Last year I had the great fortune to meet Julia Watson at her Brisbane book launch of ‘Breakfast, School Run, Chemo‘ at Riverbend Books in Brisbane. We had been communicating for a while prior to meeting via her heartfelt blog ‘Five Fairies and a Fella‘. We had a few things in common: both aspiring writers, both having completed Catherine Deveny’s ‘Gunnas Writing Masterclass‘, both lucky to have loving supportive partners, both with young kids… both of us with stage IV cancer.
This year on 27 April, Julia and her beautiful fairies and her fella joined me for my Melbourne launch of ‘This Present Moment‘ at Readings. I was thrilled to have two outstanding women launch my book: Julia graciously accepted my invitation and our shared mentor Catherine (affectionately known as “Dev”) was able to emcee the evening – both gave their time for free. I was especially honoured that Julia’s whole family came along so I could meet all four gorgeous daughters and their very special man, Gaz, Julia’s husband. In Gaz I recognised the quiet qualities of patience and support and enduring love that I know in my own husband, Simon.
Dev warmed up the crowd in her uniquely brilliant way and we were in high spirits as Julia was introduced to officially launch This Present Moment. Julia spoke with great warmth: “I remember reading about Meg getting her diagnosis with a four month old baby on her lap… it was a hard read, I am a mum in this situation too, but she wrote about taking a breath. It is such a beautiful book and beautifully drawn. I was thinking about the huge themes in this book, it is not even close to being just a book for people with cancer. It is a book for everyone. She writes well about so many themes, especially courage which she has in spades. It is something that everyone can take into their lives to make them a better person.”
She spoke of her kids wanting to colour in This Present Moment and until now she had not let them, believing that the book should be honoured by keeping it pristine, but how that will now change. It was a very special moment shared with a wonderful group of supporters lining up to have their copy of This Present Moment signed. I know that in that evening, both Julia and I felt how incredible it was to be “living the dream”.
The next morning, I was honoured again to read Julia Watson’s blog. Though she wrote with such kindness about me I see the essence of her reflected back in those words:
Meet my friend Meg Welchman. Meg used to write me beautiful messages in response to my blog posts when my blog (“Five Fairies and a Fella”) was very new and only had a few odd readers. Our commonality was that we were both Catherine Deveney’s “Gunnas”, having attended workshops in different states……and the fact that we both had stage 4 cancer, in Meg’s case, she has been living with this as part of her life for more than FIVE YEARS. She used to say that my words really helped her, which was touching considering that she had already been doing this for years more than I had. Meg was thrilled when the blog thing became a book thing, and we finally met when she attended my book launch in Brisbane. She said she couldn’t wait to invite me to hers, and I said I couldn’t either 🙂 The whole magnificent business came full circle last night, when Dev hosted, and I officially launched Megs stunning book at Readings in Hawthorn. “This Present Moment” is an art therapy journal, which explores all the things needed to help us live in the present moment…all that any of us have. Themes like Joy, Gratitude, Compassion, Vulnerability, Creativity….even how to breathe when you think the next breath might be more than you can manage. Meg’s extraordinary story is woven through the pages, as are beautiful hand drawn Mandala’s to colour, and places to write your own reflections. Dearest Meg, all the way in, in the car, I kept fretting to Gaz and the girls that I wouldn’t be able to get the words out to let you know how special you are. And as it turned out, when I was standing in front of all those people who love you, I was so overwhelmed with emotion and pride that I didn’t find the words. But, I don’t think it matters, as every single person in that room already knew. You were generous enough to say that you had your two idols in the room with you, in Dev and I, but you know what darling…..I snuck a few glances at Dev while you were making your speech, and I think it’s fair to say that we were the ones doing the idolising. My soft hearted Gaz had big tears in his eyes the whole way through, and I was so proud that my four daughters got to hear you speak. They recognised that you were like their mummy, that neither of us can get “better”, but gosh we can give living a good old shake. Meg, I want you to know that this book has been my lifeline in the last few uncertain weeks, I have referred to it again and again. I was right in what I said last night, that this is not a book to be kept pristine and perfect, as I usually like to keep my books. It should show signs of having been thumbed through a million times as it’s readers search for the wisdom contained within. When I am away from my family (usually in hospital), I always like to have comfort items with me, always my beautiful quilt, maybe some handwritten letters and cards with heartfelt words that I have received over the years. Tonight I am going to sit down with my girls, and we are going to colour some mandalas, while we talk about some of the themes contained within, and then it will be lovingly packed in my bag to come to Thailand with me. I’ll look at it every day, maybe even write a few words in the margins 🙂 To all of those reading this, everyone should buy this book. It’s not just a book for people with cancer. It’s a book for everyone who is paralysed by life sometimes, by the enormity of what is going on in it. That is ALL of us, and this is a life-changing book… I love you Meg, so proud of your achievement and your incredible life force.
I have never read such beautiful words, this was the best gift from an extraordinary woman I had the good fortune to know and meet and learn from. We certainly did give living a good old shake that night.
I write this with a heavy heart. On Sunday night we said goodbye to Julia. She let her light shine and we turned our faces to her sunshine. She found her tribe and she loved them hard. We loved her right back. Kind thoughts, warm hugs and an abundance of love to all that knew and loved Julia, especially her four fairies and a fella. x