Learning About Me

Ejo #153 – The Coffee Nap

I’m a shift worker so getting a good night’s sleep isn’t always easy.  In fact, as a rule, it’s virtually impossible. I often have to get up for work at 4am, and on other days I don’t get home until 7am.  It’s quite ridiculous if you think about it.  However, as an air traffic controller I do get paid very well to work around the clock, and I’m not here to complain about it.  In fact, I wouldn’t give up shift work for anything in the world (except maybe retirement).  And I certainly wouldn’t ever want to work office hours. Ever again. For as long as I live. 

Shift work isn’t for everyone, but I love it, and you’ll hear more about that in next month’s ejo.  But it does have its pitfalls and the biggest one is fatigue.  Ask any shift worker.  We are always tired.  So very, very tired.  As a result, coffee and naps are both extremely important, and very necessary, tools for us.  I’ve always been a bit of a coffee fiend, but did you know that I also love my siestas.  Picture it:  I get out of bed at 4am to shower, wash my hair, and get ready for work.  I arrive at the tower at 5.30am to start my eight hour shift at 6am.  At 2pm I am relieved from duty and go home.  I usually arrive around 3pm.  What do you think is the first thing I do when I walk in the door?  I’ll tell you.  I flop face first onto the couch and I stay there for the next two hours.  This is not an ideal situation.  But, this invariably used to be my morning shift routine. Until I discovered coffee naps. 

So, what the hell is a coffee nap anyway?  Coffees and naps don’t go together!  That doesn’t make any sense.  Coffee keeps you awake, right?  How are you going to sleep if you drink coffee?  Well yes, it is true that caffeine is a stimulant.  But the secret of the coffee nap is caffeine takes about 20 minutes to reach the blood-brain barrier and slot into the receptors that allow it to take effect (I’m talking about that familiar java jolt).  If those receptors are free and open, then the caffeine will bind to them and you’ll get the caffeine hit that you need.  However, if those receptors happen to be already blocked by something else, then the coffee won’t have the stimulating effect you yearn for.  It will simply be flushed out of the body and you’ll still feel tired and cranky. 

One of the by-products of energy production in the body is adenosine, a molecule that makes you feel sleepy through suppression of nerve cell activity.  When adenosine is present, it binds to the A2A receptors in the brain.  These receptors are super important in regulating oxygen consumption, blood flow through the heart, and central nervous system neurotransmitters.  But psst, guess what else binds to A2A receptors?  Big reveal, yup, it’s caffeine.   

What that means is that when you feel tired and decide to have a coffee, the caffeine and the adenosine have to duke it out and compete to sit in those receptors.  So having a coffee when you’re tired doesn’t always work.  The adenosine in the receptors essentially cock-blocks the caffeine.  What we need to do is somehow clear the A2A receptors of adenosine to ensure that by the time the caffeine in our double espresso reaches them, it gets the red carpet treatment and is escorted directly to the receptor.  Once bound to the receptor the caffeine instantly makes us feel more awake. 

So, how to ensure that the A2A receptors in the brain are available?  Enter the coffee nap’s special sauce.  You might want to sit down for this.  Sleeping (or even just resting, or lying down with your eyes closed) clears the brain’s receptors of adenosine.  So if you have a quick shot of strong coffee and then lie down for twenty minutes, your brain will eliminate the adenosine, ensuring that the A2A receptors are wide open and receptive to the caffeine right about the time it penetrates the blood-brain barrier. 

I literally just woke up from a coffee nap right now (I’m not even joking), and decided to have a bash at creating some terrible graphics to visually demonstrate exactly how all of this works. 

As you can see from my very scientific drawings, the caffeine molecule quite closely resembles the adenosine molecule. And even though the two molecules produce diametrically opposite results (caffeine wakes you up, and adenosine makes you sleepy), the A2A receptors in the brain are unable to differentiate between them.

The A2A receptors just sit there, waiting for either adenosine or caffeine to come along and have a seat. They’re not fussy. For them, it’s like whatever. Also, they may, or may not, actually look like coffee cups.

The caffeine and adenosine compete for a comfy spot in an A2A receptor. It’s a case of first come, first served.

This is what being sleepy looks like. There are many complex processes happening in the body that result in adenosine production. We don’t need to know what they are, but we do need to know that when enough adenosine is produced, we feel irresistibly tired and just want to close our eyes and lie down.

You might think that having a coffee would help to fight the tiredness. That is coffee’s job, after all.

