Canberra changes at a glacial pace, compared to Singapore. In the two weeks since we returned, I’ve noticed a handful of tiny changes. The leather bench facing the indoor playground at Gungahlin now has cracks and a large hole in it. Belconnen Mall now charges extra for using your credit card to pay for parking. We have new next-door neighbours, and two-doors-down-from-us neighbours. Babar’s has changed its menu. FCUK seems to have closed down. David Jones is renovating.

Still, compared to Singapore, Canberra moves at a glacial pace.

The changes are not earth-shattering enough. There is no ripple. Time has stood still, and yet marched on without ceremony. It’s too normal, but it can’t be.

That three seconds between sleeping and waking? I spent three mornings in those limbo moments reminding myself to text my mother and let her know we’ve arrived home safe. And then the realisation hits that I can’t, because she’s dead. And also, her phone is sitting on our kitchen bench, because she is dead and I have her phone now. And then I’m truly awake, and my breathing changes for good.

There is a weight on my chest. It’s like imaginary emphysema, where all I can manage sometimes are shallow gasps because the rest of my energy is spent suppressing strong emotions and memories.

A friend recently told me how she and her family derive much comfort from symbolism. It’s like an after-death Hello. People close to me have spoken of dreams, of smells, of meaningful coincidence or synchronicity. It could be kind of animal, a number, a date, a dream.

But I struggle to dream of her. Or encounter anything symbolic or meaningful. I long to have a dream where she tells me she’s doing fabulously well. I long to have a dream of her at all. I wonder if all my daytime suppression has stupefied any sensitivity to her spirit. Because I don’t feel her near me. She seems very far away. It feels like she’s taken the world’s longest holiday cruise and is incommunicado for the rest of my lifetime. I miss her dreadfully.

Penny K and I talked about getting emotionally ambushed at times. It’s one thing when you’re preparing for Sunday worship or Mother’s group and you know you’re going to get lots of hugs and love about The Death. You steel yourself. You put armour around your heart, plate by plate. And then you venture in, and you come out the other side seemingly unscathed and upbeat. And you are, because the armour is on and you had braced yourself for each loving, emotional blow.

But it’s when you don’t expect things to hit you, that they hit hardest. A chat about pain. An old packet of tissues. A familiar turn of phrase. Dirty dishes. The trigger goes off so I’m scampering around in my mind, trying to shut down the leak. I have had moments where I am willfully suppressing memories so my mind is almost a blank, while treacherous tears are streaming down my face. The heart can definitely be divorced from the head. Your body can grieve even when your mind will not.

Today’s trigger was a song I had never heard before.

In all of this death business, I am struggling to be at peace with my God. I struggle to remain convinced that God is good ALL the time. That He is there in the hurting as a comforter, even though He might have allowed it in the first place. That He can allow it because He is God.

I want to be at peace with my God. I just don’t know how, because I am deeply wounded and it smarts and it aches, and the tears are always pricking the surface. Always. And then this song comes out from nowhere and reads like my subconscious.

God in my hoping
There in my dreaming
God in my watching
God in my waiting
God in my laughing
There in my weeping
God in my hurting
God in my healing

Be my everything
Be my everything
Be my everything
Be my everything


And I basically wept while driving the entire length of Northbourne Avenue, even though I had schooled my mind into a safe-driving blank. Because my body can grieve even when my mind will not.