Archive for the ‘mortality’ Category

I met Sal when she came into our lives to help with my son Samuel, who has Down syndrome and Autism. Three afternoons a week, I could rely on Sal’s support, and we grew to know one another well in the ten years she worked for us. Since then, Sal and I have stayed in contact, getting together a number of times a year to celebrate milestones, birthdays, and at Christmas, to exchange gifts and spend hours talking and catching up. An ex-nurse, who has dedicated her life after nursing to caring for people with special needs, Sal, is an Irish whirlwind.

A few weeks ago, I went to her place to have lunch and celebrate her 72nd birthday. Sal, said, “Have I got a story to tell you…” Of course, I sat forward in my chair.
And that’s when she told me her amazing flood story.
Sal was not supposed to work the night of the cyclone, Feb 28th. But, she had left some important papers at the house of Mary and Peter, her highly disabled clients, and dropped over after dinner to pick them up. After collecting her papers, Sal hurried to her car. She noticed the rain was falling more heavily, and there seemed to be a lot of surface water as she drove out of the street. However, she was not too worried.
Then she noticed police officers putting traffic cones across the T-junction ahead. The officers stopped her to say the road was closed due to flooding. She would have to go back and sit tight. Sal returned to Mary and Peter’s house, which along with four other units was set well below the level of the street in the lowest part of the neighbourhood. Though she was not worried about that. Not yet.
Sal splashed through the water around her ankles to get to the house. She went inside and explained to Mary and Peter that she was unable to leave the area until the threat of flooding had subsided. The trio listened to the radio to catch live weather updates. But, Sal also had one eye on the torrential downpour outside and the lake forming in the front yard.

The lake grew until it started seeping into the house. That was when Sal started to worry. Dirty, frigid water gradually filled her shoes and inched past her ankles. She immediately took her phone out and rang emergency services. “I’m with two highly disabled people, and the house is flooding. We need rescue.”
“Sorry, we are inundated with callouts. We don’t have enough ambulances. If you can get your clients out of the house try to get them to higher ground.”
Help was not coming. The water was rising rapidly. It was up to Sal’s knees. The fridge toppled over. The cabinet of crockery fell face forward with an enormous crash.
“Quick, the kitchen,” Sal said, thinking it was a couple of steps higher than the living room. She pushed Mary’s wheelchair up the ramp. The washing machine fell into the water next. (Later, they discovered that the power company had thankfully turned off all the power to the area when the flooding had started).
Sal quickly realized the water would soon overwhelm Mary in her wheelchair and Peter seated on his walker.
Despite having arthritis and a bad shoulder, Sal lifted Mary out of her wheelchair and laid her on the kitchen counter. The water was already creeping up the cabinets. Mary, a tetraplegic nearly slid off the counter, so Sal flung open a window and stretched Mary’s hand to the window, saying, “Grip onto this ledge and don’t let go.”

Sal rang her son. She told him to take his phone to the neighbour’s house and for both of them to ring emergency services until someone agreed to rescue them. She said, “I will have to use my other hand to hold Peter, so I won’t be able to make any more calls. Please keep ringing until you get a response.”
Next, Sal pulled Peter from his walker and pushed him into the corner of the kitchen, propping him upright by standing in front of him with one hand against his chest. With the water level rising steadily, Sal, said to the otherwise empty kitchen, “You ancestors and guardian angels, anyone in spirit, I’m calling in all my favours. We need help. Now.”
“I’M COLD!” said Peter, over and over.
“I know. Hold on,” said Sal. The water reached her chest. She started to scream “HELP! HELP US! PLEASE HELP!”
The water kept rising. Sal steadied Peter with one hand and held her good arm high keeping her phone dry, screaming over and over, “HELP! HELP!”
As the water reached her chin, the nose of a surfboard floated through the kitchen window. She could hardly believe her eyes.
“Don’t worry. I’m here!” said Douglas, the son of her neighbour. He had responded to his mother’s call that Sal was in trouble by racing down there in his van, talking his way through police cordons, borrowing a surfboard from the neighbour’s on the dry side of the street, and paddling out onto the sea of rising water, following the sound of her screams to locate her.
Sal couldn’t get any words out. She couldn’t move.
“It’s okay, don’t worry,” said Douglas, “we’ll get you all out of here.”
Out of the water in front of her, two black heads appeared. Police divers. They had responded to Sal’s son and the neighbour’s phone calls.

