Summer. Thirty-six degrees centigrade — and the early morning temperature was still rising. Sweltering, mind-numbing conditions. Preparing for departure was befuddling. In the dense clammy humidity we groped for adequate clothing, anticipating that whatever was chosen would soon be damp and clinging uncomfortably. But we persevered. Despite the weather, there was a commitment.
By 11 am a heat haze obscured the sky and the gauge had advanced to above 40 degrees centigrade (above 104F°). At 3.15 pm the searing heat reached a record-breaking 46 degrees (114.8F°). 18 January 2013 was a significant day for many reasons, most of which were yet to reveal themselves. Barry and I were unaware of the fast-forward effect about to transform the peaks and valleys of our lives.
Finally we were in the car and driving through the sultry northern suburbs of Sydney to join the F3 Freeway. Travelling three hours to a family funeral in muggy heat felt like an endurance test, despite air-conditioning in the car. We listened uneasily to state-wide warnings on the radio about heavy traffic congestion and significant delays because of motor accidents in the extremely torrid conditions. Services on almost every rail network were affected. The overloaded electricity grid struggled with supply issues, affected by damaged overhead and overheated power lines.
Sombre announcements included advice to take appropriate measures to avoid heat stroke and to carry water to keep hydrated. Adventurous campers were sensibly advised to shelter and stay out of harm’s way. Bushfire notifications and warnings of sizzling conditions were broadcast. Residents were directed to be vigilant and to be on the lookout for snakes trying to seek refuge in cool places, even in homes: apparently reptiles prefer to hide under cover at about 30 degrees centigrade — any hotter could kill them. (The Chinese year of the snake was about to commence on 4 February 2013. The snake element is said to be mainly fire, so including them in contingency plans was understandably important.)
That summer produced an unprecedented heatwave in terms of duration and intensity, breaking the previous Australian weather record set in 1939. The Chinese astrology prediction was that 2013 would generally be a mix of good and bad fortune. We certainly hadn’t expected the year ahead to be as unpredictable as it turned out to be.
At 11.30 am we arrived at our destination in East Maitland, and joined a large crowd at St Peter’s Church. The clergy gained our great admiration for being fully robed, even wearing white stoles in honour of the deceased: Barry’s cousin Russell had been a stickler for ‘proper attire’, whatever the circumstances. A moving tribute by Russell’s daughter Kate was deeply heartfelt. Her eulogy was engrossing, and sometimes entertaining, so we could almost ignore the stifling heat.
Occasionally the ‘order of service’ was used to wave a wisp of air across a perspiring face. Someone had provided an electric fan in an attempt to cool the choir, although I’m not sure that it was effective judging by their glistening red faces. However, they managed to sing on enthusiastically with our blessing.
After farewelling the coffin and procession of clergy, we adjourned for refreshments provided at the wake next door. We gulped cooling drinks while catching up with Barry’s extended family. Around mid-afternoon we reluctantly left them for the three-hour drive back to Sydney. The temperature had soared to its record-breaking maximum. Meteorologists were forecasting fearsome weather changes, with wild thunderstorms expected to bring a rapid drop in temperature.
Introspection About Our Own Mortality
A funeral sometimes results in introspection about our own mortality. Throughout that irksome journey, we discussed our feelings about life and death. We shared experiences, sorrowful personal losses and our mundane philosophies on death and dying, not expecting it to be any more than a normal reaction to the passing of a family member.
Normally we’d skirt around such discussions. But maybe as we are getting older we need to open the door just a little to peek at the subject. If there were a choice, would we want to stay at home or go to an aged-care facility? Each of us had different needs that would have to be taken into account.
Quietly we agreed to be practical when the time came. Delaying the discussion would likely add strain to family members if practicalities hadn’t been discussed and resolved, potentially leaving them struggling to make decisions on our behalf in difficult circumstances. There was also the possibility of conflict among them about how to navigate that last journey. It was most important, we decided, to focus on living well and passing with dignity.
Half an hour from home we abruptly drove into the precipitous though predicted ‘clearing storm’ of ferocious blinding rain, fierce winds and flying branches. We slowed in low visibility, then halted behind a police car and sodden policemen blocking our way. Hunched against the storm’s force, they hauled away broken branches strewn across the roadway. We watched anxiously as they battled to clear a large branch and other debris, with leaves, twigs and small branches flying all about them. Eventually, they waved us forward and we continued our journey, keeping a sharp lookout for any further hazards.
(A few weeks later I happened to pull up alongside the same police car at a service station, and asked the young driver if he was one of those who had cleared the way for us. ‘Yes,’ he acknowledged. I was pleased to offer sincere thanks for his efforts. ‘All in a day’s work,’ he replied with a grin. They saved us that day and I’m still very grateful. Thanks guys.)
By the time we arrived home, the savage storm had exhausted itself but we couldn’t settle. The temperature was down to 30 degrees centigrade. At dusk we took refuge in our local beach pool — just melting into it, bliss — until the southerly buster wind sprang up. It was so strong we joked about being blown all the way to New Zealand. Fleeing home we consoled ourselves by dipping into creamy crunchy mango with macadamia ice cream — so soothing and temptingly delicious we could barely control impulsive spoon-dipping into the tub.
