My father is 74 years old and has become a bit of an internet sensation. And rightly so, for he is currently riding a pushbike from Freemantle, Western Australia to Sydney via Adelaide and the Great Ocean Road in an unsupported ultra road race called the Indian Pacific Wheel Race. A 5,500km odyssey to test even the youngest and fittest bucks.
To give my international friends some context that’s the equivalent of pedaling your way from somewhere offshore in the Bay of Biscal, across France, to somewhere in the Black Sea past Romania – via Bosnia, Macedonia AND Bulgaria. OR, roughly 2000 kilometres more than the Tour de France. He camps on the open arid plains, picks up meat pies for nutrition along the way (and a chocolate milk for the daily halfway mark) and rolls on. You can follow him on Facebook at Back Road Bicycle Adventures. This is my interpretation of one of his many photographs from the ride.
I told a friend about it yesterday and he replied “That’s mental”. After a few moments staring in to space, envisioning the feat, he said, “like fully PROPER mental”. You would probably agree, but I know better. I know he is out there with my sister. She is in his heart and if he closes his eyes she is there next to him. They rode together, she is from where the wild things are. She lives now in the rustle of breeze through trees, the warmth of the sun on your face, mountain views, star filled silent night skies, in streams and in waterfalls. This is why I camp so often, climb hills, splash through lakes and fall into waterfalls. This is why a 74 year old man is riding his bike 5,500km around the bottom of this beautiful land. To have his daughter by his side again, the wind at their back as they ride in to the setting sun. If your daughter’s spirit lived on the open road, and for just a moment, death did not stand between you – wouldn’t you want to be out there too?
It is not mental, it is love.
Despite it all, I still believe in love … or perhaps because of it. I know the depths a human heart is capable of. Somewhere we know it can only ever end in loss. Not one of us gets out alive.
I would prefer to have things worthy of the pain than to shroud myself in the protection of fear – because the hurt is only ever an alternate expression of love that has lost a place to rest, a homelessness of the heart. At the end of my life I would like to be able to say that I loved well, that I loved deeply, despite knowing that ultimately it could only ever lead to pain. That, I suspect, would be a life worth living.
It is a work in progress.
The lights were being tested for new years on the bridge last night and I suddenly felt very sorry to see 2016 go; despite having been the most difficult year I have lived. It is, after all, the year my sister took her last breath and there is something about that which makes me reluctant to see it come to an end.
It is through it that I have reconnected with my family, especially my darling brother who is the only other living person that truly understands my experience of this loss. It is the year that my son did such a fine job of becoming my carer – the only person who knew exactly where to place humour during that devastating week at the hospital and when a hug or silence was the better option. The year I saw what a fine young man he had become and during which my brother-in-law gave me the privilege of witnessing grace in motion.
It is the year that I fully understood that I walk among giants. The friends that carried me with such care, tenderness and humility. Remarkable people to whom I owe an immense debt of gratitude. And a year in which new friends were made who have shown such a gentle patience with the chaos of grief that I have been. I hope to add them to my collection of giants.
These are the gifts that came from this year. The bitter sweetness carves a line of immense gratitude and love across the ball of sadness that still remains firmly lodged in my heart. Á bientot sis.