“Here, love, it’s all right. We’ve got you.” They removed the phone from her stiff hand and grabbed hold of Peter. “You can let go of him now.”
“I can’t,” she gasped, “move.” Her hand had frozen in place. She could not physically let go of her charge.
The policeman prised her fingers open gently one by one. Then he took Peter. The second diver rescued Mary. More divers arrived, borrowing the surfboard from Douglas, and asked Sal if she could climb on.
Sal could not move an inch. The policeman had to hoist her up with one hand under her derriere (there was no time for embarrassment) and with another diver on the other side to help hold her in place, they floated her out of the house on the surfboard back to the road and dry land. The waiting crowd of neighbours, and emergency services clapped and cheered.
“You’re a hero, you know,” said the policeman who assisted Sal to the ambulance, where a medic checked her condition. “If it hadn’t been for you and your actions, your clients would be dead now.”
“I did what anyone in my position would have done,” Sal said. Even though she was bruised all over, saturated, and on the point of hypothermia, she would not go home until Peter and Mary had left in the ambulance. Unhurt aside from the full-body bruising, Sal said the state of shock, however, impacted her greatly, lingering for a month after that fateful night of Feb 28.
What a story. The way I understand it, family and friends have been praising this admirable woman. To her, there was no heroism involved. No, seriously, Sal. It’s reassuring to know there are people like her out there in the world who still can be counted on to put other people’s welfare before their own. You know, heroes.
I feel proud and privileged to call her my friend.
What about you? Have you ever known a real hero?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol

(*Names have been changed to protect their identity)

The world is changed by your example and not your opinion. ~ Paulo Coelho


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The cyclone came as promised. Cyclone Gabrielle started late last week as a tropical storm in the Coral Sea and intensified quickly to a category 3, fed by warm oceans. “Concerns about the storm as it moved down to New Zealand have come to fruition,” said Niwa meteorologist Ben Noll. “The inverted barometer effect is associated with very deep low-pressure systems. The winds around low-pressure systems swirl in towards the centre. Where those winds meet, they rise,” said Noll. “That causes the air to rise and can cause the sea to rise.” (from Newsroom)
Reading this, I didn’t have any reaction. Having survived the last big storm on Jan 27, which caused widespread flooding and the loss of four lives, I felt somewhat storm-weary. When I heard the news of Cyclone Gabriella, I didn’t take it in, and I didn’t feel afraid. My nephew told me, “They are saying it’s a Category 3, that it could be far worse than the last cyclone, and we might get winds up to 300 km an hour.” Even then. It was like my senses were still stunned by the flooding, and I hadn’t fully come down to Earth. There was no energy left for fear.

We received warnings from Civil Defence days beforehand. And we prepared ourselves. We were as ready as we could be. My friends and I had put away anything in our yards we thought could become airborne, and we’d lifted things off the ground in our garages and so on. The boys and I had small bags packed by the door. Apart from that, all we could do was sit and wait. After days of waiting for it to arrive, we started to get strong gusts of wind. But the rain never hit us here. The last time it pelted down, we flooded, fearing for our lives, and this time it rained but not heavy and not for long. However, the same could not be said for other parts of the country as the cyclone wreaked a trail of destruction, causing terrible flooding and potentially billions of dollars worth of damage. I think the current death toll is five, while many others are still missing. The landslides have cut off many towns from food supplies, and downed trees have cut the power and internet, so hundreds of people can’t contact their loved ones to let them know they are alive.

Since the cyclone hit, I’ve stayed glued to my news feed watching the live updates. There has been footage of people throwing out their food after three days without power and people sleeping side by side on cot beds in evacuation centres. Clips of people rescuing folks stranded on their roofs, folks carrying animals out of flooded fields, volunteers making food, and helping others. Especially saddening were the news stories about the two volunteer firefighters, one in critical condition in a hospital, the other killed in a landslide. My heart goes out to their families. I feel moved by people who are true heroes for their communities like these guys. They remind me to believe in the good of humanity.
Crazy. While the North Island of New Zealand gets lashed by torrential rainfall and tropical storms, the central part of the South Island has been experiencing severe drought, and everyone is desperately trying to conserve water. They have too little; we have too much. Everything seems so unfair. I heard it said once, that only when you stop seeing life in terms of fairness and unfairness can you be a grownup. Guess that makes me still a kid; I feel how unfair it is that bad things happen to people working to make a living and struggling to make ends meet. A lot of people have lost everything, and my heart breaks for them.

This is not to say the first cyclone has been forgotten, either. After all, it only happened three weeks ago. I attended a school meeting last night and was asked by about five different people throughout the evening, “Where were you when the flood happened?” It is as if it helps us move on to tell our stories and listen to other people’s experiences of the same event. It deepens our empathy, therefore, our connections.
There is no doubt about it the cyclones have been a shock. I gather that a lot of us, like myself, have lived multiple years on the planet without ever experiencing a natural disaster. Now, we’ve racked up two in under a month. I feel a lot of empathy for everyone involved and a ton of gratitude to the first responders, and the emergency personnel, who are often voluntary, and who put their lives on the line to help others. Thank you. We love you.
What about you. Have you ever lived through a tropical storm or been in a natural disaster?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

“We don’t even know how strong we are until we are forced to bring that hidden strength forward. In times of tragedy, war, or necessity, people do amazing things. The human capacity for survival and renewal is awesome.” – Isabel Allende


