Back in Sydney, I once worked closely with a lovely woman who was in her mid 50s. Even as most women her age were looking forward to retiring and slowing down, she was vivacious, charismatic and had energy for days. And, rather importantly, she was an amazing campaign manager.
As things would have it, she turned out to be a friend of my parents’ (Mum’s right when she says “you never want to talk about anyone…”) and over the course of the campaign, we became quite close. Her quirky habits started to make sense as I learnt more about her.
She had recently lost the love of her life and her son within months of each other. Tragic story, and one I will always remember. But yet each day she seemed so… together. I really enjoyed being around her, learning a lot about Aussie political wheeling and dealing. It was great to watch her in action.
When the votes had been counted, we celebrated the following day an amazing home right on Cronulla Beach. During dinner, all hell broke loose. The darkness slowly started enveloping her, and she was powerless to stop it. It broke my heart to see her like that. I wanted some way to remove some of her pain, her hurt… but it was all-encompassing.
So I took her home and stayed with her until she was asleep. It was haunting to see something so deep, so personal. How do you recover from something like that? I don’t know if you ever do.
I remember checking in with her a few times following that night, and then that was it. I went back to uni, and she to whatever came next for her. It sounds cold, but I don’t think it could have been any other way. It may have been awkward having someone walking around who had seen her at one of her darkest moments, but in the end, I actually thought more of her. She remained so articulate and was able to describe the abyss so graphically, and I felt powerless beyond belief to do something more for her. I could do little else than drive her home, put her to bed and just sit with her and listen.
It’s been a decade, and I still think about her. You’d be surprised how much.
On the off-chance recently, I googled her. Turns out she has emerged, phoenix-like, as a successful photographer who divides her time between New York City and Sydney. Someone as vivacious as her will always triumph. I hope what she’s doing fills her with joy and happiness. She deserves it.