a camping and grief post
I don't know how to start this one. That happens a lot actually, and is quite often the reason I delay in posting new blogs. Sometimes they're too hard. Sometimes there's too much emotion. Sometimes I just can't be bothered. This one has stumped me with which direction to take. Seeing Duncan's grave for the first time since we buried him is clearly the most important aspect of our post-Christmas camping trip. This is also a camping blog (or was initially meant to be one) so I have to write about that, too, because oh my god what a trip it was.
This will be two separate posts.
We buried Duncan in July. Isn't it sad that I can't remember the date? I suppose it was all a blur - his death, his burial, the funeral, covid, and all the other shit in between. I'll go back and check the date, and then make sure I never forget again.
We haven't been able to return to Nymboida before now because of border closure. During the past 6 months, I've felt anger and frustration that we haven't been able to go there. Anxiety that it had been too long and Duncan deserves to have us there, and constant thoughts that I'm letting him down even though it was completely out of my control. In hindsight however, it was almost a blessing that the borders were closed and I couldn't go. If they'd been open, I'd have been constantly stressed and worried that we weren't visiting soon enough, or regularly enough, and I'm sure I'd have been making the kids do something sooner than they were ready to. The imposed restraint was probably a good thing.
Because of those restrictions, the plan was always to go down over Christmas holidays, providing the borders opened again. We planned a camping trip with Jen, Marty, and Qin, and stayed just outside of Grafton. Other than FaceTime, we haven't seen them since the funeral, either.
Borders opened up Dec 1 or something like that, and I was so relieved that our trip down was able to happen. That was of course until new clusters started again around Christmas and Sydney was declared a hotspot and there were threats of further border closure. Fortunately it only applied to Greater Sydney and regional NSW was exempt.
We got to Grafton on the Sunday, and due to my own stuff up, days were confused, so the Cutlers from Kempsey came the next day.
We all went to see Duncan's grave on Tuesday.
We first stopped in Grafton to grab sandwiches and drinks so we could have lunch out in Nymboida. Anyone with kids knows that regardless how much they eat before going anywhere, they're hungry as soon as you arrive. And Nymboida has nothing, especially since the closure of the Coaching Station.
The drive was as always, beautiful. So green and lush, and huge recovery since the bushfires the previous summer. Its such a cruel irony driving out there. We always loved being in Nymboida when we had the farm, but it was so much work and so poorly timed. All of our holidays were always down to the farm, so we really couldn't go anywhere else. I was studying, so trips away with no internet was impossible for me. Consistent maintenance when we were living in Brisbane and Marty was in Sydney was more stress than any of us could handle. Selling the farm, at the time, was the smartest thing for everyone.
Going out there however, you can't help but wish you had a small farm overlooking the rolling hills. The idea of the peace and solitude (serenity now!) while you watch the inevitable dark storm clouds coming in in the late afternoon is enough to make you sell up in the city and move in a heartbeat. The ultimate treechange. And we had it. My heart aches for the farm and the times we had out there with Duncan, and for the day I forgot about all the stress that was involved in owning the property. I can't imagine how I'd feel though if we still owned it, and Duncan wasn't here. Possibly even more heartbreaking.
We got to the cemetery. First time there since he was buried, first time seeing the headstone in person. Jen had been out before, as had a few of Duncan's other friends that I know of. Possibly more, possibly not. His headstone was beautiful. The gravesite however, had been compromised by huge rainfall and was a bit of a potential disaster. So fortunate to have an insightful and hardworking brother in law, as we all got into it and flatted out the site and filled in washed away dirt that threated the integrity of the headstone. As annoyed as we were about the caretaking of the cemetery, we laughed that the fact that even not here physically, Duncan still had us working when we saw him.
Jen laid flowers she brought. We didn't bring any. We picked wild daisies growing around the cemetery and laid them. Alex had a lovely plate that she made at school in honour of Duncan, and laid it at his headstone. The kids miss him so much.
I could have stayed there forever. Just sitting. It was nice to be with family, and that was probably the only way I was able to make myself leave. Oscar was too sad and didn't want to be there anymore. And as always, kids first when it comes to coping. But if it had just been me, I don't know I could have left. It felt wrong having to say goodbye. Again. Something I'm sure I'll have to get used to but not sure how I ever will.
The rest of the day
We went to the park just down the road after we left the cemetery. Had lunch. And went for a swim in the river.
Well, I didn't. I don't swim in places I can't see my feet. Marty and the kids took the shark and pineapple floaties they had and swam in the Nymboida River. It looked fabulous. He then went and did some jumping with the kids and they were all sore and exhausted after! Such a lovely way to end a sad morning. Uncle Marty. Whether he likes it or not, he's now the single most important male role model in my kids' lives. And for what its worth, he's very deserving of the role, and I'm glad its him.
The Cutlers plan on making it yearly visit in Nymboida. Or Grafton. Or Yamba.
And a family visit if we can swing it mid-year, somewhere warmer than Sydney.
As for the kids and me, now that the borders are open, will visit at least once a year on our own, either camping or for a day or two in a hotel. Either his birthday or anniversary of his death. Saying goodbye each time will always be hard. Its the worst thing to have to say to someone you love.