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I would have posted this last week, but it was the Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s monthly question, so the story became delayed by a week. On the 27th Jan the rain that had been “persisting down,” as my father used to say, fell more steadily towards late afternoon. Another tropical cyclone was expected, and a heavy rainfall watch was in place. Nevertheless, my friends were gathering that evening for dinner. I wobbled down to the garage in heels, carrying a heavy oven dish of the blueberry apricot crumble I had made for dessert, plus a paper bag bearing vanilla bean ice cream and two tubs of thickened cream. I had to splash through water to get to the car, thinking, that’s odd. I’ve never had to do that before. Then I noticed sheets of water streaming off the higher ground beneath the house onto the concrete pad the car was sitting on, something I had not seen in my 58 years of living here.
Undeterred, I backed out of the garage and headed slowly down the road, having to breach a small lake of surface water at the end. I turned right and drove halfway along through swirling muddy water. The thought in my mind was, your instincts are telling you to stay home, you idiot. Why are you still driving? Through the sideways curtains of torrential rain, I glimpsed a line of cars ahead, waiting to get through as a little Suzuki car bravely pushed through the sizeable lake spanning the intersection to turn into our street.

Holy crap. I knew I needed to get home as fast as possible. I turned around and ploughed my way through, making it back to the saturated garage about five minutes later.
Man, was I grateful to be home. But would we be safe? When I told the teenagers indoors about the street flooding, the youngest son and his girlfriend immediately galvanized into action. He needed to take his girlfriend home before the 6 p.m. curfew. The pair raced out the door slinging on raincoats, hoping vainly to catch the last bus, which their mobiles informed them was “five stops away.” I told them to run, as I had seen the state of the roads.

And from then on, I worried about them.

40 minutes later, the youngest son rang. They had realized the bus would not be able to make it through the rising water, so the pair of them had trekked to the nearest shops, sometimes wading through water up to their waists. They were wet, scared, and tired. The girlfriend’s mother was on her way to pick them up.
Thank goodness!
20 minutes later, the son rang again. Every road they took to return to the girlfriend’s house was blocked or flooded. They were still trying to get through.
At this point, I was praying. There was nothing else I could do besides giving instructions on the phone. I was at home, looking after my son with Down syndrome. Luckily, he sleeps through anything. I, on the other hand, spent a miserable evening. The rain pelted down harder and harder. I have never seen rainfall like it – the term “biblical proportions” sprang to mind. I kept checking the scene outside the house and listening to the radio. Friends and family on social media shared videos of people riding a bus home with water sloshing around their ankles and a bus floating sideways across the road. There were photos of the airport and the local supermarket completely awash.

Looking out the windows often and constantly reading the live updates on the news, I began to panic. Though I am an optimistic person, I found myself thinking about the real possibility of being flooded out of our homes, maybe evacuated, maybe loss of life and I was shaking all over terrified. I feared for my friends, and my extended family living across the city, including my eldest son and granddaughter. I also feared for my elderly neighbours, the white-haired couple and the grandmother on her own who live at the bottom of the street. At one stage, I donned a coat and gumboots to check the water level outside. It was a relief to see that it had not changed and everyone was still safely above the water level.
You can imagine it was a long night.
Finally, I got the news my son and company had arrived safely at the girlfriend’s house. They were straight into hot showers and promised me they would eat a healthy meal. Through social media family and friends chatted online together sharing updates, which is how I knew everyone else I loved was at home and dry.
Thank heavens!

I woke the next morning thrilled to find we were still in our beds and the rain had abated. I felt humbled, grateful for our lives and that our homes were still standing, grateful and aware of our blessings, and very grateful that the rain had stopped. We had 245 mm in 24 hours. It was officially our “wettest day on record.” Since then, we have had blue skies and sunshine. Strange weather, man! I went out and about the neighbourhood, looking at the damage. Folks were cleaning their yards, and I passed a few groups gathered on sidewalks or outside houses, chatting with brooms in their hands and rubbish bins. Everywhere people stood talking. I’ve been chatting with folks, too. It struck me that disasters make people connect with other people. I know the names of two more neighbours I didn’t know before. It helps to know the name of the folks living cheek-by-jowl with you when the chips are down. We’ve been reminded that we need each other, I guess, which is a beautiful thing to come out of this disaster. My thoughts are with the families of the victims. There were four dead. It has been horrendous for us, but somehow, we got through it.

As an introvert, I require time to come to terms with everything. It might take a week to sift through the contents of my mind. Secondarily, I need to clean the garage. Now, another cyclone is on the way. Whewee!
2023 – how’s everyone else finding it so far?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

“You will face many defeats in life, but never let yourself be defeated.” – Maya Angelou


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It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!


April 1 question – The IWSG’s focus is on our writers. Each month, from all over the globe, we are a united group sharing our insecurities, our troubles, and our pain. So, in this time when our world is in a crisis with the covid-19 pandemic, our optional question this month is: how are things in your world?

