August 2, Seven Years

Shelly Beach, Sydney, 2 August 2010


I haven’t blogged much lately for a couple reasons, mostly because we’re working on our new adventure, and I’m in the midst of an intensive writing course.

Today, though, I felt the need to post. Seven years ago, on August 2, 2003, on a Saturday night in a Sydney hospital, my husband Gary took his last breath. I was with him when he died, along with our son and Gary’s older son.

I haven’t written a great deal about Gary on this blog, but he’s a big part of my life and thus a big part of the book I’m working on. I’ve chosen to focus largely about my life with Clive on this blog, with occasional journeys back in time.

There are so many different ways to mark death dates – and birth dates, meeting dates, anniversary dates, other special dates. The way I mark the date of Gary’s death is to spend time at one of the places he loved best in the world, scatter red rose petals, think quietly about him, and thank the God I believe in for the gift of his presence in my life.

The place is Shelly Beach, a few minutes from where we live. It’s where Gary loved to scuba dive with a like-minded group of people who loved the water and the creatures who live in it. I could never bring myself join Gary in that particular endeavour, but I vicariously shared his joy and delight when he returned from his dives and talked about what he’d seen. He framed a picture of a weedy sea dragon, one of his favourite creatures; kept a diver’s log; and checked off what he’d seen in a paperback book of Australian sea creatures. Those personal books containing his writing and lists are among the most treasured remembrances I have of Gary and his love for nature, living creatures, and Australia.

A few days after Gary died, his body was cremated. Along with our son, my stepson, and Gary’s brother, I went to Shelly Beach at sunrise one clear winter morning later that week, and we scattered Gary’s ashes into the sea.  It was what he wanted, and it was, and is, the perfect place for the physical remains – free, out in nature, in the fresh air and great ocean he loved so much. The day we scattered his ashes, we waited for the sun to rise, then my son read a poem written by my mother, and after we scattered Gary’s ashes, we scattered red rose petals into the waves.

On every August 2nd since then, I have taken red roses to Shelly Beach, with my son. Last year, for the first time, my son was in Washington, D.C. and I was here in Sydney. Clive always offers to go with me, but last year, and today, it felt right to go alone. But Clive waited for me at the top of a cliff overlooking the sea, and I felt blessed again, knowing he was there, and that when I was ready to leave, he would be there waiting.

Each year, after I get back home, I put a red rose on each of our desks, in memory of Gary and the love everyone who knew him felt for him. To look at Clive’s desk and see a red rose for Gary fills my heart with a mix of sorrow and joy, which is, I realise, what life is all about.

My Sydney Paris Life

By somewhat of a coincidence, I happened to start this blog on August 2, 2008. I had thought a lot about it, registered the name, and looked through a few photos in anticipation of having something to post.

Two years ago, when I returned home from Shelly Beach, I sat down at my desk and published my first post, though I felt unable (along with first-time blog nervousness) to do more than simply say ‘Welcome‘.  Anyone who’s lost a loved one will tell you the five year mark is, for some reason, hugely significant. The day I posted my first post on this blog was the five-year mark of Gary’s death. I was unable to write about it then, but I did post a photograph of Shelly Beach, and it meant something to me. Two years on, I can write a little more about it.

In one way, it feels disrespectful to Gary, to include anything other than him on a post marking his death date. One August 2nd changed everything, not only for me but for so many others, especially my son and stepson. The other August 2nd is insignificant, a nothing date, in comparison.  The thing is, Gary would understand.  He’d say it’s OK, just post it. So I shall.

I am thankful for Gary, and I am thankful for Clive, my music-loving Brit who made me smile again and offered me another chance at love.

As for this blog, well, it’s just a blog but I love it in its own way. Happy second birthday, little blog. We will be a bit occupied for the next few months but I’ll try to post periodically to keep it up to date.

View from Shelly Beach pathway, Sydney, 2 August 2010

17 Responses

  1. Thank you Carolyn for sharing this; it was very moving – I was in tears as I read and thought of you and all that you must be thinking and reflecting on at what is a another time of change in your life. Memories are to be cherished; Shelly Beach looks wonderful and we are honoured to have been there with you earlier this year even though we didn’t realise the significance of it to you at that time – thank you. Take care and know that you are in our thoughts and prayers as you remember and celebrate both great past and current times. x

  2. What a beautiful post, Carolyn. The subject is moving to begin with but your writing takes it to a place beyond poignant. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

  3. A beautiful post and very very moving . It looks a wonderful place to reflect on life and think of Gary.

    How wonderful that Clive came along and made you smile again Love and be loved ..Who could not smile with Clive around, 🙂

    Thinking of you my friend.. take care.
    Love to you and Clive xox

  4. Happy second birthday, little blog, and to you Carolyn. This was a lovely post, and such a lovely mix of looking back and looking forward. Thanks also for stopping by mine and leaving a comment – so appreciated!
    Hugs from UK and sometimes Seattle.

  5. Hi Carolyn & Clive,
    Iam so very moved that Iam barely able to type .

    Saying Happy birthday to your blog; grateful that you started it and it connected us and all the special friends.
    Then,a prayer for Gary, who I have not had the honor to know but I know is a very special person.

    Keep the good memories close to you,such as going to Shelly beach.