But you’d be wrong. The caffeine is unable to bind to the A2A receptors because they’re already full of snoozing adenosine molecules that are quite happy where they are, thank you very much. So the caffeine is simply swept away and flushed down the toilet.

But if you had that cup of joe and then took a quick nap, the brain would start to clear the adenosine out of the A2A receptors (because that’s what the brain does when you rest).

After twenty minutes, the caffeine arrives on the scene just as the adenosine is being swept away, allowing it free and easy access to the A2A receptors, and blocking any reuptake of adenosine. Clever brain.

The result is that you wake up feeling not just the benefits of having cleared the adenosine, but also of the caffeine punching directly into your brain!! It’s a double whammy. And… it works.

I had my first coffee nap on 26th January 2018, and the fact that I know this might give you an indication of how much this hack has changed my life.  I no longer waste entire afternoons, late mornings or evenings snoring on the couch. If I’m tired (and I’m always tired, I told you I was a shift worker, right?), I simply set an alarm, guzzle a strong espresso and lie down for twenty minutes. Now this sounds easy, and I do promise you that it works… if you do it right. So here are some guidelines to help you achieve the perfect coffee nap.

  1. Find a nice quiet and comfortable spot to lie down. Somewhere you won’t be disturbed for a while.
  2. You need around 200mg of caffeine. And you need to drink it fast. No point sipping it over a few minutes, as that eats into your nap time. A large espresso usually works for me. I let it cool down a little so that I can chug it in one gulp. Cold brew works too.
  3. You really need to set an alarm. And you really need to get up after 20 minutes. And you really need to lie down for the full 20 minutes. Any less and you won’t clear out enough adenosine from your brain, meaning the coffee won’t work as well. Any longer and you’ll enter a deeper sleep which will result in you waking up feeling groggy and suffering from sleep inertia. Twenty minutes is the sweet spot, and you have to be disciplined about it.
  4. You don’t need to actually go to sleep for a coffee nap to work. Adenosine is eliminated even when you’re just resting with your eyes closed. I usually find that the first five or so minutes after lying down, my heart and my mind are both racing too much to sleep. But if I persist and just try to relax my body and quiet my mind, I do usually start to drift off after a while. The perfect coffee nap for me is when I do actually fall asleep and my brain just suddenly wakes up, seconds before the alarm goes off. That, my friends, is the holy grail of coffee naps. That’s what we’re all looking for. It won’t always happen like that, but when it does… bliss.
  5. A coffee nap works when you’re sleepy. Most people, even us poor shift workers, don’t start feeling drowsy until after lunch. I’d say the ideal time for a coffee nap is between 12pm and 4pm, but you can do it later if you really need to. Just be careful not to have it within 6 hours of your bedtime or you’ll have trouble sleeping (which will make you more tired the next day – it’s a vicious cycle, but you can break it).

In the last four and a half years, I’ve had hundreds of coffee naps. I’ve coffee napped in the car, I’ve coffee napped on the floor, I’ve coffee napped in airport lounges, I’ve coffee napped at work, I’ve coffee napped on the couch, I’ve coffee napped my way around Europe and of course I’ve had many, many coffee naps on my bed. The best thing about the coffee nap is that it’s better than just a nap, and it’s better than just a cup of coffee. And it only takes about 25 minutes of your day (I’m adding five minutes for setting everything up and then cleaning the coffee cup afterwards). I’m so excited about this awesome bio-hack, and have introduced many of my friends and family to the benefits of a quick 20 minute coffee nap. My hope is that you’ll try it, and find that it works for you too.

P.S. You’re welcome.

Ejo #150 – Boeing 747: Queen Of The Skies

I have been an air traffic controller for nearly 22 years, and I’m lucky enough to be able to say that I still absolutely love my job.  A fun fact about me is that I’m actually trained to work in both tower and approach environments, but I’ve always been grateful that my entire career has been spent working exclusively in air traffic control towers.  There’s a funny, self-aggrandising hierarchy amongst approach controllers in which they believe that they’re the top guns of ATC, and that the tower is where air traffic controllers go to die (we don’t call them figjam for nothing).  I’m not going to get into that debate here, but I will say that every single day I go to work I’m thankful that I get to look out the window and see the aeroplanes I’m controlling, rather than being stuck in a cheerless radar room with row upon row of radar screens and no windows or natural light.