We’re in the North Island of New Zealand, where the whole country has been on lockdown for nearly two weeks, with two weeks still to go, unless the end date gets changed. It’s been so strange, almost haunting, as if one had gone back in time to one’s youth. The air is clear of the usual traffic fumes and jet exhaust and smells different. Clean. The streets ring with the sounds of children playing and adults talking. There are more cyclists than cars on the road, and there are families out walking along the footpaths in droves.

It reminds me of growing up here in the 1960s.

Baby me with sisters

Yet, it’s not like the memories I keep of my childhood because this bucolic idyll is fraught with tension and a keyed-up state of general anxiety. As my friend said the other night, in our virtual drinks, re the Covid-19 virus, “I could have it, you could have it, we could all have it,” and that’s the uneasy truth we’re living with. Every visit to the supermarket, every outing, we feel we’re literally risking our lives. And we are.

Those of us who are parents are also trying to help our children deal with the stress. I have three boys. My two younger boys, my nephew and I are in our “bubble” over here, and my eldest is in a bubble with his own little family on the other side of town. At present, I’m worried about my eldest and his twenty-two-month-old baby. My darling granddaughter has a fever and they’re not sure what it is yet. I’ve been receiving constant updates and staying in contact with them.

Thank goodness for the Internet.


My youngest son has immersed himself either in online schoolwork or in gaming and watching anime. He practices the trombone and drums. He’s not worried about a thing, he is as happy as a sandboy.

My seventeen-year-old Sam has Down syndrome and does not understand the pandemic or anything about lockdown. All he knows is that everything is suddenly different. His weekly chart of activities went from being full with school every day, and extracurricular activities, dance class, gym training, and basketball at night to being stuck at home on endless holiday. For a special needs person, they thrive on routine, and they like things to be the same every day. All Sam knows is the personal disaster of everything changing and becoming different suddenly. His reaction is to act out, to do silly things, or to freeze up and refuse to cooperate with even the simplest of requests. As Sam can’t speak, bad behaviour is his way of expressing himself. However, he’ll get used to the new normal given time.


I’ve been enjoying the virtual meetings. I’ve been attending Toastmasters’ meetings via Zoom every Wednesday. They’ve been a lot of fun. It’s so nice to see everyone and see they’re doing well. I think connecting in whatever ways we can is uplifting. I also attend Friday night virtual drinks with old friends, via Zoom. We’ve known each other since schooldays. We’ve called our soiree “cocktails & pigtails,” and we wear our hair in pigtails, too, for the laughs. I’ve been so grateful for my friends, and I’m on the phone daily with my family. We’re checking up on one another.

I’ve been busy, more so than ever, since lockdown. I’ve been an editing machine and in two weeks, I have edited the entire manuscript of my work-in-progress twice! I’ve also been communicating with the book designer and figuring out how we will redo my first two books and do the design for the third. With luck, I’ll stay on target for publishing The Last Tree by June. I’m still going after my dreams, despite my insecurities, virus or no virus, lockdown or no lockdown.

What about you?


Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol


“Life is the love that reaches out, building bridges across gulfs of uncertainty to touch hands, hearts and souls in the experience of union,” – P. Seymour

Yesterday, after a slog of four doctor/hospital appointments in one day between my two younger boys, I received some horrible news. I had finally made it to sit down at my laptop and zone out with a stroll through my feed on Facebook. It was there I read the sad update of a friend’s son, to say that Robyn Campbell, beloved mother of seven, and highly regarded member of the writing community, had passed away in her sleep.

I left two stumbling messages on the post and immediately shut down my computer. I went about the rest of my evening, thinking about Robyn. She was such a great editor and writer, and a real firecracker. She and I formed a critique group of two a few years ago, called ‘The Two Amigos,’ and we spent a year or more working on our middle grade novels together.

The Two Amigos

Robyn was sweet, and she ended every email with “SMOOCHES! Xxx”

I admired her endlessly positive attitude and spirit. She let nothing get her down.

Robyn was one of the original members of my online group, ‘Writing for Children’ over on Wanatribe International. That’s where we first met. She was so vivacious and fun. Her son was going through serious health issues, then their barn burnt down full of gear, and in the last couple of years, she fell down a hill when running away from a bear and hurt herself badly. Yet, her buoyant spirit never wavered. She was always positive. I used to marvel at her strength and willingness to get back up again and keep striving.


One of her children, Christopher, was born with Sturge-Weber syndrome, characterized by the port-wine staining of the skin and various health issues. People with Sturge-Weber have a higher risk for seizures, glaucoma, stroke, blood clots, blindness, and paralysis. It was on Writing for Children we hatched a book, compiling an anthology of stories together. We wanted to help Christopher and other children like him. We formed the idea to donate all the proceeds of the book to the Sturge-Weber Foundation which is doing research on the rare condition.

Robyn’s story took us, that when Christopher was little and had asked about the staining on his skin, she would always say, “That’s where an angel kissed you.” We thought it was beautiful. With that in mind, the title, Kissed By An Angel was born. We went over to Facebook with it, creating a page for the book where we invited middle grade authors we knew to join and take part.


