~ and the 'Power of Intent' ~
I’ve been involved with a number of people at the end of their life and each experience reinforced how important it is to live each moment. That was the basis for what I did with Dot.
One of those earlier experiences which taught me so much was my uncle who in 2007 despite many treatments for cancer was terminal. He showed me dynamism despite his acute symptoms. He’d still walk to the hospital and in between chemo treatments .. travel by train to stay with his 100 yo Mum in the outback.
I also sat with him at the hospital waiting for many appts .. and experiencing the impersonalisation of patients simply by that process of waiting rooms, blank walls, doctors who were new each time and didn’t know the person, lengthy delays reading old magazines or just looking around ..
It was draining to witness someone with limited life left having to spend it in such a mechanical, uninspiring manner .. one of the first things I suggested was that he try listening to a particular radio station. Sunshine Radio 104.9 on the Sunshine Coast in Qld, Australia. He said he was happy to listen to the one he already did but one day he tried it and that changed his whole outlook on every day. The station played many, many older songs from the years when he grew up .. and also many, many uplifting, happy songs.
Whenever I came to his front door, he would be like someone who had just received what they had wanted for Christmas .. he couldn’t wait to incredulously tell me what familiar song or songs he had heard ! It lifted his whole spirit. As he was on the third floor in brick units, the radio reception for that station wasn’t really clear so he went out and bought a specific radio that would get it and set up a special antenna. I don’t remember the name of the song but he was absolutely over the moon when he heard his one all-time favourite song from the 1940’s. Music has qualities of healing that you can never quantify. The happiness & joy from upbeat music is priceless. It also invokes memories of fun times when younger. It was a total distraction from his symptoms.
He had a last request and that was to find out about his Danish ancestry .. which had remained a mystery to every descendant of the Dane. I’d looked for 30 years so was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to grant his last request ..
I immediately began a committed search .. I wrote many emails to anyone who even had one word matching my criteria online, bearing in mind they speak Danish and I, English. I even wrote to carparks (because they were on the corner of a particular street), seed distribution companies, churches anyone .. I wrote in English and they responded in varying levels of English fluency.
That’s when I became privileged to witness the power of intent. If you want to achieve something and it is for the good of someone, miracles occur. I had many strangers in Denmark & Germany so eager to grant his last request, I was truly humbled. They were running around doing research over there for me. I would also laboriously go though through online records (in Danish) with Danish translator programmes from the net; reading original handwritten church records etc .. searching Danish Google & German Google sites ..
At one point, I had placed his ancestor in a particular street and at odds of billions of zillions to one, someone in Denmark came up with a pencil sketch of that exact location in 1900. To this day, I am overwhelmed by the synchronisity to have had someone sketch the area of our ancestor 100 years ago and at the moment when I need it most, it turns up.
My uncle would go out to stay with his mother in Central Qld for a few weeks at a time and even then I would email the librarian in the town and she became part of the magic of getting the information to him, printing out data or large pictures in colour which showed images of his ancestors’ lives overseas.
While my uncle was away, he missed out on hearing all the songs on the radio station he had now grown to love. I came up with a way to redress that. On a Saturday night when they played their best range of songs (so much so you could never go to sleep because each song left you wanting more!) I took my radio out into the middle of the backyard as that was where I could only get clear reception and asked my neighbour if she’d mind a bit of volume as I wanted to record the show on cassette tapes to send to my uncle. Under the stars, I set up a blanket, pillow and my dog and we settled in to record several hours. For me it was as much a beautiful experience as it would have been to my uncle to listen to the songs.
I could write reams on the magic of that search .. and the Danish strangers who are now friends .. my uncle was speechless and enervated with each new piece of information. He felt so proud that he was the first person in Australia to know about this particular ancestor’s life. He really was touched. Before he passed away, I had given him probably 25 pages of so many facts about the ancestor’s life.
