Saturday, 2 June 2012

Of death and memories, both beautiful and sad.

What is the longest amount of time you've procrastinated for? I know I'm not alone in putting things off, but there comes a time when a potentially unpleasant or possibly daunting task needs to be tackled. It's time to dip into one task I've been avoiding for over 10 years.

Going through my mother's diaries.

She'd suggested I do it long before she died, but I knew it'd be awkward and perhaps I'd learn things about my mother and family I didn't really want to know. So I didn't; simple as that, and the boxes have been "stored" inefficiently and exposed to the nesting instincts of birds in the airy carport.

I didn't expect to find a desiccated baby bird when I got the boxes down.
Although she suffered dreadfully with arthritis and bitterly cold hands, my mother was a prolific writer. Any time other than on the hottest of days (above 35 degrees C) her fingers would be white with cold and the pain was clearly difficult to mask. The result is that her writing is often crabbed and blotched, and sometimes, with the best will in the world, all my squinting and turning the page to different angles doesn't help with a particular word.

Mostly, however, her writing is vivid, insightful and interesting. She discusses world news, politics, science, her spirituality and religion, and of course her family. Last night the hours melted away as I relived January to May 1992. Twenty years ago when my children were young and my mother babysat them fondly and frequently - sometimes so I could simply have a cup of tea or shop without "help". I felt nestled in a cocoon of the deepest, richest unconditional love imaginable.

There were however, darker entries. Of relatives who'd been seduced by the silver tongued poison of a cult leader, unexpectedly leaving children to fend for themselves (in hindsight, thankfully left behind with a flippant "They'll cope"). Reminders of the vicious, cruel, acrimonious attacks on the innocent by those who felt superior and special. Memories of sorrows, rifts, confusion and grief.*

I know this could be a turbulent voyage which will no doubt take some months, and I expect a skeleton or two might drop from a previously hidden cupboard - although I hope there will be no more birds! I think perhaps I was waiting for was a decent amount of time to pass before delving into my mother's private world.

What would you do, read your mother's diaries and discover some skeletons or .... ?

* Link to Anne Hamilton-Byrne & the sect The Family here and here, and Raynor Johnson, one man who enthusiastically promoted the sect here. Link to a book about The Family "Unseen Unheard Unknown" here.

Given the obsessive secrecy surrounding cults such as this one,  it's possible there are links to this group with the same name: here and here . The goal of both was/is to recruit similar kinds of people around the world and manipulate policy at as many levels as possible to further their selfish aims.

There are a number of books about cults and the cruelty they inflict. Link to Not Without My Sister  here.

(I've used the term sect and cult interchangeably even though technically there is a difference)

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Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue .. how interesting .. I do hope you haven't lost too much with the scattergun approach to storage! Dessicated bird - what a find ..

Interesting post - I don't have diaries from my mother - she sorted her own things out .. which leave some unanswered questions .. but wisdom can logically fill some gaps. Then ...

The thing that drew my thoughts was the time element .. I'm sure you're right about leaving sufficient time after her death - but I was thinking ... we need the right time and the right amount of space ahead to be able to cope and deal with whatever arises ... it's not something one skates over.

In fact - I do have a box from my mother's first husband (who was killed) .. my mother had seen it and returned the contents to her nephew - who has now kindly returned it to me .. with the words you will cry. So it stays shut while she is alive and until I have time and space to deal with it ...

The sects etc are just dreadful .. we've just had a tv programme on 5,000 Moonies getting married with a Korean ancient (90s I think)leader. I certainly didn't watch ... The question is should we have programmes about them .. or not.

I do hope your mother's diaries are enlightening - if she wanted you to go through them when she was alive - perhaps all is well and happy (in general) ...

I think if I knew my history to a point - any other skeletons would be 'interesting' as long as I was mentally over her death ...

Let us know - cheers Hilary

jabblog said...

I wish my mother had written diaries. After my father died I encouraged her to write about her life, thinking it would occupy her thoughts for some time and she would gain some comfort from it. She finished it in a couple of weeks!
I have no personal experience of sects or cults. I believe they are generally destructive and amoral.

Sue said...

Hilary, thankyou so much for your visit and comments. i'll only reply briefly here. I believe it's extremely important to shed light on sects, they do so much damage that lives on way beyond the life of those who were involved. I would find it very difficult to watch a programme though.

Next in the series of diaries: I've just emerged from an hour of incredible family history.

My mother's great grandparents had sailed out to Melbourne around 1855 when aboriginal groups lived close by. There's a bit of information about that, but her great grandfather died over here and the rest of the family returned to England. I'd sometimes wondered if I'd dreamed it, but it's there!

Waiting is definitely the way to go. And 10 years feels right for me. As I've mentioned before, both my parents were hoarders in one way or another, and it took years to work though a lot of their things, but this is worth taking slowly so I can digest the information. A lot of it isn't happy, but is like putting a complex puzzle together and seeing the picture more clearly.

