There is simply no pill that can replace human connection. There is no pharmacy that can fill the need for compassionate interaction with others. There is no panacea. The answer to human suffering is both within us and between us.
Dr Joanne Cacciatore
Today one of the invisible human connections that have sustained me over the past 22 years, left this earthly realm.
In 1996 I was pregnant with my second baby. Early in the year I discovered something called listservs – and thought I was pretty jolly clever. All of a sudden I was connected to a whole group of women who like me, were pregnant and due in August 1996. Some were expecting their first baby, some their last or only child, and for some – like me – August 1996 was the year of the middle child. We ranged from early 20s to late 40s – married, single, rich and poor, from every political and religious sphere – and it took no time at all for us to become the most amazing support network of women imaginable. An invisible web of human connections.
Initially a group numbering in the 100s, after a few years, and a few technological changes, we became a strong friendship group of about 40 women, predominantly American, but with mums in Canada, Ireland, Britain, South Africa, Germany and Australia. I consider my August96 mums to be some of my most amazing friends, and one of the reasons I survived parenting three boisterous young boys with my sanity (barely) intact.
Our group weathered storms of birth, death, marriage and divorce. We grieved for stillborn babies and suicides. Celebrated new found love and career success. We’ve fought over politics and religion, breast vs bottle, stay-at-home vs work-at-home, and always come out stronger, wiser and more empathetic for our feisty discussions.
If ever I needed advice on anything, from what to feed my baby recovering from gastroenteritis, to the best means of treating a urinary tract infection, the mums have been there. We’ve grown up together and watched our babies mature into the amazing young men and women they are today. We’ve shared the excitement of awards and accolades, young love and grandbabies, mourned the loss of beloved children and spouses, and together shouldered the heavy burden of teenage experimentation with all that is dangerous and frightening. These amazing women are my friends.
In 2010 I was blessed to travel to Las Vegas and meet with 12 of my friends. It has been one of the highlights of my life to wine and dine with women I knew intimately well, but had only ever known from afar. We hugged and laughed and stayed up late drinking margaritas and my life is all the richer for having been there. I’ve also been privileged to have had four of the mums from the United States visit me in Australia – all the way down south on my little island home, Tasmania. I hope one day to meet many more of them.
In 2009, my fellow Australian August Mum, passed away after succumbing to cancer. Our group was shocked and devastated to lose one of our own.
This morning I woke to the news one of our founding members, mother to the firstborn of the August 1996 babies (arriving early, in June 1996) passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. We are all in shock. Linda has been a powerful voice in the group since its inception. Her incredible intelligence and wisdom frequently shedding light on even the most difficult and complex problems. Her feisty passion ready to defend without hesitation. Her amazing personality shining through in her love of classical singing, home cooking and strong connections to her Jewish community. And her overwhelming capacity for love never more evident than her pride and joy in her three beautiful boys. Linda lost her beloved life partner several years ago. I picture her now, dancing with her soulmate, singing songs of love with her deep alto voice, and watching over her boys with a fierce maternal love as they struggle to come to terms with life without parents.
I will treasure forever the memory of staying up until the wee hours of the morning in the hotel room, drinking red wine and sharing stories of the pros and cons of raising three incredibly intelligent and headstrong boys. I will remember her passion for good food, her kindness, her radiant personality when she entered a room, and her capacity to seek the best in us all and share her wisdom so freely.
Rest in Peace beloved friend. And my love to all the August Mums who grieve this loss. A reminder we must always treasure what we have right now – for there may not be a tomorrow.