How and when did you meet Murray?
I met Murray in Los Angeles at the end of 1986 through a mutual friend. We just hit it off and we had so much in common. He had won his first Olympic gold in swimming at the age of 17 and I had started my ballet career at the same age. We were both dedicated to what we did. He was passionate about philosophical inquiry, and it was rare for me to meet someone who I could share my intense curiosity about life’s mysteries with. We were together for 26 years before he passed away.
Why did you decide to write Journeys of the Heart?
After Murray passed away, I started asking myself some questions about who I was now that my husband was gone. What do I do? How do I heal?
I started talking to people about loss, in many cases realising I had underestimated the profound way in which those people were touched by the topic. I received a lot of support and I learnt a lot from the stories they told me.
While reflecting on their stories, I started to feel that they were giving a voice to previously unspoken thoughts in me. I started documenting these thoughts with the knowledge that the book would help me heal. And if it would help me heal, then it would surely have the potential to help other people too.
Whether they were carers like me, or even if they knew carers, I believed that sharing these thoughts would support them on their own personal journey. The book was my transformation and my salvation, but I hope even more that it might bring the same thing to others.
How did you go about conducting the research for the book?
I had already started my research before the idea of a book came to my mind. This was during my process of talking to people about experiences of loss. Frequently, the people I was talking to would refer their friends to me, and those friends would refer their friends, and so on.
It was a ripple effect. Writing the book and meeting new people who were going through essentially the same thing was not calculated or mapped out. I was meeting people who knew I understood what it meant to have walked that path and wanted their story told.
Was there ever a time that you found the process emotionally challenging or even wanted to give up on writing the book?
Yes, it was emotionally challenging, and no, I never wanted to give up. I felt very driven. I wanted to follow it all the way to the end.
None of us are really trained in the essential skills necessary for handling the end of life transition. In general, we are not taught that, and I think we should be. If we had those skills at our disposal, even before the situation presents itself, I think we would be more equipped to deal with it.
Even though I cried a lot when I was reading and rewriting some of the stories, I knew it was really good for me to continue with the book. It felt to me that it could be an important and valuable resource offering practical advice.
I also felt that the book had a force of its own, propulsion of its own, and that it was something I had to do.
What do you hope the book brings to readers?
Even though it is such a serious topic, I believe deeply that the book will bring readers a great deal of support, comfort, hope, inspiration and love.
Without doubt, all 20 of the people in the book began healing because they were taking action by talking to me. These people wanted to share their stories and the difficulties that were unique to them. Some of them didn’t have easy relationships with their dying loved one; some struggled with distress because they were not there for the last breath.
Of course, there would be no book without the unbelievable souls who opened their hearts to me and shared their story. The book is in honour of so many people.
Most memorable experience writing this book?
Everything – I couldn’t choose just one experience. The most memorable thing for me is the collective force of writing this book.
How did you go about writing this book?
Apart from teaching ballet and sleeping, the writing of the book consumed me for an 8-9 month period. This was because I had a strong purpose. If it hadn’t been for the love and support of my son Trevor I couldn’t have done it.
In what way has writing this book changed your life?
I’m a totally different person. I feel so blessed by the power of love from everyone who told me their stories. And the book has opened up new conversations for me with professionals in palliative care. I feel the same way about my connections with them.
Every time we talk about loss, we have the opportunity to do something for someone else. I feel a growing connection with a vast community that I would not have felt connected to before.
Is there any advice you would give to someone who is caring for a loved one?
Be prepared for a rollercoaster of emotions. You are not alone even though you may feel like you are at times. There are so many people who have walked this path.
Know that you won’t be the same person after your loss, but one day in the future you will be able to smile and laugh again.
What’s next for you?
At the end of May, I will be a guest speaker at the National Palliative Care week in Brisbane. Speaking at this event will give me the opportunity to honour everyone who contributed to Journeys of the Heart and anyone who is going through similar emotions right now.
If there is any way I can keep giving back and supporting other people, maybe giving them courage, hope or tips/support that will help them on their journey, then I am fulfilling what I feel is my current purpose.
Where you can purchase a copy of Journeys of the Heart…
To purchase a copy of Journeys of the Heart, go online and purchase directly from the publisher, Arbon Publishing, and receive a free shipping to all Australian addresses. Simply visit: www.arbonpublishing.com and enter in the code WYL at the checkout.