Queen of my domain.
A generic factory floor, oops, I mean radar room. 😉

Truly, one of the joys of my job is just being able to watch the aircraft fly.  In 22 years I reckon I’ve seen over a million takeoffs and landings, so you’d be forgiven for assuming I might be a bit jaded by it all.  But no, I still totally get off on it.  I definitely wouldn’t call myself an aerosexual, but there is one particular aircraft’s takeoff which absolutely fills me with awe and wonder every time I see it, and that aircraft is the Boeing 747.  For something that has a maximum takeoff weight of 442,252 kilograms, the Jumbo jet veritably glides off the runway with such elegance and grace, it still takes my breath away.  

Taxiing for departure at Al Maktoum International Airport. ♥

The first B747 flight took place from Everett, Washington in the United States in 1969, with the model entering service a year later.  Years in the making, the “Dream Team” of over 50,000 employees that worked on the aircraft, produced a remarkable feat of aviation engineering which revolutionised air travel by making it cheaper and easier for people to fly. The Boeing 747, which is capable of carrying 660 passengers (in a single, cattle-class, configuration), is commonly referred to as the Queen Of The Skies and is beloved and revered by aviation enthusiasts all over the world, including me.  It’s no surprise that the 747, with its unique and classic shape is one of the most iconic, popular, and most recognisable aircraft in aviation history. 

The very first B747. Isn’t she lovely, isn’t she wonderful.
The difference between the B747 and it’s predecessor, the B707, is vast. Which is how the Jumbo jet transformed air travel.

How much do I love the B747?  Let me tell you the ways.  I own a clock, a truly magnificent work of art, made from an actual Boeing 747 passenger window.  I love the fact that I have a little piece of flying history up on my wall.  I love that instead of rusting away in some desolate scrapyard heap, part of this remarkable aircraft was salvaged and lovingly handcrafted into a beautiful timepiece.  For over two decades, the window that my clock is made from travelled thousands of miles, at altitudes exceeding 40,000 feet.  Its history no doubt contains tales of severe turbulence, strong winds, rain, freezing temperatures and possibly even lightning strikes.  My B747 has traversed the globe countless times, crossing oceans and deserts, and possibly even poles.  Her ports of call have included New York City, Miami, Cape Town, Singapore, San Francisco, Johannesburg and São Paulo (special shout out to all the aerosexuals out there who keep track of this sort of stuff).

That’s my girl.

Who knows how many passengers gazed out of my window, on their way to a holiday, a business conference or to start a brand new life.  How many people looked through my window with wonder, how many with terror or sadness or with joy.  How many of them had a little too much to drink out of too many miniature bottles of booze?  Who was the youngest person to ever sit in my window seat?  Who was the oldest?  Oh, what stories my window could tell.  How many hard landings did she have to endure, and how many landings did the pilot absolutely glue to the runway?  Did my British Airways 747 ever experience a near miss?  How many times did she have to divert due to a sick passenger, or an unruly one?  How much drama and intrigue unfolded in the galley, long after the cabin lights had been dimmed?  And exactly how many people were initiated into the mile high club?  These are things I’ll never know, but it sure is fun to wonder.  The things I do know about my window is that the registration of the aircraft it belonged to was GCIVM (that’s Golf Charlie India Victor Mike to the uninitiated).  Her maiden flight was on Tuesday, 27th May 1997 and her final scheduled flight was 23 years later, with wheels touching down on Sunday, 15th March 2020. 

Air France’s moving, farewell tribute to their last B747. I’m not crying, you’re crying!!

Sadly, in July 2020 British Airways retired their entire fleet of 31 passenger Boeing 747s due to the sharp downturn in air travel hastened by covid.  I received my clock seven months after my B747 was put out to pasture, thanks to two brothers in England who have combined their love of furniture-making and their passion for aviation to form a business called Plane Industries, repurposing old aircraft parts. 

KLM B747 arriving at St. Maarten’s. Pure aviation pornography (oh shit, maybe I am an aerosexual after all)!!

British Airways isn’t the only airline to stop flying the fuel guzzling, four-engine wide-body aircraft.  Demand for the Queen Of The Skies has dwindled in recent years and two years ago Boeing regretfully announced that they planned to stop making the aircraft in October 2022.  It will be a very sad day in aviation when the last Jumbo jet rolls off the production line, but I do feel some consolation that the B747s currently being used as freighters will remain in service, roaming the skies long after I ride the tower elevator down to the ground floor for the very last time. 

Fill her up, buttercup. I bet you didn’t know that this is how they load cargo onto B747 freighters.

