It’s a pleasure to see Johnny again — and this time, in Australia! We have spent so much time living in community with him in New Zealand that he’s one of our family — a brother to David and me, and an uncle to the girls.

We picked Johnny up from the train station today and brought him home to the shed. Immediately, he was at home, finding his way around the shed and unpacking his food bag onto our shelves.

It’s wonderful to have Johnny stay. The girls love him so much and are completely comfortable in his presence. He has an amazing ability to give children his full attention and relate to them on their own level.

Johnny and Brioni in the shed, July 2012
When Johnny arrives at our home, he and Brioni spend an hour looking together through a book of Australian birds.

Of all the people who have visited us recently, Johnny is the one who has been with us as a family most recently and for the longest amount of time. His presence reawakens bittersweet memories within me of our family times in New Zealand. 

Johnny knew Elijah and saw him as part of our family life over the span of many weeks. When I see Johnny, I can’t help but be reminded of our happy times together in New Zealand — with Elijah.

The depth of my feelings of loss continues to astound me. Whenever I pause in my day, I find myself on the verge of tears. So I set myself tasks — things to fix on the bus, ordinary chores of everyday life, or things to do with the girls. These keep me fixed in the present, because although the past was so happy, it is also too painful to contemplate in contrast to our present circumstances.

The girls have pulled out some of Elijah’s toys, and I have to bite my tongue to stop myself from barking at them. I still feel a sense of loyalty towards him in protecting his things from his boisterous sisters’ games. 

Why do I feel the need to preserve these toys? Who am I saving them for? Wouldn’t it be better to just let the toys be played with and enjoyed in this moment? I know all this and analyse my feelings as they arise, but still, when the girls move on to another activity, I surreptitiously pack Elijah’s toys away again.

Grief is an invisible cloak that rests on my shoulders. I knew my son for such a short time! When I’m greeted with an innocent, “How are you doing?” I wonder what an honest reply would look like. And when friends and family want to take my picture, I wonder if it’s okay to smile, or is that a trivialising of my recent losses? 

There are moments when I permit myself an ounce of self-pity. I find myself under the truck, using a spanner to disconnect batteries to use in the bus, and I mutter, “I’d rather be breastfeeding.” I’m doing things that I always left up to David, learning new mechanical skills and solving problems on my own. It’s a role I must move into but I preferred being the lady who relied on my man.

Aisha alone notices my moments of grief, and I don’t want to burden her at the same time as I don’t want to hide my true emotions from her. Her comfort is priceless, for she has lost two family members as I have, and yet she approaches each new day with enthusiasm and joy.

Our children are so valuable in the lessons they teach me. I can see that they live each day without worries for tomorrow. Somehow there’s always food to eat, clothes to wear, things to do and adventures to participate in. Jesus said that we needed to be like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and it’s to this that I cling as I take our children as my role models and embrace the present. I have no other life except in this moment now, so I may as well inhabit it fully.