We partnered with Southern Cross Care to undertake a project where we photographed and interviewed Southern Cross Care clients Mildred Atkins and Mr and Mrs Woolston. From our conversations came these short stories. The glimpse into the lives of strangers revealed unexpected lessons. Through words and pictures and the generosity of our subjects, we were able to form a human connection, extract a meaning and learn from their lives.
Mildred Atkins on Breathing
I focus a lot on breathing, because I learnt yoga when I went to India this time and my teacher taught me that the beginning of everything is breathing right. He taught me how to breathe, without using your mouth. Unless oxygen goes to all the organs, they don’t work optimally. You’re getting everything in a knot, if you’re not breathing well. In the morning I take 2O minutes just to breathe rhythmically. I don’t eat or drink or do anything before I practice my breathing. It’s so simple, so relaxing, it’s amazing.
Mildred Atkins on Divorce
I got married in Holland. We met when I was on a world trip. We were married for 27 years, then he had an affair, stupid man. That was it. Done and dusted. The separation caused me a lot of grief. I was blindsided by it. But I just had the most wonderful friends. They helped me through. One of my friends took me to a writing class. About eight of us would go and write, whatever we wanted. I had grief. I wrote it all down. Doing that was like therapy. It was the fall of my life – where everything as I knew it fell off. And I thought I’m going to have a spring. I’m going to give myself a time limit to get over the grief – I gave myself five months. I worked on myself, I used to cry a lot. But after five months I had my spring. I’m not looking for a relationship. I am very, very pleased with me.
Mr Woolston on Grief
There’s only 18 months between our boys. We lost our eldest son, in a car accident. He was 17. Just before his 18th birthday. He was captain of the under 18’s football. He was a very good sports person. He was killed on his way to football. We were lucky we didn’t lose our other son Brenton, he was in the car too. A car forced them off the road. I can remember a week after we lost Andrew, there I was out on my front-end loader, which is what I was doing when he died. We were worried about Brenton, but it was fascinating because Andrew’s mates all took him under their wing. Brenton and his wife Jane are now both Life Members of the Berri Football club. Lorraine got involved with a share your grief group because we had some youth suicides in the Riverland. You never knew when someone would be inspired about how we managed our grief, how we got on and made the most of life.
Mrs Woolston on Living with Parkinson’s Disease.
I’d always played such a lot of sport, A Grade tennis for the Riverland and Berri for over 30 years. Around 21 years ago I went to tennis, it was very emotional and I couldn’t serve. I couldn’t coordinate. We went to our local doctor and he picked it. When you walk you swing your arms. A Parkinson’s person, a lot of the time, will have their hand rigid and they’ll swing one arm. That’s how he picked it. I had a brain stimulation operation. I hoped to be able to go back and play a bit of tennis and golf. But it didn’t work. Make the most of your time while you’re here. If you want to do something then do it. Get on with your life.
Southern Cross Care was established as a not-for-profit organisation in 1968. Their focus has always been on helping people just like Mildred and Mr and Mrs Woolston to age healthily, maintain their independence, and keep connected with family and friends. For more information on Southern Cross Care’s services, including Health and Wellness, Home Support, Retirement Living and Residential Care visit their website here: www.southerncrosscare.com.au/connected-care