How much do I love the B747?  At the beginning of May, I got my very first tattoo in Amsterdam, at the ripe old age of fifty.  The image is an outline of a Boeing 747 taking off, on the inside of my left wrist.  Though it is beautiful, the aircraft doesn’t just appeal to me aesthetically.  It also represents my work, which I love.  It represents the job that totally changed my life and allowed me to pursue and indulge in my other passion, travel.  It represents my wanderlust, and my desire to soar, and to keep seeking new experiences in far-flung places.  It represents hope, and anticipation and joy. 

My B747 isn’t quite anatomically correct (a lesson in being super precise in telling the tattooist what you want). But I still love her.

You want to know how much I love the B747? My very first business class flight was in a Jumbo jet.  I was travelling home from a trip to San Francisco in 2006 and the plane stopped over for about an hour in Sydney.  When we re-boarded to fly the final leg to Melbourne I decided to shoot my shot and boldly asked if I could sit in business class, playing the old “I’m an air traffic controller” card. Don’t ask me how, but it actually worked!!  The lovely cabin crew escorted me up that glorious stairway to heaven, also known as the upper-deck, business-class section, where for the next hour they plied me with champagne and treated me like a queen.  Queen of the goddamn skies. 

Business, bitchzzzz!!

Ejo #147 – Memories

My Mum died three years ago.  Saying it out loud anchors that awful event in time, crystallising exactly how long ago it happened.  About a year afterwards, a certain pesky virus barge-assed its way onto the world stage, rudely grabbing time by the balls, warping and skewing it, and rendering us all collectively stranded in temporal limbo.  Multiple lockdowns, bans on travel, social restrictions and endless zoom meetings all served to smudge the days together, leaving us few memory milestones with which to mark time.  My Mum’s death is a pretty major milestone.  And yet, because of the pandemic, I find it difficult to reconcile the time that has passed since she died with everything that has occurred since. 

I have written enough about my Mum for you to know how immeasurable an impact her death has had on me.  Every single day.  You know some of her recipes for traditional Greek foods like tzatziki, stuffed tomatoes, my favourite meatballs with white sauce and chicken in red sauce.  You know about the book she wrote, filled with herbal remedies for all sorts of common ailments and my promise to translate and publish it in English.  You know all about her difficult childhood, her deep love for her husband, and her attachment to our family home.  You know a little bit about what I went through when my mother died, and the grief I have experienced since. 

But there are so many stories about my Mum that you don’t know.  Stories of little nothings, stories of things that left a mark.  Funny stories, sad stories, weird stories.  When someone you love dies, your relationship stops being dynamic.  No new memories are created with them, and what you’re left with is just a series of static snapshots from the past.  And it’s all too easy to fall into a pattern of remembering the same curated catalogue of memories, which can then actually become your entire memory of them.  I don’t want that to happen with my Mum.  I want to remember as much real detail about her as I can.  And so I’m reaching into the past, beyond the inadequate narrative that has already started forming.  I’m reaching back into the history I shared with my family, into the day to day stories that may have felt inconsequential at the time, but which have become precious pearls to be salvaged from the past.  Stories that would otherwise be in danger of fading from memory.  And I would like to share a few of them here, for posterity.  So that a fuller, and more colourful and textured version of my Mum can live on in the world.  Even after I’m gone.  These aren’t necessarily true versions of events that happened, but rather just my personal, fallible memories.  And like I said, they’re only snapshots, marred by time.  But these memories are my truth.  And they are all that I have left. 

So, this is some of what remains.

The time I dropped my bag in the middle of a busy K-mart, frozen as I watched what somehow seemed like a million tampons slowly spill out and dramatically roll across the department store floor in every direction.  Wishing for the ground to open up and swallow me.  Hoping, beyond hope, that no-one had seen it.  Which is exactly the point at which my Mum started bellowing with laughter, bringing everyone’s attention to the errant tampons, pointing at each one as I awkwardly ran around trying to collect them all.  Why Mum, why??

Or the time I fucked around with a faulty bedside lamp when I was six years old and copped a mild electric shock which threw me to the floor.  Mum ran in, naked from the shower, yelling at me, while also lovingly sweeping me up in her arms to give me a comforting cuddle.  And the time I was seven years old and decided to visit the lovely old lady over the fence, kind of forgetting to tell anyone, precipitating a missing persons call to the police and a neighbourhood search party.  While Mum was frantic with worry, I was learning how to play “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” on the piano, leafing through old encyclopaedias and chatting with “Granny” over tea and biscuits.  When a policeman eventually reunited me with Mum she enveloped me in a tight embrace, tears cascading down her face.  She squeezed me so hard, and then flipped me around and smacked me just as hard on my bewildered, embarrassed butt.  I didn’t know what the hell was going on.  But I felt the love. 

