Red of hair, fair of heart, strong of spirit

I can’t tell you exactly what happened Thursday night. But I can tell you that I saw a friend take her last breath. A friend who is supposed to turn twenty-one in twelve days. I will write about everything, but I won’t be sharing it, because turning off your loved ones life support is one of the most horrific things you can ever do, and now I’ve been there twice when two families have experienced it. And once is already enough for a lifetime.

I can say that I was with a beautiful and spirited family as their daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece and friend passed from this life and into her next. It’s an incredibly intimate experience. So delicate. Being present for the family meeting with the Intensive Care specialist who tells you that your friend was declared brain-dead earlier during the day and that no, none of her organs can be used even though she so desperately wanted to be an organ and tissue donor because she had been a recipient of someone’s altruism and kindness in the same situation only a couple of years ago as family and friends prayed and listened over and over to Nickelback’s ‘Lullaby’.

I’m sitting with Tameah’s family and friends in a bubble of grief where everything is a blur. I know grief needs time to breathe, but it’s like breathing through a straw and running with your eyes closed not knowing what to do, what to say, where to go, how to feel or how to be. Everything is magnified and flush, but not. I feel everything and nothing. There is a feeling of a vague dislocation. Of being broken. Of being put back together. Of putting other people back together. But I realise that I’m not broken; my spine is just a little curved and in time, I will unfurl. We all will. Or maybe we won’t.

It was like this: The machines were turned off. My mind spun off into a web of white, then nothing. After the heat, there was peace, and I was sucked back to the bed, and the heat and the peace turned into pain. Once I am beside her, I dab the corner of her mouth with a tissue, brush back her perfectly ginger hair I told her to never, ever dye, and take her petichiaed hand. The nurse clips a lock of her hair and brings in a plate of pink paint, because she couldn’t find Tameah’s trademark purple. She is gentle and unhurried, and the three of us – the nurse, Tameah’s partner Ben and I – try to roll out the perfect finger print.

Ben and I walk to the elevator, heads down, faces downtrodden. The doors close and I ask, ‘what the fuck just happened?’ Ben shakes his head. Later, when we hop into the lift alone, the lift stops. We’re not moving, even though I’m madly pressing buttons. Tameah’s spirit is already at work. The lift doors open and we wander out into the night.

Afterwards, there are times when I say out loud, ‘No, Tameah, no,’ as though in a state of confusion. Odd times like in the ice cream aisle in the supermarket, but more often than not, on the toilet. Because like Melanie, like Ed – Tameah wasn’t supposed to die. And she wasn’t supposed to die like this. Not on life support. Not just before her 21st birthday where there were several gigantic surprises coming her way. Not when she was about to start photography college.

But back to ‘Lullaby’. Listen to the words. It’s a big, fat ‘FUCK YOU’ to something like Cystic Fibrosis, and so is surviving a double lung transplant. I remember Tameah and I at the Nickelback concert last year, where through a close friend’s friend, she got her wish to meet Nickelback. She apparently smiled for three weeks. Ended up in hospital the day after the concert, but smiled for three weeks anyway. That was the essence of Tameah.

When the piano was brought onto the stage, Tameah looked at me with a sense of urgency in her face and said, ‘Daniel … the piano … it has to be Lullaby!’, and when the piano began to trill, we embraced, smiled wildly and cried. She’d made it, and I’d made damn sure I’d delivered her to the front of the mosh pit which I’m so happy I did. If anyone knocked into her, out came the dagger eyes. If they kept knocking into her tiny frame after a few unfriendly stares, I had something to say.

Tameah was a photographer of spectacular talent and owned (and loved) many snakes, reptiles and other animals. I was never scared of snakes, but she made me love them. They’re beautiful, lean and friendly creatures that just want to slide through your fingers and cuddle you. This is Biscuit, Tameah’s lovely olive python giving me a hug at Prince Charles Hospital. You read right – Tameah would take her snakes into hospital with her. I’ve heard stories about them hanging from I.V poles and from squealing nurses. She always had a couple of bags of snakes with her.