We ended up with eleven authors in all. Our theme was angelic, supernatural, or somehow not of this world. 

I wrote a story, illustrated my story and the cover. We edited the book by sending our stories to the whole group and critiquing back and forth. Then another member did the formatting and so on.

We were proud of the resulting anthology, Kissed By An Angel . After publication, we sent one copy around the world to every contributing author to sign, and Robyn gave it to her son. In the foreword, Robyn wrote that the authors of the anthology ‘volunteered time to work on their stories and the publication of this book. They’re more valuable than the finest jewels–more cherished and appreciated than mere words could ever say.’

Robyn was the best.


In her moving story, which starts the anthology, Kissed By An Angel Robyn wrote the story from Christopher’s point of view. She retells when he says he’s sorry for having seizures and making her cry. “This is nothing you’ve done. It isn’t your fault.” Momma smooths the sheet. “…I want you to know I would never, ever need a break from caring for you.”

Robyn was a truly wonderful mother.

I remember when one writer’s mom became ill. Robyn organised a big group of writers to write a funny story by each adding a snippet and send it to her to cheer her up.

Robyn was a truly good friend.

What a giant hole she has left in her family and in everyone’s lives. I’m so sad, I could hardly sleep last night…


And then I started to think about how much Robyn has inspired me.

She was a warrior mother, a home-schooler and a hard worker on the farm. Her nature was one of giving, and there’s a lot to learn from that. She never let things get her down and always looked to the positive.

Robyn was truly a role model.

She showed by example how to have the right attitude in life. That’s what I aspire to do, too, hopefully half as well as my amigo. 

Love you buddy, smooches! Xxx

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol


Choose happiness. It’s the ultimate act of rebellion. ~ Piper Bayard


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It’s strange after your parents die, it’s the loneliest feeling. In life, there are so many hardships, there is loss, and there is suffering along the way, that’s just the way it is. But, when your parents are gone, and these things happen, you realize how much support they gave. How they sheltered you with the umbrella of their unconditional love. You suddenly appreciate how much they loved and cared about you. How they were always willing to raise a hand on your behalf, no matter what it was, they had your back and were there for you.

The power of parental love is sorely missed.


My parents had a good life together. They emigrated from England in 1961, and raised a happy family in New Zealand. After working for forty years, mum and dad retired to spend the last twenty years of their lives living by the sea, in a lovely little town on the Coromandel Peninsula. Then, in 2015, at the age of eighty-four, my mother died peacefully in her sleep, in her own bed. Dad had a further two years of gardening, bowling, music club, helping to run the church, Probus meetings and outings with the Friendship club. While still recovering from double pneumonia, he suffered a heart attack in hospital and died at the age of eighty-six.

My parents had had good, full lives. Sometimes however, I wish they were still here.


It’s strange after they’re gone. It takes time to adjust. Two years later, and I still find myself reaching for them in a way. When things are difficult, especially, I find myself wishing I could talk to mum. She had developed in the latter part of her life the most magnificent ability to listen. She would ask how I had been and then listen in rapt attention to every word I said. She had an insatiable interest in me, my kids and our lives. I felt I could tell her everything, and quite often, she would say something surprisingly wise in response.

I miss our long conversations.

m&d Tairua

It’s strange after they’re gone, because you miss the little things, like the banter over the family games of cards, monopoly, and scrabble. I can remember playing scrabble for hours, and the card games sitting in a big circle on the floor. It was fun to play cribbage, as dad would keep up a constant banter of funny old English sayings that went with each drop of the cards, as he counted, ‘four’s a score’ ‘five’s alive’ ‘seven’s in heaven’ ‘eight’s in state’ and of course, ‘one for his knob’ and so on. It was quirky and quaint and particular to dad.

In their eighties, mum became a notorious cheat at cards, and dad started to make mistakes in the scoring, though we never said a word.

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When we were growing up, dad was not big on displays of affection. But as he got older, he softened. In his last decade, I received some genuinely tender cards from him on special occasions. The last birthday card he gave me said, ‘I am very pleased with you to have achieved so much in your life. Bless you, your loving Dad’ (with four kisses and one hug).

When I’d visit, dad would spontaneously hug me or rub my back – something he’d never done – he became more able to communicate his love. It was so sweet.

It’s strange after they’re gone, because there is this constant feeling that I should be going somewhere or doing something. When they were alive, although they weren’t demanding, their presence meant I was either contacting them or planning something to do with them, or worrying about them (as they got older). I travelled down country to spend time with them every five weeks, so I was often there, or sorting out the next trip. Now, the pressure is off, there is nothing to do on mother’s and father’s days, or their birthdays or for them at Christmas.

Many of the year’s celebrations in our family have changed and we need to learn how to redefine these occasions.


To have both parents gone is the strangest feeling. I wonder if I will ever get used to it. I suppose you always miss people after they’ve died, but as time goes on, you become slowly stronger and wiser and more able to deal with sorrow.