Enjoy your weekend!


Sue said...

jabblog (Janice?) I don't keep a diary, and I can now see the benefit for those who come after. This is really shedding so much light on my personal history and it is different to what I'd known previously! There are however many kilogrammes of writing to decipher so it's going to be a huge job.

As for cults being deceptive and amoral - I couldn't agree more.

Have a lovely weekend.


Boonie S said...

Fascinating stuff.
Thanks for sharing.

All the best, Boonie

Sue said...

Boonie! Is it really you? You're back :)

Boonie S said...

Hello Sue

Yes it is really me, I think. But I'm only half back - spending too much time planting veggies.
Hope you're well and that all is well in Auswegia.

Have a nice day from
Big, Beautiful, Bodacious Boonie &
The Wonderful Mrs S

Sue said...

That's great Mr B, B, B, Boonie and The Wonderful Mrs S ! I'm so glad you think it's you ;) but even more pleased you're back!

I couldn't see any contact details for you and last time I tried to access your blog I couldn't get in to it to write you a note. I was concerned that you may have been caught up in the floods or other difficulties you've had over there. It's been a very challenging time for your country and citizens, and no doubt many are still recovering.

It's great to know you and Mrs S are around again, and even if you don't have time to share your gardening and other adventures in your blog, please drop by again to say hi!

your little Auswegian mate

Is it possible to spend too much time planting veggies?

Anonymous said...

I wish my Mom had kept would help to know a little more about her life and thoughts.

Sue said...

Delores, I feel so privileged to be reading mum's diaries., and I just need to remember to take it slowly and appreciate the effort she put into her writing.

David Macaulay said...

this is a really interesting post Sue - we have a lot of belongings to sort through in the garage but keep putting it off.

David Macaulay said...

this is a really interesting post Sue - we have a lot of belongings to sort through in the garage but keep putting it off.

Deborah said...

Amazing timing of this piece Sue. I spent the afternoon with my mum. She was showing me an album of old photos and family stories that she is creating. She has already written her 'life story' for us and she is a beautiful writer. However today I felt a slight sense of urgency in her, a real need to get the album task finished....that sense of urgency both saddened and frightened me........

Shannon Lawrence said...

eee-ew at the bird! Not a pleasant surprise. I think, since she wanted you to read them, that I would. Like you, I may have put time between, though. Really, hitting a certain point in adulthood has taught me things I didn't want to know about various family members, and that has been rough, but I'm betting there are an equal number of good things to be discovered. Good luck with your journey.

Sue said...

David, you've got something to look forward to ;-)
I've learnt to have the recycle bin next to me as well as bags for things to go to the op shop.

Deborah, Yes, that sense of urgency and the knowledge that time passes all too quickly. How wonderful that your mother is putting it down - your will really appreciate it and the love she's expressing by devoting time to it.

I'm discovering so much, some I'd in a sense rather not know, but some events begin to make more sense now. I'm finding it's good to be alone so I can digest some of the more challenging discoveries.

Shannon, the bird was an unexpected find! but at least you know where you stand with a dead bird. I think one of the next challenges I face is asking relatives if they want me to share some of the information...and of course not letting it slip at some future date if they say no.

Talli Roland said...

Wow, what a question. I'm really not sure. I think curiosity would get the better of me.

Golden Eagle said...

I think I would read my mother's diaries--if with some trepidation. Though she doesn't write in them at the moment.

Mitch said...

Wow, how freaky that has to be, while illuminating at the same time. Actually, no one in my family except me has ever kept a journal of any kind, and I'm thinking of deleting all my files because frankly I'm not sure I want anyone ever seeing any of that stuff. This has to be quite emotional for you; lots of guts to do it.

Sue said...

Talli, it can be somewhat confronting, and there are certainly some unexpected discoveries. On the whole I'm glad I'm doing it.

Golden Eagle, I wonder why your mother has stopped writing? It's such a good outlet. I'm glad I've chosen to read them ... mostly.

Mitch, yes, it is quite emotional, even at this distance. There are some things I'm not sure others in my family would like me to know so it's a huge responsibility as well, which I hadn't thought about when I started reading. I made a conscious decision years ago not to keep a diary for the same reason you mention - and yet I'm so touched by what my mother has written so I'm beginning to wonder if I'm being selfish.

Boonie S said...

Hello again Our Little Auswegian Mate

Thanks for your warm welcome.
You’re right to question - it is indeed not possible to spend too much time planting veggies. Such activities are a kind of meditation you know, although arguably so too is much of life.
boonsongsomboonatgmaildotcom in case you ever need to or want to know.
It’s always nice to contact you. Thanks for your concern. We’re better than fine and wish at least the same for you.

All the best
BBBB and The Boss