What I Learned From Almost Losing A Parent Last Week

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I swear the universe went all Ashton Kutcher on me and punk’d my ass this month.

Life, since launching my copywriting business, has got a little bit hectic. It’s not overwhelming (I did after all choose everything that is on my plate) but nevertheless it is busier and does take a bit of juggling.

From the get-go I knew that the only way this balancing act was going to work was if I learned to embrace a new way of running my life. Namely; I had to be organised. Actually, I had to be rigidly organised about all aspects of my schedule.

Let it be known that, historically speaking, I have not been known for my organisational aptitude. Sure, I am driven and always get a lot done, however “achieving” can be a messy and wild process for me and the people I share my life with. It is somewhat reminiscent of the movie Twister; although sadly there aren’t as many flying cows.You can never have too many flying cows.

Basically, Old Em had to adapt. If I was going to manage my life, home, business and enjoy it – I had to learn to embrace rigid routine. When I say ‘rigid routine’ I don’t mean in a stuffy way, it would reduce the stress associated with disorganisation and make room for a whole lot more fun.  One of my all-time favorite quotes from Danielle Laporte is;

If liberation is a chore, it’s not really liberation.
You can’t contract your way to freedom.
You can’t punish your way to joy.
You can’t fight your way to inner peace.
The journey has to feel the way you want the destination to feel.

I wanted my life to feel successful, focused and like I had my sh*t together. Which meant my processes needed to be simpler than they were at the time.

This desired package of feelings launched me into inspired action. I was like Martha Stewart on amphetamines. Charts were made. Posters with a set of rules about boundaries were written. Pantries were organised, as were linen cupboards. A fitness routine, organising the laundry room, my desk… The works. I was going to eat all clean. Get all early nights. Have a break from alcohol.

Then I publicly declared this new found discipline in my newsletter promising some specific expectations that you could have of me: a weekly newsletter (every Wednesday), two blog posts a week etc. I was going to be consistent and rock solid.

Apparently, the universe had other plans.  

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Last Tuesday. A typical morning. My hubby, Mark, was talking about a big meeting. I asked if he had time to meet for our Tuesday coffee? Nup – too busy today. I cockily told him how many projects I was going to finish, “come hell-or-high-water”. Lucy was pinging around with her standard 8am energy level (Hummingbird With Tourettes Mode; Engaged).

My husbands phone rang.

His little brother Jack.

This was not out of the ordinary but as soon as I looked at that little phone, vibrating pathetically across the dresser, I felt like the air had been physically extracted from me.

It was the proverbial sick feeling in my stomach reserved strictly for life’s yuckiest moments.

My intuition was validated when, on picking up the phone, I was met with a protracted pause and then finally a little bro that was struggling to get words out.

Heart sank.

“Jack! Is everything okay?”

I am not going to go into the details of what happened – everyone in our family (especially Jack, the hero) has had to relive them far more times than we would have wanted, whether to puzzled doctors or concerned loved ones.

I will just say that my mother-in-law, Louise, was found at home in a very bad way. She had been transferred by ambulance to the emergency ward and now lay in a coma in ICU.

No pre-existing conditions. No explanation. No f*cking idea what the diagnosis was let alone the prognosis.


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Immediately my husband called and cancelled his meeting. I emailed the same to my clients. Mark got to the hospital. I was tasked with calling the nearest and dearest. Mark and Jack waited.

I packed our bags so we could move into the family home for Jack – a decision that Mark and I silently made when the call came. And then I cleaned. Oh lordy did I clean. I even cleaned the dusty bit behind the toilet. Insert gasp.

That afternoon, with still absolutely no idea what had happened and (more importantly) what was going to happen, my little family moved an hour across town to the family home.

To grab another cliche – the week is honestly a blur.

We cooked and cleaned and laughed and drunk and cried.

On the somber first night we all felt an unspoken warmth at how quickly and seamlessly the family had banded together. The melancholy was even disrupted when I (jokingly) suggested that Louise was probably having cake with a friend right now; this was all just an elaborate ploy to realise her dream of having the entire family living in what she had described as ‘one great big family home’ but what I would more term a ‘commune’.

Brothers returned from overseas. Nomadic uncles appeared out of thin air and lifted everyone’s mood.

And boy do weeks like this invariably contain the whole gamut of human emotions!

There was the underlying tension that comes with uncertainty and it was accompanied by a very insecure sliver of hope, shifting from foot to foot like a tongue-tied teenager.

Then the joy when we were told her eyes are open. The relief when we visited her – still virtually in a coma, barely conscious – and I joked about aforementioned nomadic uncle and saw one eyebrow raise in the ultimate Louise-ism. She’s still there, we thought.

The guilt of wondering how we could have prevented it – being softer or firmer? Pushing or pulling more? Who knows.

And of course, the gratitude in having the people you love around.

I am happy to say that after a week in hospital my mother-in-law has made (let me throw in another cliche here) a miraculous recovery. She arrived home yesterday and can now begin the process of repairing (physically and emotionally).

Needless to say, there was no blogging last week. My pressing deadlines were either pushed back or refunded. No newsletter fitting into no schedule. Alcohol? Every night.. Instead of eating clean, we just ate what was easy and near. Late nights were a given.

But… I felt successful. I felt focused. I felt like I had my sh*t together. All those things I was trying to checkmate into my life with a rigid schedule and rules, appeared at a moment where all concepts of time were obliterated and rules simply ceased to apply.

I loved that in a moment where as a couple we were facing our worst nightmare – the prospect of losing a parent – we were successful, focused and together enough to look after our family and just get through it, turning tragedy into triumph by means of human connection and hope.

What we want for ourselves we already are – it is already within us. Sure, I can be forgetful and have unconventional processes and live messily but I am and have always been – in my own special way – successful and focused with my sh*t together.

In reference to Danielle’s quote, my journey definitely feels the way I want the destination to… even with a rather unfortunate detour like last week.

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