I think it was Dr. Seuss who said sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. I value my parents more now than ever.

I realize how lucky I was to have had good parents who loved me and gave me a happy, stable childhood! It makes me more determined than ever to honour them, by being a good parent also and giving my children the same.


Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol


Blessed be the ties that bind generations. ~ Unknown


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I was watching a terrific program on the National Geographic channel the other night about the rise of interest in Cryonics. Apparently there’s great interest in the idea of preserving the body (or sometimes, just the head) after death by low temperature freezing, with the hope that science progresses far enough to bring the person back to life in the future. Many people have already paid good money and booked in to have their bodies preserved in this way.

This sort of preoccupation is nothing new.


There are myths that have grown up around the idea of eternal life like that of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Of the plot, according to Wikipedia, ‘Newly understanding that his beauty will fade, Dorian expresses the desire to sell his soul, to ensure that the picture, rather than he, will age and fade. The wish is granted, and Dorian pursues a libertine life of varied amoral experiences while staying young and beautiful; all the while, his portrait ages and records every sin.[6]

Myths like this were very much cautionary tales, warning us about the folly of chasing immortality. Yet, the quest continued.


People still sought to extend their lives by whatever means possible. There were mythological places like the legendary island of Bimini in the Bahamas where the Fountain of Youth gave everlasting life to all who drank from it. Over the centuries, the fountain was much sought after but never found. The famous Spanish explorer Ponce de León reportedly set out to find the Fountain of Youth in the early 1500’s, although modern historians say that too is a myth.

Yet Wikipedia says, ‘There were longevity myths in the bible mentioning individuals with lifespans up to the 969 years of Methuselah. The ancient Greek author Lucian is the presumed author of Macrobii (long-livers), a work devoted to longevity. Most of the examples Lucian gives are what would be regarded as normal long lifespans (80–100 years)’. So, people still believed in the real possibility of prolonging life.


In Medieval times Nicolas Flamel was reputed to have created a “sorcerer’s stone” that was then used to produce a potion, the elixir of life, said to make the drinker immortal. The idea so captured the public imagination of the 1300’s that other well known scientists – even the esteemed Sir Isaac Newton – attempted to replicate the results, without any luck. People have been obsessed with the idea of immortality and living forever for centuries.

According to Adam Gollner in The Book of Immortality: The Science, Belief, and Magic Behind Living Forever, ‘The twenty-five-year old Emperor Ai of Jin died in 365 CE, after overdosing on longevity drugs. He wasn’t the last leader to die trying to live forever. The fascination with chemical immortality reached an ironic apogee centuries later, during the T’ang dynasty (618-907 CE), when elixirs poisoned those hoping for precisely the opposite effect.’


Today, I celebrated the 101st birthday of a dear friend. Not only is he hale and hearty, he has a quicker sharper wit than anyone else in the room. And, he’s showing no signs of slowing down. I remember at his 100th birthday party someone in the crowd asked, “What is your secret?” He said “Well, the only thing I can say is I went vegetarian twenty-five years ago.” As a friend, I would say his secret is his positive attitude. He’s still a member of a handful of clubs, he has many times more friends than I do, and his attitude is always positive. It’s been proved that those who have a good attitude about aging lived more than seven years longer than those with negative attitudes, according to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, something I read about over on the blog of Karen Salmansohn.

Sophia_Loren_-_1955Sophia Loren, 1954

This is very much in line with something I’ve always believed, that a healthy long life is all in the attitude. I saw the magnificent Sophia Loren interviewed once, when she was in her glorious 80’s. The admiring interviewer asked her, “You are truly ageless. What is your secret?” Loren replied, “I always have something to look forward to.” I’ve remembered that great advice ever since and I employ that idea in my life. I’ve also seen it called “plan de vida” or “reason to live.” Plan de vida, says blogger, Karen Salmansohn, ‘is a common practice of peppy elders living in Nicoya, Costa Rica, a famed centenarian hotspot. In Nicoya, residents credit their longevity to living with a purpose.’

The Quest for Immortality Continues…


Sophia Loren, 2014

Talk to you later!

Yvette K. Carol


“I don’t believe in ageing. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun. Hence my optimism.” – Virginia Woolf



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A good friend said to me a few years ago, that entering one’s “middle years” was like fall, in that ‘things started to drop away from you like leaves from the tree.’ I think that is a handy analogy for this season of life I find myself in. After losing both my parents in the last two years, as well as a good friend, thinking of this time in my life as ‘being like fall’ helps me achieve the right mindset. That way, I accept loss as the natural order of life and the way things go.


I put this realisation into my work-in-progress, a middle grade fantasy novel called, The Last Tree. Because of the youth of the characters, the realization becomes an initiatory one. I was able to use my recent experience with grief to write more realistically about the grief we feel as kids when we first take those first tentative steps towards adulthood, and we start to leave childhood behind. I can clearly remember being that age of twelve to thirteen and not wanting to grow up.


