THE SPIRIT OF SYDNEY
Christmas has never been much of an extravanganza for me. My parents, both children of the Great Depression, were fairly anti-materialistic and Mum’s idea of a festive tree didn’t extend much beyond a bowl filled with pine cones indifferently draped with some ratty piece of tinsel. Christmas was always about lazing interminably around with miscellaneous bits of family in non-airconditioned heat and eating more stone fruit than is good for you. Swimming, laughing, sleeping…
And being grateful that life could be so languorous for us. A day or two to waste utterly on just being.
I couldn’t be more grateful this Christmas if I tried. As you probably know, if you’ve been following this blog, I gave my husband Dean one of my kidneys a couple of weeks ago and it’s all been a marvellous success – right out of the text book. So far, so fabulous. It blows my mind that this little piece of me has switched all the lights back on in Dean. The future looks 1000 watts full of amazing. I look at him looking all sparkly with life and I laugh and I cry, tossed about in waves of unnameable emotion.
None of this would be happening without the incredible renal team at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital, their world-class skill and expertise, their extraordinary dedication. My brain can’t quite process the bulk loads of gratitude I feel for these people. I’ve given them cards and presents that seem woefully inadequate in the face of what they have done.
I am stunned by joy and wonder, and it’s a feeling that now sends me directly back into the torpor-induced Christmas gratitude of my childhood. My father used to fling his arms wide in that same joy and wonder, declaiming across the backyard pool: ‘Look at where you live!’
Yes, Dad. We live in one of the most beautiful and peaceful places on earth. A place where kidney transplants can happen for all regardless of who they are or how much money they have, or whether they believe in God or unicorns or the mighty healing power of too many nectarines and cherries.
A place where, even in tragedy, beauty and peace prevail.
Four days ago, in the midst of all the loveliness happening in my life, not far away, in the centre of Sydney, in Martin Place, a random act of ugliness occurred. A gunman – whose name I won’t ever speak or write – took seventeen hostages at the Lindt Café there. Two of them died, Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson; the other fifteen wounded forever. Purportedly, the gunman did it in the name of some religion. But most sensible people seem to have quickly worked out that he did it for no logical reason at all. An unhinged narcissist; a violent misogynist; a hate-filled bolt of lightning that wanted to lash the earth. Scorch this city.
He didn’t succeed. The people of Sydney, caught amid their preparations for Christmas joy and wonder, have obliterated him with the colour and perfume of a million flowers. With compassion and unity. With the very shining best that hearts can do in the face of incomprehensible loss: love.
And I’ve never been so grateful to live here, to be Australian.
Like the father of Tori Johnson, I hope Martin Place overflows with flowers, filling the streets down to the Quay. I hope this joining of hands and minds marks some lasting shift in all of us towards the light. To be the inclusive, multi-coloured, opal-hearted country it seems we really want to be.
Photo: John Donegan, 702 ABC