Another German researcher even provided the original church record for another of my uncle’s ancestors in Germany with pictures of the actual town & his house. These were things my uncle never knew about in his whole life.
The critical part of the story is that even though I had found the comprehensive story of the Dane’s life .. I knew his mother & father’s names; where he was born; where he lived at various stages; even when he was born (because of later censuses) ..I didn’t have the physical church record proving his date of birth ..
In the last few days of his life, my uncle was granted his wish to be flown back to his home town in the outback by the Flying Doctor. He would also be able to be with his 100 yo mother who was still very healthy & to talk to was just like a 40 yo.
His funeral was therefore 600 km away (Springsure – Central Qld) but I was definitely going to make the trip to the outback .. Dot was born & lived in that area so even though she had disabilities, I was going to make sure that she also had the chance to visit her childhood roots. That trip became one of the first MAJOR adventures we undertook (had no idea how I was going to manage but there is a saying that you should “bite off more than you can chew and chew like hell !) ..
I took her by train to Emerald arriving at something like 3.30 in the morning and just as she had done when we were children, we waited on the platform till sunrise. I lay her head in my lap so that she could stretch out on the long seats and have more sleep.
After the burial, a relative I had only met a few times came up to me and asked if I could find his father’s grave in the same cemetery. We walked till I found it .. then it seemed as time stood still .. the adjoining grave was that of the Danish ancestor I’d been researching. The relative was also related to him and had some stories about his life .. we were standing in between the two graves and the relative was telling me all the foibles of the Dane’s personality (his name was Fred) as that relative had known him ..
At one point he said that if Fred’s spirit was there, he’d be saying to stop telling those stories about him. Without thinking, I said “If Fred’s spirit was here, all I would want to know is the exact date and place of where he was born .. I’d looked for 30 years surely I should be able to find that out”
Didn’t think anything more of it .. brought Dot home by plane so she’d had one heck of a great few days. We got home late at night.. a couple of hours later was sitting at my computer catching up on emails. One came through from one of the Danish people I’d written to saying to open an attachment they were sending .. I tried but it wouldn’t open so sent back an email saying I was a bit tired from the trip and would try again in the morning .. they wrote back immediately to say .. Open it now ..
I asked my son to help and it opened .. I still get goosebumps to this day even thinking about it .. and that was over 2 ½ yrs ago. Up came an online image of the original Danish church record of Fred’s christening which showed his date of birth, place of birth, verified his parent’s names and even showed his godparents.
Time really stood still at that moment. Only a few hours before I had “coincidentally” stood at Fred’s gravesite 600 km away and said that, after 30 years, all I wanted to know was those details ..
The Danish couple were at a loss to explain how they had “coincidentally” found it at the time I was on the other side of the world asking for that information.
I reckon my uncle walked straight up to Fred in the afterlife and said “OK mate .. C’mon .. It’s about time you gave her the last piece of the puzzle”.
It was a pure and simple “miracle” and along the way I had been privileged to enjoy so many new friends, information, history & connection with Denmark, fun time with my uncle and also the shared adventure with Dot.
Towards the end of my uncle’s life when he knew so much about Denmark, it was also sad for him because he had a deep longing to see all the places he now knew about. I had given him a comprehensive tourist book on all aspects of Danish life and history so he could understand the type of life his ancestor would have lived.
The greatest lesson I learned during the whole experience ..
…. you only get one chance to fulfil your dreams
If my uncle had spent the end of his life in a hospital ward, we wouldn’t have had the same fun .. part of the joy was racing over to his place with each new find and sitting in amongst all that was familiar to him .. sometimes I wasn’t able to walk because of leg problems and even though he was terminal, he’d make his way down the 6 flights of stairs, be waiting on the footpath when I pulled up and we’d sit in the car parked on the road and go through the new discoveries.
As a footnote, in my uncle’s estate, he left me his new radio he had bought so that I could also have clearer reception to continue listening to that same radio station that we both had enjoyed.