Our young hero, Aden Weaver, was eleven in book one of The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series and each book covers the course of a year in his life. The Last Tree, being the third volume in the trilogy, includes the final battles, and the flowering into fullness of the child character/s must transpire.

As Aden Weaver is thirteen in The Last Tree, he is therefore on the cusp of change, walking that fine line of the transition between boyhood and manhood. He would naturally entertain his first thoughts about mortality. I did this through having his beloved mentor start to age rapidly. The thin line I had to walk was to have Aden experience loss while not dwelling on it to the point of being morbid.


I knew I had to handle everything about the final book with care. In The Last Tree, Aden Weaver says goodbye to people he loves. It is a graduation story after all, and with graduation comes leaving people and places behind, so while there is bliss there is sadness. That’s life. It’s how we handle what happens that defines us.

It’s vital for the reader’s sense of resolution that Aden displays the depth of character at the end of the series absent at the beginning.

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 4.13.09 pm

The protagonist must demonstrate a growth arc and become that thing that was promised in book one, the wannabe must become the warrior, the hero, the more evolved, more complete version of themselves.

Aden, must taste the bitter fruit of reality and grow up a little and move on with new maturity. It’s a delicate piece in the mechanism of the coming of age story. However, I don’t prefer writing morbid fiction for children. You can see in the success of series like The Hunger Games that this generation of kids has high tolerance levels for death and violence. I read the Hunger Games trilogy to my boys earlier this year, and I was shocked at the content. It’s that sort of thing I couldn’t do.

65893423_Kindle Ready Front Cover JPEG_Jul 17

I want to do my story and characters justice in a potent way without the gore.

To me, there should be some reflection of life’s difficulties in our children’s books, and it also needs careful treatment. When you are writing for the 9-13 year-old age group, this acknowledgement of the child grasping the intransience of life needs to be touched on in some way, to be authentic to that stage of life. It’s about our passage over the threshold, from the first phase of life to the next. It can be symbolic, through leaving town, or changing schools. It needs to be present but not at the forefront, and not put in a way that is irresolvable for the immature mind.

Life’s tragedy can be delivered in junior fiction in a way that enriches the story without overwhelming it, if it’s done well. Just think of Charlotte’s Web.


In writing about loss for young people, you must, also offer hope. Just as we do in real life, seek a counterbalance. The aim is not to leave your young audience devastated. We have a responsibility to reveal the glimmer of light along with the darkness.

At the end of The Last Tree, I sought to redress the balance back into the light. I only wrote the triumphant scenes a couple of months ago, and now they’re among my favourites in the whole book.

Hope is restored, as it should be. Life does go on.


Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol


‘Good stories are about the getting of wisdom; let your children grow up.’ ~ Jane Yolen



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Tuesday the twelfth of February marked the first anniversary of my father’s death. It was a year ago on a Monday that I got the phone call you dread, that someone you love has died. It was my elder sister, who was ringing from the Waikato Hospital.

I think it was seven o’clock in the morning – too early to be good news – “Dad passed away last night.”

I felt sucker punched.

My sister said the hospital then the funeral home was taking dad’s body to do the final things that needed to be done; he would be sent home to us in a day or so.


I started packing our bags. I spoke to all the people I needed to speak to, excused the boys from school for the week, and we were on the road to my father’s log cabin within the hour.

I’ll never forget the scene, when we drove into dad’s seaside town and neared the mountain he lived on, we found the peak was completely hidden within its own private cloud. It was so unusual I had to stop and take a photo.

I felt the land and the sea surrounding us were speaking directly to our sorrow.


When we arrived at the empty house that was when the tears flowed. I couldn’t believe dad wouldn’t be there, as he always had been there: reading the paper, watching the 6 o’clock news, doing the crossword, feeding his birds, working in the garden, making food in the kitchen, playing cribbage with us in the evenings. Dad would never be there again.

I looked at my two youngest boys and they looked at me, and I knew I had to be strong for them. Though dad had only been gone a day, certain doors had closed, and a new one had opened, that of my stepping up in rank in our family.

Now, it was my turn to begin the walk of the kaumatua (elder).


I unpacked our bags, and started preparing food for my sisters, who were driving to Thames Hospital to sort out paperwork, and would then make the trip to us. It all felt surreal. The reality arrived when the funeral home brought dad’s casket to the house a day and a half later.

The funeral director said, ‘the hardest moments for the families are when the lid is first removed and when the lid of the casket is put back on.’

Both moments were heart wrenching. Yet, my father himself looked like he was sleeping, and he was dressed in his very best Sunday suit. We took it in turns after the initial outpouring of grief to sit with him. We didn’t leave dad alone, apart from when we were sleeping.


Dad spent two and a half days with us at home. We sat with him, held his hands, stroked his hair, sang and talked to him. More family arrived until we were all present. Friends came by, bringing food, neighbours baked cakes and lasagnes.

