Mama Mayhem

If you, like me, thought you had problems; think again

By Riverine Herald

JUST when you think your problems are getting a little out of hand, along comes something to remind you whatever your load, someone, somewhere, is carrying one much heavier.

Parts of my job can be downright depressing; things such as the work I have been doing in recent years covering domestic violence.

But that is work which must, and will, go on.

However, there are also moments that shake you out of your routine, wake you up, as some of my colleagues would suggest, so you can smell the coffee.

Although I have never worked out how you can smell the coffee unless you do wake up, and in my case mostly make your own, I did go through something akin to a wake up in the morning chill and darkness on Thursday.

Anzac Day.

As the working journalist at Moama’s Dawn Service you get an immediate entrée to the people you need to interview, photograph and assess for stories online immediately and the next day in depth in the paper.

On reflection I only had a fleeting contact with several people but every one of them left an indelible impression.

Two were Vietnam veterans. Both have had lifechanging struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder. And continue to grapple with it whenever it emerges from the shadows of their memories.

They were honest and open in telling me what it was like, what it does to them and the ripple effect on those near and dear to them.

As detailed as their answers were, it is all but impossible for me to fully grasp what they have endured; but almost 50 years down the track from their days on the frontline it still brought one of them to tears while the other went very misty eyed but held it together.

As a mother, though, what did resonate with me were the others with whom I had conversations.

Two had sent sons to war and never saw them alive again.

One had lost her husband to war – not at the hands of the enemy but by his own hand.

Whatever personal price he had paid, whatever horrific memories he brought home with him, were never really comprehended by his wife and children; were never really discussed by him.

But they left his widow and two children to make their own way in the world.

The load he may have thought he had put down is now a load of despair and guilt those three have picked up and, like their father and husband, they have no idea where and how to put it down.

It is a vicious cycle; in many ways not unlike the vicious cycle of domestic violence I have reported at length in the columns of this journal.

While my heart ached for the Vietnam veterans I met, it truly started to break talking to these three women.

In the end we were all sharing tears; loss of this magnitude is something that hurts us all; but as mothers we create life and give it breath.

To then have that life torn from our future is a pain only understood by women. This is not meant to diminish the grief, loss and pain fathers, brothers and sons also feel, but unless you truly create life I wonder if you can truly understand the full impact of its loss.

In recent months I have taken readers through the chaos of my life as a working mum, as a single mum and as a somewhat disorganised individual lurching from crisis to calamity.

But I have never endured anything like the tragedies of these women – and they were just three of many. Across the river at Echuca’s service there would have been many more.

Try and do the arithmetic if we stretch that to mothers around the world.

They are women I salute.