatives that had endured a long flight from the UK. The sky was dark as we made our way up the highway. My girls drove off in one car and my sister’s car followed with my mum and myself comfortably seated and ready for a noisy trip of chatting to one another (as if we hadn’t talked to each other for a lifetime) after all we were all excited to see my Aunty and her son and his partner. Two weeks is not long enough for a holiday across the world, a holiday to spend quality time with family you haven’t seen in forever. It never really matters that the time past between visits, we pick up where we left off. 

Once we got to the airport we met up with my girls as we’d parked in different carparks and made our way to terminal 1 – arrivals A. We had our own scene from the famous movie – ‘Love actually’ with hugs and happy tears as we spotted them walking down the ramp to the entry space. My daughter Rach had offered to go to the bathroom with my mum ( who can’t seem to manage a cup of coffee without saying ‘she’s busting’ only 1/2 an hour after consuming it, plus her sense of direction is woeful and we laugh about that – so if she went to the bathroom by herself we’d have to send out a search party to get her back) so they missed the arrival by 2 mins. 
It was turning into a beautiful crisp summer morning as we made our way to our cars. As it was early we decided to show off our beautiful Sydney coastline with a bite to eat at Coogee beach. We ate breakfast in style with a beach view back drop as we dined on our yummy delights – nothing beats a poached egg with smashed avo and lime on sour dough to start the day. Once we were full of food and catching up conversations we headed on a 2 hour journey home with our visitors. 

Visiting the airport is either happy or sad. Happy at arrivals and sad at departures. That’s just the way life is. You can’t have one without the other. We’ve had more than our fair share of sad since the passing of our beautiful brown eyed boy Jacob, but we are trying hard to continue to see the happiness that life can still bring our way as we live it in ways that would make him proud, honouring him in everything we do. I’d like to think that Jacob is just travelling to all the places he’d wished to have visited in his lifetime had it not been cut short. I’d like to imagine that I’ve just dropped him off at the airport to await a fantastic trip, give him a big bear hug and kiss and wish him well on his way as any proud mum would as they send their kids off by themselves for the first time. 

Quoting Ellen DeGeneres wise words about roads….seemed to fit with what I have written in the paragraphs above – ‘You just have to keep driving down the road. It’s going to bend and curve and you’ll speed up and slow down, but the road keeps going.’