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And her photography … breathtaking, in a beautiful way …

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And here is ‘Lullaby’ – Tameah’s song. The third day of October is here on in known as Tameah Woodford Day. Tomorrow, I’ll be going to the funeral home with Tameah’s Ben and her family where we will organise her funeral. I’m tired of negotiating death and coming out with such a raw deal, and watching others cross the same fire.

33 thoughts on “Red of hair, fair of heart, strong of spirit

  1. Carly. I feel your grief and Tameah’s family. Thank you for sharing a little bit about her. What amazing photography, she sounded like a spunky gal. A bit like yourself really. Thinking of u and her family.
    xx

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    1. Ah, Luce … you’ve had more than your fair share of horrific experiences, and I know you understand. I’m sad that you’ve had to endure all you have, but we endure, don’t we? Could you shoot me an email at carlyjay76@gmail.com? Would LOVE to see you next time I’m in Possum Creek (which is soon!) xoxo

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  2. Such beautiful words for a beautiful friend. Thank you for sharing, I’m sorry that you have so many sad things to share . Her photos are stunning. Have a think about having them made into a book? A lovely legacy. Love to you xx

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    1. Hi Beth 🙂 I think your idea of a book is brilliant! I’ll definitely discuss the possibility of a limited edition book with Tameah’s folks. Thanks for your kind words xoxo

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  3. not Tameah! I only know her from your photos and your posts, but she leapt off the screen with such vitality…
    I’m so sorry. devastating for her partner, her family, you and other friends who loved her.
    your words are powerful and moving. Tameah’s photos are beautiful.

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    1. Thanks Deb 🙂 We’re all struggling to make sense of what happened. Everything happened so suddenly, without warning and then she was gone. Tameah has left an indelible print on so many peoples lives. Her photos will be here forever – an beautiful legacy. I hope my words did her justice xoxo

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    1. Oh, Ray and Lyn – you guys have been so strong and amazing. Of course I’ll see you at the service tomorrow, but for right now, I’m sending your bucket loads of love. I know that everyone is beyond devastated, and like you, I still can’t believe this has happened. Much love, Carly xoxo

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  4. Oh Carly! This one took some time before I could respond. The gift you gave to Tameah and all who loved her cannot be measured. When my own daughter died, I was alone except for three other small children who wanted to know when Jacqueline was coming home… It is an honour to know you even if only via the internet. You are truly one of the guides a dear friend has been talking about. Love, Lea xoxo

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    1. Thanks beautiful Lea. I don’t know about being a gift, but I try my best to just be there and hold things together for as long as I can. I’ll admit I’m struggling right now and haven’t been able to talk to many people, because when I grieve, it’s an intensely private journey. I really do appreciate everyone’s support, and as you know well, people grieve in a myriad of ways. I just do mine better alone.

      I’m certain we will meet one day in person 🙂 xoxo

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  5. Carls….I needed this today 🙂 I’m remembering today, Ed, Tameah, and another friend Daniel from Cairns especially (he would have been 28 today)…this piece embodies Tameah and I feel my heart stretching as I read it…you’re a special woman, and I’m so thankful to read your beautiful articulation of such unexplainable things xxxx
    love Sarahellen

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    1. Hey beautiful … I’m so glad that something I’ve written has given you come comfort. I still can’t believe Ed’s not here – and Tameah, too. There’s just something not right with the world without them in it. I hope 2014 shits all over the past twelve months. Big love to you xoxo

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  6. Thank you for sharing your words, and her pictures. apparently Ive already said that but ill say it again. 🙂 did you ever have the talk about making her photos into a book ? there really is something magical about capturing that moment in time and she did it so beautifully. I have a feeling your words will leave the same legacy whenever it is your time. (later, MUCH ! ) Love you , yo are truly a remarkable soul xx Beth

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    1. Hey Beth – I heard something about a book, but can’t remember exactly. I think that’d be a great idea – Tameah would LOVE that! They are her legacy, and like you say, we all have our own 🙂 Thanks so much for your kind words. Big love to you xoxo

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  7. Life hasn’t been the same since my beautiful granddaughter Tameah left us followed by her poppy four and a half months later , they are together now .

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