What a turbulent and curious day. What a bizarre weather event to start a very bewildering year.
A Challenge Requiring An Honest Response
It touches on my own conviction that DIVINE WISDOM can speak, in a penetrating call, to all human beings, in one way or another, offering an assurance that life is not just like a leaf, flown here and there by the wind, but it is a challenge — expecting an honest response. — Revd Peter Baron
Barry had arrived to stay with me in Sydney from his home in northern New South Wales the day before the funeral. Coughing frequently, or trying to subdue a cough, he was spluttering his way through conversations far more than usual. His constant throat clearing and coughing had caused me considerable concern over the years since meeting him nearly thirteen years earlier in the year 2000.
From time to time I had suggested he get medical advice about it, mostly eliciting a defensive response that he was fine. Barry firmly asserted that he had consulted a medical practitioner some time ago and had passed the tests with flying colours, so he was fine. Resolutely and definitely — if not defiantly — fine.
But this time was somehow different. His normal dulcet announcer’s voice was crackling and coarse. His coughing was severely pronounced and he said it felt like something was constantly stuck in his throat. Seeing him cough up a few specks of blood jarred us both. Rather forcefully, I urged him yet again to get medical advice. This time he promised to visit his doctor when he returned home at the end of the month.
Finally he’s going to consult a professional. What a relief. Over the years it’s been difficult to convince Barry to take any course of action unless he wants to and it agrees with his sense of timing. An insightful friend of ours had once nicknamed him the Time Lord because he’s always such a stickler for time. An apt description, especially when added to his personal motto, ‘I did it my way.’
Barry returned to his home over 800 kilometres away at the end of January. Apparently he expected 2013 to be a fairly routine year.
Choosing to Live With Dedicated Awareness
I started pondering the effects of putting things off. Since we normally don’t know when our time is up, how would we feel to discover that our prospects were prematurely limited? It seems to me that when we reflect, make a choice and become decisive, it’s timely to start living with dedicated awareness. Then we can really appreciate who we are and who we are travelling with each day.
Barry had said once that he would have followed his deceased partner Judy to the grave if he could, but had recognised it was not his time to go, even though it was hers. That was when his spiritual journey took a new direction. Now he was about to be tested — and only he could access his own inner core and strength. Only he could decide which form of treatment to accept. Only he could ponder and decide which way to go, after research, consultation with family and his medical team and a lot of meditation. He did that, knowing that whatever he decided, he had the full support and backing of us all. In the past, his family had questioned some of his motives and decisions, but now only he could call the shots.
Barry’s astrology sign is Cancer, the crab. Since he’s an astrologer, we’ve usually spoken about cancer in the context of astrological significance. When faced with its medical version, our knowledge was very limited. Now we were on a steep learning curve. We associated his sun sign with far more benign homely influences. Cancerians can be moody, emotionally caring and protective. They can also have a tendency to want to take control, albeit with good intentions, thinking they know what’s best for others (who may not always agree). So Barry found himself in a place where he really needed to access his own strengths, composure and discipline with self-management in mind.
Barry was having an operation on his throat — cutting a growth from his lingual tonsil — and for a broadcaster this was a big deal, a really big deal. There was a very real fear of not being able to talk on radio again, or even of never working again. No way was Barry ready for retirement. Being able to communicate and express himself is what he is all about. I wondered how he was going to approach such a major hurdle in his life.
But I needn’t have worried. He has a powerful will to live and still has many things on his bucket list.
©2017 by Barry Eaton. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of Rockpool Publishing.
The Joy of Living: Postponing the Afterlife
by Barry Eaton and Anne Morjanoff.
The Joy of Living gives us heart-warming, fascinating and deep insights on the hard road from diagnosis to treatment and eventual survival from throat cancer. Dealing with customary fears surrounding cancer, Barry’s story unfolds with insights from his partner Anne and son Matthew, as they support him through his emotional roller-coaster journey.
About the Authors
Barry Eaton is well known in his native Australia both as a mainstream journalist and broadcaster, and for his Internet radio show RadioOutThere.com. He is a qualified astrologer, medium, and psychic intuitive and the author of “Afterlife – Uncovering the Secrets of Life After Death” and “No Goodbyes – Life Changing Insights From the Other Side” . He gives regular talks and lectures, as well as one-on-one sessions as a psychic intuitive. For more information, visit Barry at http://radiooutthere.com/blog/the-joy-of-living/ and www.barryeaton.com
Anne Morjanoff had a 15-year career in Sydney’s central bank, beginning in communications and moving to the human resources department. Anne developed a passion for number symbolism, using it to re-assure many people of their life conditions and conducting workshops on the power of numbers in everyday life. She now works in the education arena in a casual administrative role.
More excerpts from The Joy of Living: Postponing the Afterlife