A place to call home
We arrived in Australia on an unbearably hot and humid Australia Day in 1997.
I still remember every detail of leaving our country of birth, South Africa. Pregnant with my second child and with toddler and husband in tow, I sobbed all the way from South Africa to Australia. It’s all a blur of tears and a ‘tantruming’ toddler who wanted to walk the entire journey. He alternately screeched or toddled up and down the aisles for most of the flight!
In Afrikaans, it’s called ‘snot-en-trane’ (snot and tears!) and that sort of sums up my voyage through the bleak outer suburbs of Brisbane in the back of my father-in-law’s car (he and my mother in law had arrived a year prior). The poor man must have been devastated that I wasn’t overjoyed to see him. And I suppose the uninspiring landscape on the drive from the airport to their home in Cornubia didn’t help elevate my spirits. Looking back, I see hormones played a big part in the meltdown! Where most new arrivals showed excitement about embracing their new home, I wanted to curl up in a ball.
Perhaps part of my misery was also the realization that there was no turning back. The idea of leaving everything familiar had seemed like an adventure at the time. The enormity of leaving two sisters and my dear parents and friends didn’t really dawn on me until I was at the checkout gates. Later, I realized I wouldn’t be able to nip back home at whim. As new arrivals, toddler, and soon, new baby, (later, another!) there was no way I was going to flit back and forth. While my family visited over the years, those visits eventually stopped when my parents reached an age when they could no longer travel. My older sisters also had children living overseas and visiting them naturally became their priority not Australia, situated, quite literally at the other end of the world.
The good news is that I stopped bawling. And when I think of what got me through those early years, it’s without a doubt joining a church and gaining close friends who were experiencing similar losses to my own. Kindred spirits were a godsend. Laughter was a great healer. That said, how I wish I’d had a beacon like The Joy Project to turn to all those years ago. Sometimes all we need is a listening ear – someone who will not judge or label or insist we pull ourselves together. We are all unique. We all experience different struggles. Our paths are so diverse.
To coin a cliché, emigrating has been a journey of growth. Of deeply trusting in my Father in heaven. Never did I need Him more when my dad died of lung cancer almost two years ago. I was unprepared for the deep heartache while watching him literally wither away within the three weeks of my stay. Always a strong, muscular man, he became an emaciated shell of the man he once was. He passed away while I was on the plane back to Australia. I mention this because through all the sorrow, I know without a shadow of a doubt that God’s hand was on the situation. I had time to nurse my dear dad and speak to him. I prayed with him. I said goodbye. Though incredibly sad, I knew that God had taken him as I had so earnestly prayed – his death was not lingering and he was with the Lord. I was so grateful.
And I suppose that’s what the journey has been about too – gratitude. Gratitude that we visited South Africa as a family when my parents were both well. Such gratitude that we live in a safe country that works as it should. So grateful for the precious friends we’ve made, for our three children and their friends and the opportunities Australia has afforded them.
Joy, I’ve also discovered, is not a frivolous, superficial feeling dependent on my surroundings or circumstance. It comes from the deep knowledge that I am cherished. In every struggle, He is right there with me. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
Lois has written an amazing book on her experience of moving check it out below
www.aussieactually.com (Kindle version has five extra chapters and is the newer edition).