When my middle brother died four years ago, I wondered how I could endure the rest of my life without him. The future looked as hard and unforgiving as stone.


I had expected we would grow old together — sometimes with mild resentment that I might be growing old with a brother, not a husband, as my main man; but mostly, more generously, with the expectation of many more years of shared jokes, bushwalks, concerts, travel, family celebrations, and discussions about life, the universe and everything. Continue reading


When words fail

I caught the end of The Music Show’s interview with the chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, David Robertson, on Saturday. He was describing the importance of music for people who are ill or depressed. Referring to the orchestra he said: ‘We may be needed by someone enormously at any moment’. Continue reading

Monday music: Sorrows and resilience

I have few words to describe the waves of grief and anger that have been washing over me over the past few days. I’m in Melbourne at the International AIDS conference, where we are mourning the loss of members of the global HIV community in Malaysian flight MH17.

Perhaps from Monday Music this week you would prefer a moment’s silence. Instead, I’m sharing music that for me, has a particular resonance at this time.

Memoirs of an AIDS Activist was born of the AIDS crisis in Australia. It’s composed by Lyle Chan, who was activist in the early 1990s. He helped Australians with HIV get access to experimental drugs, both through activism and lobbying, and by importing meds from the US that had not yet been approved for use in Australia.

Continue reading

Blog Action Day: the human right to health


My son’s uncle Nkrumah, a cocoa farmer.

In the UN declaration on human rights the human right to health is covered by Article 25:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care ….[etc]

I take a personal interest in this. A few weeks ago, one of my son’s uncles died. Of typhoid. He barely scraped past the average Ghanaian life expectancy of 61 – 62 years. Continue reading

Funeral planning

Native flowers on Kente clothI think I am well placed to become a funeral planner. Not that I want to plan any more funerals in the near future, but having been to a few (too many) funerals of people who died of AIDS in the early 1990s, I had fair bit of experience to draw upon when it came to planning funerals for members of my own family.

It was from those funerals that I learned that funerals don’t have to be about religious ritual – in fact you have enormous flexibility in how you organise them. The pattern they follow is really just about leading people through the farewell process, from grief to hope. Continue reading

Music for crying

I usually listen to music in the car. So when my brother, (The World’s Best Uncle) died last year, it was in the car that I chose the music that was played at his funeral.

I did a lot of crying in the car too. It was the one of the few places where I could be absolutely uninhibited about how bad I felt about losing him. The route from my home to the hospital while he was dying, and later to his home, when I was packing up his things, was saturated with my tears. Lucky I knew it like the back of my hand. I drove very safely, even when wailing. Continue reading

Books for healing

Paul Kidby’s interpretation of Death from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. http://www.paulkidby.com/

On Sunday I redistributed some more of my brother Mark’s books. I’d taken what I wanted, his beneficiaries (i.e. long time friday night drinks mates) took a car-load of the ones they wanted, and on Sunday a couple of my friends went through what was left and went home happy with assorted histories, whodunnits and the complete works of Shakespeare in one volume.

There’s still several boxes left. This may take a while.

Among those I’d reserved for myself were his collection of the complete works of Terry Pratchett, and the almost complete works of Dianna Wynne Jones and Neil Gaiman. I felt very selfish keeping them back but to my relief it seemed that his mates weren’t into Fantasy anyway. Continue reading