Granny’s house was just over this fence.

Burning up with a fever of 41º when I was eight years old, I remember my Mum on the phone to the doctor, carefully writing down his instructions to fill the bathtub with cold water and ice-cubes, and to plunge me into the tub every 20 minutes until my temperature dropped.  We both cried as she talked me through it, her hand gently on my chest to keep me calm in my delirium. 

Mum rebelliously sneaking a McDonald’s cheeseburger into the hospital when I was recovering from ear surgery when I was fifteen.  I greedily scarfed the burger, basking in the glow of our conspiratorial secret.  And then I threw up, everywhere.  The nurses were not impressed with me, or Mum. 

One night when I was a baby and Mum was heavily pregnant with my sister Mary, she heard a noise in the backyard and called the police.  Dad was on the road, trucking interstate and she was always so anxious and scared when he was gone.  When the cops arrived, they took one look at the bear trap she’d set up outside the back door (oh yes, I did say bear trap), turned to her incredulously and said, “Uhhh no, lady!  Nooooo!!” adding that she’d be the one in trouble if a burglar was injured by the trap.  She didn’t quite understand what the problem was, but she promised she wouldn’t use it again.

I’ll never forget the feeling of drama and excitement the day Mum won $1000 on a scratchie ticket.  She made a grand entrance through the front door of our Elwood flat with an enormous smile on her face and four brand new, big, puffy doonas stuffed under her arms.  Being relatively poor at the time, a feather duvet was the epitome of posh luxury.  As a ten year old, I remember thinking, wow, so this is what it feels like to be rich!

Celebrations!

When I was transferred to the country town of Albury/Wodonga for work a few months after my Dad died, Mum decided to come with me for the first couple of weeks to keep me company and help me settle in.  We developed a routine, including daily walks along the Murray river where she taught me which wild grasses were edible, and which ones to avoid.  We’d cut them out of the ground with my crappy Swiss army knife, and carry them home in a plastic shopping bag to cook and eat them together, savouring the quiet comfort of each other’s company.  We didn’t have to say the words but we were both desperately missing my father.    

My Mum was the most accommodating person I’ve ever known.  But she developed a dramatic flair for stubbornness in her later years.  On our way home from that trip to Wodonga, tension started running a little high.  After nearly three hours on the road, we’d just reached outer Melbourne in peak hour traffic and it was pissing down with rain.  We got into a “disagreement” about the cause of my father’s lung cancer.  Red flag territory.  We were waiting for a traffic light to turn green, and I demanded that she admit that Dad’s history of smoking had to have contributed to his illness.  She obstinately refused, citing his work with asbestos and other toxic chemicals as the main cause.  Tempers flared and I insisted, declaring that I wasn’t going to continue driving until she admitted she was wrong.  Obnoxiously, I pulled on the handbrake and turned the engine off for emphasis.  We were parked, baby.  At a busy highway intersection.  In rush hour.  In the rain.  I knew she would be uncomfortable with this, but, unexpectedly, my mother wouldn’t budge.  The light turned green and the cars behind me started going crazy, honking and beeping.  My windshield wipers were no competition for the rain bucketing down in sheets, and the windows were fogging up from all the hot air in the car.  I desperately wanted to prove my point but I was also starting to freak out.  This wasn’t the way I had expected my little stunt to go.  Cars started driving around us as we continued shouting at each other.  Me shouting at her to please, please, please just admit it so that we could go.  Beseeching her.  And her shouting at me that she would do no such thing.  Stoic.  Defiant.  She parked herself in the passenger seat with her arms crossed and a stony look in her eye that I’d never seen before.  In the end I caved, releasing the handbrake and turning the car back on in defeat, inching forward towards the traffic lights that had cycled back to red.  We sat in heavy silence for a minute, and then looked at each other and burst into laughter, falling into each other’s arms.  Discovering this stubborn streak in my mother shocked, and (I’m not gonna lie) impressed, the hell out of me. 

As you might be able to tell, I didn’t always have an easy relationship with my mother, and that was especially true during my adolescence.  Between the ages of 15 to 23, I was an insufferable asshole to every single person in my family.  When I was 18, Mum spent three months in Greece after her father died.  I remember the day she came back.  Mary and Pieta were jumping up and down with joy when Mum walked in the door, while I hung back, wearing “trendy” new clothes, heavy eyeliner and a big, fat attitude on my face.  Too cool for fucking school.  I know that my icy reception must have hurt her, but at the time I didn’t give a shit.  Memories like this bring me a great deal of pain, but they still deserve to be remembered, just as much as the good memories do, because they are part of the deep and complex relationship I had with my mother. 

