For most of us, a trip to Australia is a trip of a lifetime. Too bad when I went there I couldn’t enjoy it.
Around October of last year my grief from the loss of my daughter Queah (Quaya) got worse. I needed to get away for the holidays so my daughter’s Australian friend Phil suggested I come there. At first I said no because I thought it would be too painful because Queah loved that city and spoke of it often. I eventually figured let’s not be foolish – just go. However, much of my decision hinged on whether I could get up to wine country and visit Iron Gate Estate, a little winery she fell in love with. Phil said yes plus he promised to take me to other places she visited.
On the day I arrived in Sydney, I remember waiting for Phil to pick me up at the airport and take me to my hotel. As I waited I felt so sad, so empty. It was a summer morning, the air was crisp and the Australian landscape was green with vibrant color bursts of flowers. On the way to the hotel we stopped at little cafe on the ocean for breakfast. I love cappuccino and it was the best I ever tasted but it did little to change my mood. Phil and his family knew I was grieving so they kept me busy during the trip and since they’re native Aussies I got a chance to see the city from a perspective most tourist do not. I had dinners in many restaurants but the better ones were off the beaten path where the food puts those fancy places to shame. The best dinner came from Monica’s kitchen – Phil’s mom. She cooked for her mom, fiancee, her sons, their families and me. They were all so excited to have this American in their home. I put on a good front but deep down I was still so very sad.
Midway through the vacation, we drove about 2 and half hours outside of Sydney to wine country. Finally it was the day I’d been waiting for. When we arrived I could see why Queah loved it there and I began to feel a connection to her. The building had a Spanish-style architecture which was her favorite. The rows of grapevines were neatly and clearly separated and appeared to reach into infinity. This is the part where I eagerly taste-tested every wine they had to offer. My daughter always told me that I had an unsophisticated wine pallet, so this was an opportunity to educated myself – and what better place than one of her favorite places in the world. They guy behind the counter explained in detail how the wines were made. Out of nowhere a guy walked up and asked “is everything was okay”? I replied yes and said “are you the owner”? He said yes and introduced himself as Roger. This was a turning point in the vacation because at no time during this trip did I mention my daughter to anyone outside of the people who knew her, but I immediately began telling Roger about Queah and how she was once there. He listened and wanted to know when she died. I told him last March and then came words I will never forget – “I know what you’re going through. My son, Miles died in January.” I was a little stunned but eventually summed it up to coincidence.
On the last day of the trip I went to the Sydney Opera House. It’s the beautifully odd shaped building on Sydney Harbor. Queah had many pictures taken from there. I was lucky enough to go on a tour of the facility where I had a brief encounter with a couple named Jon and Kathy. They were from the states but currently live in Australia. When the tour ended we went our separate ways. Strangely, we kept bumping in to each other afterward. By the third or fourth time of bumping in to them I decided to tell them why I was at the Opera House and it’s connection to my daughter. Like Roger, they wanted to know when she died – and like Roger they said… “we know what you’re going through. Our son Mat died”.
Coincidence? Maybe. Fate? I’d say so. During the plane ride home it became crystal clear to me that death is not the end. I don’t know for sure what happens after death since it hasn’t happened to me yet, but I do believe Queah, Miles and Mat have met and they’re watching over their parents. Just thinking about it makes me feel a lot better.
I keep in touch with Roger, Jon and Kathy through emails and phone calls. We’ve become a long distance support group. I’ve been invited back to Australia and I plan to go. My grief prevented me from thoroughly enjoying Australia but I don’t believe that will happen next time. In fact, I think I’ll take many different trips to many different places because who knows who Queah will have arranged for me to meet when I get there!