    Hugging you both XXXX

  6. Hi Carolyn,

    I have tears streaming down my eyes and it’s hard to type but I want to say that this post is so beautiful that it really moves one to tears. It’s a beautiful memory to Gary… and I understand when you lose a loved one, it changes your life forever– You spoke of the 5 year mark- it will be 5 years since Mom’s passing this Nov. 30- Not a day goes by that I don’t think think about her and sometimes I just miss her sooo much. So, I can imagine how it feels for you…
    We were all with Mom, too, as she took her final breaths… We were all around her and it was a blessing that we were all there with her- no matter how hard it was to see her go. It’s something I’ll never forget.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us in this post, it’s a really beautiful post and I am thankful that you have found Clive to share your life with you now, as I have found Alex to share mine after Mom’s passing. It does help. But, we will always remember our loved one!

    Peace to you,

  7. Carolyn —

    I’m here a few days after this post, but so glad to have caught it, and finally had a chance to read. I really like Paul’s comment up there. Yes, a moving subject as it is, but your honoring of Gary’s life and also his death is really touching in this post. It is so good to know more of your story as it relates to him, and how Gary’s life and death contributed to where you are now, and how your life is for you in the present time.

    And even though it seems not as significant by comparison, I want to wish you a happy blogiversary. I am so very glad that two years ago you decided to start writing at this blog. Through you, I have met some wonderful people in Paris. I love the way these kinds of links and chained events occur (meaning: your starting a blog, and then our finding one another’s blogs, and so on…), and I am pleased to be a part of your blog posse. I’m so glad that we have met online, and I can’t wait for the day when that is extended to “in person,” too. 🙂

    Thank you for writing so honestly about your life and this anniversary — these anniversaries — in your life. I feel very grateful to have been able to read and know more about Gary and his importance in your life.

    Love to you and Clive.

  8. I’m in tears too. The thought of Clive waiting for you at the top of the cliff somehow did me in. I can’t even imagine how devastating Gary’s loss was, and I am always struck by your ability to keep him close in your heart as you move forward in this crazy thing called life. I am so grateful for Clive and you and your son — and I love that the poem you read as you scattered his ashes was something your *mother* had written.

  9. Thank you all so much for your wonderful comments.

    Fiona, I appreciate your thoughts and prayers and am so glad we got to share Shelly Beach with you and Si.

    Paul, your thoughts about the subject and the writing are very kind – thanks so much.

    Anne, it is indeed a lovely place to reflect, and you’re so right — who could not smile with Clive around 🙂

    Mariellen, greetings! and thanks for visiting – lif’e’s so much about that mix of looking back and looking forward, isn’t it? Cheers to you in Seattle or UK 🙂

    Barb, thanks for your kind wishes, as always, and especially your prayer for Gary. He was so special, to many, not just to me.

    Leesa, I know you understand too – and you have the five-year mark of your mom’s death coming up. We are definitely sooooo lucky to have Clive and Alex 🙂

    Karin, hi! and I too am so glad we’ve met via our blogs — next time in person, I hope! I’m glad we’re all learning more about each other and our lives through this amazing network of bloggers and friends.

    Kim, good to see you!! Yes, Clive waiting at the top of the cliff is a blessing and life really is a crazy thing.

    Cheers to all of you – I feel very lucky to ‘know’ you and appreciate your caring comments.

    Take care.

  10. (((((Syd)))…wink….I somehow forgot we were so close in the dates…8 years on July 31…I didn’t write this year

    Thank you for sharing…somehow the birth of your blog on such a significant date feels very synchronistic….good coming from bad…my Jim was a big believer in that.

    “I am thankful for Gary, and I am thankful for Clive, my music-loving Brit who made me smile again and offered me another chance at love.”

    To this I relate as well…nothing was more unexpected than meeting my Handyman and garnering the gift of finding that my heart could open up and love again. He and I both feel we’ve been given the opportunity to build our second lives upon the foundations of our first.

    So…happy 2nd Blogiversary and ((((hugs)))) for your 8th Remembrance Day.

  11. Josie, how touched I am to see you here and I thank you so much for your wonderful comment.

    I love that your Jim believed in synchronicity – I do, too, and appreciate your thoughts about good coming from bad. We both know about that, don’t we?

    I’m so glad you have your Handyman (love that nickname). You deserve all the happiness in the world, my friend.

    Thanks again for visiting and a biiiiig hug from Sydney xxoo Cheers for now.

  12. Hi Carol,

    I’ve read your lovely post several times. I read it first before I left my parents’ home, and then again since I have been at my home.Before I left my father said that he hoped it wasn’t the last time he would see me, and of course I was surprised. He explained quite seriously that when one gets to his age it is logical to think that way. My mother agreed and both spent time talking about things they want their children and grandchildren to have. I did try to pay attention even though it upset me. Of course both my parents have lived long and productive lives, but it is unsettling to realize how quickly time passes, and how fast things can change.

  13. I am sorry to hear about your husband . It must be difficult for all of you. I hope you do well with your writing class. Good Luck!

  14. Eleanor, thanks for your comment; it’s so true that things can change quickly in this life.

    kelleyn, welcome and thanks for your visit and nice comment. I appreciate the good luck wishes and hope to see you here again.


  15. Congratulations on your blog anniversary. It goes by quicly, doesn’t it? I haven’t had the experience of losing someone I love. I know it must be really difficult and I like the way you remember your husband.

  16. Linda, thanks so much for your comment. I appreciate the blog anniversary wishes (you are a great role model for international bloggers!) and especially your thoughts about remembering loved ones.

    You are so right — it goes by so quickly — too quickly! 🙂

    Cheers and thanks again.

  17. […] kind of person he was and the gifts he gave to the world; about the tradition I’ve developed to scatter red rose petals in his memory each August 2nd – at Shelly Beach in Sydney, his favourite place, or wherever I may […]

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