I remember Mum’s beautiful singing voice.  When she was young, she harboured a secret desire to be a professional singer, and she worshipped the popular Greek musician Marinella, closely following her career for decades.  Whenever my Mum broke out in song, she would get a faraway look in her eyes. I don’t know where she went, but she owned the world when she sang.  To my untrained ear, my Mum sounded just like her idol and now, whenever I listen to her favourite Marinella tracks, I get shivers.  All I can hear is my mother’s voice. 

A stunning head shot.
This magical song from the late seventies was one of my Mum’s favourite Marinella tunes, and we grew up listening to it. I know every single word, and hearing it now fills me with such joy and such heartbreak at the same time. Watching the video, I am struck by how similar my Mum’s fashion style was to Marinella’s. Also, that they both had asspiles of sass!!
And they say never meet your heroes. What a load of bullshit. Look at the joy on my Mum’s face when she met her idol Marinella.

Spending time in the garden with Mum during our more recent visits back home, I was pleasantly surprised to see how popular she was in the neighbourhood.  All day long, people would drop by, or stop to have a chat.  I had been concerned (from afar) that she was becoming too reclusive, so it helped me to worry less about her, knowing that she had a strong network of friends to keep her from getting too lonely.  When Mary, Pieta and I were living at the house after Mum died, we had to tell the postman that Mum had passed away. The man handed us our packages and cried on the doorstep.

There are many memories of Mum intently leafing through the pages of a book of dreams when I was 9, 13, 17, 31 explaining to me that the snake I’d dreamt about represented something to be wary of, perhaps a person who didn’t have my best intentions in mind.  Or telling Pieta that her dream of losing a tooth meant that she needed to be careful about losing something important in her life.  I never really believed in these things, but I did enjoy being entertained by the mystical spirituality of it all.  And I respected my Mum’s belief and conviction in the symbolism.  She was also passionately interested in fortune telling, numerology and astrology.  Perhaps because she wanted to believe that life could be influenced by things greater than us.  That there was a chance that things could always get better, despite the odds.

The infamous and shocking morning that Judy, a family friend staying at our holiday house, brushed her teeth and notoriously spat it out in the kitchen sink, casual as you’d like.  Mum nearly fell on the floor, absolutely apoplectic in disgust and horror.  The incident became folklore in our family and we talked about Judy’s unforgiveable crime for years, long after we lost touch with her. 

I have so many memories of my Mum’s vivacious smile from every time David and I arrived at her house in a taxi from the airport, suitcases in tow.  The excitement and joy in her heart so easily expressed in her big, beautiful smile is forever etched in my memory and in my heart.  Twelve times in eleven years I saw that look on her face.  The flip side was how sad and deflated she would become on the day we had to leave Melbourne to return to Dubai.  We’d be watching TV, waiting for our ride to the airport and I’d glance over and see Mum looking at me, quietly soaking me in, with her doleful brown eyes.  Clutching onto her unspoken wishes that we could just stay, forever.  I’d go and sit next to her, holding her in my arms, squeezing her hand tightly, my heart burdened with sadness and guilt.  It never got any easier. 

Timeless.

I’ll never forget the messages that Mum and I exchanged the day before she died.  I was burning the candle at both ends in Tbilisi and WhatsApped her to conceitedly complain that I was suffering from a migraine headache.  She was worried about me.  Even though she was in a great deal of pain, her primary concern was the wellbeing of her daughter.  I remember that so clearly.  And I also remember her telling me about the change in Melbourne weather.  She told me that she was cold.  And a few hours later she was dead. 

In the months after my Mum’s death, crushed by the weight of my grief, I struggled to remember our last day together, or the final time we said goodbye.  Can you even imagine?  I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen my mother alive.  All the farewells we’d shared over the years melded into a blurry melancholic montage, and I couldn’t pinpoint that one single very important moment.  Over the last three years I believe I’ve accurately recreated it with the help of David and my sisters, and the messages that were sent on the family WhatsApp group that day.  But I’m still not really sure.  That’s the problem with death, and it’s the problem with goodbyes.  Every single time you say goodbye, could be the last time.  You never know which moment is going to turn from just another everyday interaction into one of the most important moments of your life. 

Goodbye, my Mum. 💔