Lyall Bay by Greg Smith

“If you can, take care of yourself and then maybe try to take care of someone else, that’s sort of how you’re supposed to live.”

- Greg Smith

Interesting words from a man who has experienced so much of what life has to offer, actor Bill Murray. Whilst life is many things – complicated, mysterious, happy, sad and far too short – I read this quote and believe its simplicity gives meaning to life. 

On a holiday in New Zealand last year mum and I drove to a place just south of Wellington called Owhiro Bay. It was a beautiful sunny day and as we circled around the point where the road hugs the water, our view out across the bay was magnificent. Further around the coastline at Lyall Bay, we pulled into a clearing so we could pause and take in the scenery, we spotted a bench and headed towards it.

Unsighted from the road, as we approached the bench, we discovered a large Moai stone statue similar to those found on Rapa Nui, Easter Island. This was such an awesome sight, so unexpected and unique. 

There are a number of theories behind what the Moai represent. One that stands out to me is as a protector of the people and land they look over. As a carer, I feel a connection to this symbol and theory: I am a protector of my mum. A beautiful woman who has faced many challenges during her life, mum has very limited mobility due to a degenerative spinal condition which, along with other health issues, means she needs daily support. 

As Bill said, I can look after myself, so without giving it a second thought I know my role is to look after her, to make sure that her life is comfortable and enjoyable. Over the past six years I have been mum’s full time carer and during that time I know that my support, both physically and emotionally, has helped achieve that goal. I am proud to say that I do my job well. The satisfaction of doing what I do for her is when she tells me how much she enjoys her life, her ability to be part of the community and also her tears when something special happens. 

The way I have come to look at life is that it’s short and that time passes quickly. To me, possessions and money don’t really matter all that much, people matter. Our ability to protect and care for the people we love, who are physically or mentally vulnerable, is something much more valuable than anything that can be bought. I believe that being a carer has taught me many things and has changed my life in a positive way. I have become more patient, understanding, resourceful and appreciative.

Very rarely do I think about how life could be different, the past will not change and the future is yet to happen. I prefer to look at what’s in front of me and do the best I can with it. No one knows what to expect in life, which is both exciting and scary. 

Volunteer work enables me to be connected with the local community, it also encourages my creative side. The people I have met and the stories that are shared within carer peer support groups, only reinforce my belief that we are here to care for the people we love. I have a pretty good life that I enjoy living right now. 

That trip to Lyall Bay and finding the Moai by accident is something I will never forget. I hope people see me as similar to the Moai, strong and silent watching over mum, protecting her as best I can.

Greg runs a support group for carers of people diagnosed with cancer in the Central Coast area. To find out more about Candles Cancer Support Group, contact Greg on wyongcandles@bigpond.com or visit the Facebook page.

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Carers NSW acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land, Elders past and present and all Aboriginal people.