Saying goodbye is part of life, but it is never easy.
Ginny was appointed as a celebrant back in 2004. We met through a mutual friend that same year, and as a result she attended an OPD session I was facilitating in Wodonga. From that day on we became friends and she was one of my biggest advocates. For that I will be forever grateful.
Ginny had taken it upon herself to be the "self appointed mother" of celebrants up in the north east, an area I lived in for more than 14 years.
Each year Ginny would organise the celebrant’s regular catch up and the yearly OPD. Ginny would arrange for me to drive up and deliver the OPD or legal refresher in the Nth East, often offering me a bed for the night.
I got to know her on a deeper level when she asked if she could become one of my trainers. So back in 2010 with Ginny's assistance I wrote the course for the new Cert IV in Celebrancy. Ginny was my proofreader and the person who did the mapping to the training package. For those of you who are not familiar with this task, it would be the most laborious task there is. And, she was very good at it. She spent hours supporting and assisting the celebrants through that period of study.
Ginny was persistent that I teach her everything I knew about the law, and right up until a month before her death she called me for answers on the law, and was never happy unless I could back up my answer with a reference to the Act or Regs. We would both laugh when she would say - "ok but what reference do I use to back up your answer?"
During 2010 with Ginny's help we upgraded 500 current celebrants to the new Cert IV and this would not have been possible without her assistance, together we did all the assessing that year and she loved it. Some days we would talk on the phone 4 or 5 times in a day. And her hubby Michael would often meet me here in Melb, when he was down for work, to pass on student files to her. There was a constant stream of assessments being driven up and down the Hume Highway.
I've watched her grow in her role as a celebrant and as she grew more comfortable she enjoyed giving assistance to anyone who asked. It was only recently after she completed my funeral course that she conducted a few funerals, but she came to realise that weddings were her forte.
Earlier this year when she was organising the inaugural CCNA conference she started researching for guest speakers and she did this with great enthusiasm and energy, but I could tell there was something not quite right. She started to have some minor health issues late last year, and in May she was diagnosed with stomach cancer. I remember taking the call from her and being in total shock. I don't think it registered for a few hours and I had to stop myself from ringing her back to check the details, because I had simply gone numb and didn't remember a thing other than the 'C' word.
I had spent some time with her sister Jackie during one of my regular visits to NZ a few years ago, so I offered to pick her up when she flew in from Auckland, just after Ginny had undergone her initial surgery in Wodonga. After collecting Jackie from the airport to drive her to Wodonga, we received a frantic phone call from Michael to say Ginny was being flown down by air ambulance to a Melb hospital after complications from the first operation.
Instead of that visit to Wodonga Jackie spent the weekend with me as we watched Ginny undergo a second operation, and then spend the following week in ICU. Sadly just a week after she returned home she was then diagnosed with brain tumours, and it was then that she, and those closest to her, understood the gravity of the situation. She knew she only had a few months to live, but in true Ginny style she was the practical person and just got things done.
She had hoped to be able to attend the CCNA conference but alas it was not possible. Her work on this conference was paramount to its success, and those of us who attended could see what work Ginny had put into it. It was difficult to attend this conference knowing how unwell she was - and not be able to share the news with everyone. But Ginny didn't want any focus being on her or having a cloud over the conference - that's the selflessness of the person she was.
Ginny took her prognosis incredibly well, and she wasn't surprised with the diagnosis. She said she had been so blessed with how she had been looked after and she had lived her life well and was ready for her next adventure. She was also very clear about what treatment she would or would not entertain. Over the next month I assisted Ginny to put in place the right documentation to ensure her wishes were followed, if the need arose as the cancer advanced.
Her husband Michael has been a great strength to her and I am amazed he was able to keep Ginny at home for all that time - especially the last few weeks. Her sister Jackie, a gorgeous lady, has been an amazing support for Ginny and Michael. Jackie is a nurse and was able to attend the initial medical visits to translate all the information when Ginny wasn't really up to taking in what it all meant. This was invaluable in assisting Ginny and Michael to make decisions.
The last month we saw Ginny's health deteriorate dramatically. Her mobility was limited and she no longer had the energy to engage in life other than the occasional phone call or email. Two weeks before she died I collected Jackie again at Melb airport and we drove to Wodonga. During this time, as would be expected, I could see that Jackie was finding the situation very difficult. She knew, like we all did, that this would be the last time she would visit her sister, and that before she went home Ginny would pass away.
We laughed and cried on our 4 hour trip to Wodonga. When we arrived we both sat comfortably on Ginny's bed and chatted away and whilst she was tired she was still quite lucid and able to share a few laughs. Ginny loved to divert the conversation away from her situation, but thankfully she could always talk honestly and openly even about her pending death.
Ginny has been with me each step of the way with my new book Let's Talk About Death and she wanted to assist in any way she could. So there are parts of that interview about her journey that will be added to the book which is due for release this year. It was just another example of how she was always thinking about helping others.
Over the next two days I saw Ginny deteriorate and this was hard to watch. But in her lucid moments she was still thinking about what she could give away and what needed to be organised to ensure Michael's job after her death was as easy as it could be.
Ginny believed she was going to another adventure and she didn't care what it was, she was not afraid of it. She said it was past a 'belief' - it's a knowing of where I am going to - and wherever that may be I am ready for it! Obviously she was sad to be leaving her family and friends but she was not afraid of death. She wanted to die at home with Jackie and Michael by her side, and she did just that. She planned well and her plans came to fruition. I am pleased to say that Ginny died a dignified death - just liked she'd planned.
For those of you who knew Ginny well, you might like to know that she had done her chart - and she is coming back as a French, Singing, Linguistic Healer! (no surprises there) So keep your eyes and ears open for her!
I will be forever grateful that she came into my life. The industry should be equally grateful for her contribution to Celebrancy. Many a celebrant has been the recipient of her assistance either with the CCNA shop, or regular get togethers in the Nth East, or just a phone call requiring her help. Since her death my email inbox and the chat lines have been overflowing with tributes - and these have all been passed on to Michael.
It's understandable that many of you are very sad because you didn't know she was sick and didn't get a chance to say goodbye. But she needed her privacy and she set the boundaries during this difficult time, as she had always done in her life. She wanted to live the limited time she had without having to deal with constant calls and instead concentrate on her health – and spend time with those closest to her. As much as it was difficult, we all had to respect her wishes. She knew she was loved, and she knew the difference she made.
Ginny did not want a funeral, she was adamant about that. So five days after her death I travelled back to Wodonga and with Michael, Jackie, her cousin Linda and friend Margi we said our farewells and spread Ginny's ashes. It was a sad day but we enjoyed spending the precious time together sharing stories and anecdotes about Ginny's life, and allowing the healing process to begin.
Our love goes to her husband Michael who undoubtedly has been the most amazing carer to Ginny, her sister Jackie and her extended family in NZ and here in Australia, as they come to terms with her death. Ginny you will be missed greatly my friend.
6 Morton Place
Rowville Vic 3178
Sally's second book - 'Lets Talk About Death' is due for release early 2014.
Ginny was a colleague, friend and beautiful soul - the vanishing pixie was the symbol we used for a long time to symbolise how delightful she was and how light Ginny trod upon the earth.
Our CCN network, with Ginny's permission used her passing as our first "In Memory Of" forum tribute.
Ginny's life and contribution to the CCN Inc is valued and appreciated greatly.
21st February 2014