In the evenings, we siblings sat around the dining table, spending hour after hour going through the old photos. There were boxes to view and sort and distribute between us. Each day, we selected another room of the house to clear out and sort through. The contents of our parents’ lives spread before us.


Although it almost felt disrespectful to touch their belongings, two people’s lives and a house full of possessions needed to be resolved.

After dad had been moved to his beloved church and had been given a beautiful, moving ceremony, we laid him to rest, alongside mum in the town’s cemetery.

Tuesday 12th 2019 marked the first anniversary of dad’s death. My sister and I travelled to mum’s and dad’s hometown in order to pay our respects.

We visited the cemetery and cleaned the headstone; we put in fresh flowers and solar lights. We spoke to dad and said some prayers and sang a song. We told him and mum that they’re not forgotten. It was sad but it felt like the right thing to do.


I came home to the city and my kids musing on the fact sometimes growing up can be hard. I felt sorry for my teenagers and their travails.

In the last two weeks, my youngest son has started high school. He’s made several commitments to teams and groups, at the same time undertaking more chores at home. Tonight, when I asked him to do the ‘umpteenth thing,’ he said, “GROWING UP SUCKS!”

It does, man, there’s no other way of putting it. Yet, the tragedies and the hardships we go through, as we get older and lose more people, are what also shape and craft us into better, deeper, more empathetic human beings.

Sometimes, it sucks, yet, that’s okay. It means another phase of life begins.


Talk to you later.

Yvette K. Carol



It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. E.e. Cummings



‘Family is the most important thing in the world.’ ~ Princess Diana

Last weekend, I joined the extended Maori side of our family to celebrate the “unveiling ceremony” for a family matriarch. The unveiling is held a year after a person’s death, when the whanau (family) gather again at the marae – the general area outside their meeting house –  for a service and at the family cemetery to reveal the person’s headstone. It’s a time to bless the stone, to remember the loved one, to talk about them and sing to them, once more.


I’d been invited to join my niece and nephews, to farewell their grandmother one last time at her “unveiling.” It was to be held at their family’s marae, on the banks of Lake Rotoma, which lies just beyond Rotorua. Lucky for me, I was able to coordinate my arrival with that of my niece, and I simply copied the protocol she displayed, so as not to do the wrong thing by mistake. I accompanied her when we entered the Te Waiiti Marae and followed in her wake, kissing the cheek of all those already there.

I felt out of my comfort zones, out of my element, and yet, it was okay. I was glad to be there.


Outside the big kitchen where many women were busy preparing the food, there was a plastic bucket of Koura, or fresh water crayfish, which had been found in the nearby Waiiti stream.


To the rear of the kitchen block, on a flat piece of lawn, the men were laying the hangi. They had dug the pit that morning. A bonfire had been lit much earlier and had burned down to coals. The rocks, which had been within the fire, were tipped into the bottom of the pit. Then the trays of prepared vegetables, pig, lamb and chicken were placed over the rocks.


These were covered in sacks which had been soaked in water. Then, the men all pitched in to cover it in the soil. The hangi was then left to cook.


An hour later, the ceremony began with the powhiri (welcome) when friends and family who had arrived were welcomed onto the marae.


Everyone was seated outside the whare, (the house) where some of the women in the family sat with the photos of the deceased. The eldest male in the family then gave the mihi, or recitation of those family members who have passed, reminding everyone of the names of their ancestors.


This was followed by waiata (song) and karakia (prayer), and then, the grandmother’s family lined up to greet the new arrivals. From there, everyone drove to the cemetery a mile or so down the road, where the gravesite had been prepared with decorations and the stone was covered by a traditional feathered cloak.

After more prayer, the headstone was unveiled and the inscription read aloud, before being blessed by the priest. There were readings, songs and everyone who wanted to speak was invited to speak, also known as ‘korero.’


Finally, the whanau processed back to the marae in the afternoon, to dig up the hangi and eat a meal together (kai hakari).

I marvel at how lucky we’ve been in our family, that we have become forever connected – through marriage – to this Maori family. Because of this connection of whanau, we’ve been invited to attend a number of these traditional Maori events over the years, and have been fortunate enough to get a see a little bit of insight into their culture, which has been a real privilege.

At the same time, I still feel like an outsider looking in.


I was very aware when I walked onto the marae, that morning, of being one of three other Europeans there. “Who’s that?” one of the aunties asked my nephew, indicating me. He said, “She’s my mum’s sister.”

Immediately, there were big smiles from the lady and all the other aunties sitting along the bench outside the dining room, and I went over to kiss her and each of the others on the cheek. I was welcomed with open arms.

The Maori culture is so rich and so steeped in tradition that it’s just a pleasure and an honour to bear witness and be a part of the lives of the indigenous people of this country. I loved every minute. It was a very special day to be part of, and it reminded me of everything that’s great about this country.

Te tangata, te tangata, te tangata! The people, the people, the people!


Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol


‘Nothing that happens to a writer – however happy, however tragic – is ever wasted.’ ~ PD James


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