I still call Australia home 🇦🇺
As at the day of publishing this final chapter; 29th November 2022 it will be exactly 20 years since my brother Mark (Born Michael William Bayliss) died from AIDS. I dedicate this whole story both to him and to our Mother Gloria Kivlichan (nee Bayliss). I also dedicate this to all those who lost their lives throughout the AIDS and COVID-19 pandemics
I feel very lucky that amidst the heartache and loss which came in 2020 it was also the same period I was to meet my soul mate Simon. Let’s face it, it was about time I was finally lucky in love as I could write a whole other book on my failed relationship and dating chronicles!!!
Both Simon and I knew very early on in our relationship that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together and we had spoken about marriage on numerous occasions before we ever formally got engaged.
I knew following Gloria’s death that I wanted to take some of her ashes back to Australia, I had absolutely no doubt that this is what she would have wanted too. In fact when clearing out her room at Wessex House after she died we found a newspaper cutting advertising a trip to Australia on which she had written “now I can finally go back once covid is over” the article was dated after Bill died, so even though Gloria was now frail and wheelchair bound following her first stroke, she had never given up on her dream of returning there. I tentatively asked Simon how he would feel about getting married in Sydney at the same time we scattered Mums ashes and he instantly said yes (it wasn’t a proposal, just a question!)
The more I thought about it, the more symbolic I knew this would be. Sydney; the place where Mark was born, the place where Gloria sailed out of in 1966 and longed to return to, the place where I discovered I was pregnant with Cameron and the place which had held so many of my dreams since childhood. I also knew that half of Marks ashes had been taken back to Sydney by Iris after his funeral, and although we never knew his final resting place on that side of the globe I knew he was close by somewhere within the Sydney suburbs.
Originally Simon and I spoke about taking all 5 of our children out to Australia but after we formally became engaged 6 months later we knew that it would not only be expensive but also now be logistically impossible. Simon’s daughter suffered a serious blood clot in her leg at the age of just 19 as a result of long covid (the exact same day Gloria suffered her final stroke!). She was told she would no longer be able to be able to fly long haul, also his Dad was 95 and would not be able to make such a long journey either. It was important to us to have ALL of our immediate family with us on such a special day, we therefore decided to have a larger scale wedding ceremony at home in the U.K. with all of our friends and family, just without signing the marriage register, and then hold our legal ceremony on a much smaller scale somewhere around Sydney Harbour.
As I mentioned in the previous chapter (and many people who know me personally are aware) Cameron and I ended up on a 4 week ‘cruise to nowhere’ when covid hit in March 2020 and as a result Holland America Line had given us a future cruise credit to the same value which had to be used by the end of 2022. We had waited and waited for cruising to start back up again and then saw the perfect voyage crossing back over the Pacific but in the reverse direction we had started in 2020. Instead of sailing Auckland to San Diego as we had done in 2020 this new cruise was San Diego to Sydney. It felt like the stars were aligning, with Gloria having steamed out of Sydney in 1966 I could finally sail her back in to the harbour that she so loved. As she had departed from those water in tears back in 1966 leaving her baby son behind never would she have contemplated that 58 years later she would have a daughter and a grandson who would sail her back in. As heartbreaking as losing her had been it felt like the most perfect and loving conclusion to both her and Marks stories.
Mum loved cruising too, she and Dad had done several during their retirement years as Dad would never fly and she would have just loved that voyage and all the symbolism which was to go with it.
As it had only been Cameron and myself who had done the voyage in 2020 we were the only ones who had the cruise credit, plus Simon would not be able to be away from his business for that long. It would mean us being apart for 6 weeks but we knew our love was strong enough to sustain both the time and distance – and as a bonus we had something incredibly special to look forward to when we would finally be reunited in Sydney.
On 2nd September we held our wedding ceremony in the U.K.. It was an absolutely perfect day with the ceremony conducted by Samantha Pitt a wonderful celebrant I had personally trained a few years earlier which made it even more special. Simon and I exchanged our vows and wedding rings in the banks of the River Thames with 60 of our family members and friends, and then had our reception on a boat sailing up the River. I had the same two black horses take me to that ceremony that had carried Dad on his final journey to his funeral two and a half years earlier.
We only had 3 weeks together though before Cameron and I were off on our travels. I packed up Gloria’s ashes, carrying them in my hand luggage as my most precious cargo. Although I ensured I had all the right paperwork with me I was still convinced that someone was going to stop me at customs for attempted drug smuggling. Thankfully at no stage did we encounter any problems. When we boarded the ship I took out the small cardboard scatter tube and popped Gloria on dressing table with a view out over the balcony as we set sail together on our final cruise.
For the next 5 weeks we sailed the Pacific waters to Hawaii, French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Tonga, New Caledonia and Brisbane before finally reaching Sydney. As we sailed in front of the Opera House and under the majestic bridge that Gloria loved so much I went quietly back to our cabin alone and held Gloria’s ashes tube in my hands as I whispered “welcome home Mum” – I heard her voice whisper back in my ear “no one could have done more”. I hope she was right.
Simon had flown out to Sydney and was there on the dockside to meet us. For so many years I had dreamed of my brother meeting me in Sydney with outstretched arms but instead it was another man. A man who understood my story, who understood Marks story, who understood Gloria’s story and was now going to be a part of weaving these together to a beautiful conclusion.
Two days later Simon and I legally married on a catamaran in Sydney harbour. A second ceremony conducted by a celebrant Roxy Hotten whom I had trained and who had flown in from Brisbane to do the honours. It was a much smaller ceremony with just 5 other guests in attendance but the most perfect and intimate setting. We re-affirmed the vows which we had said two months earlier and Simon gave me the most stunning eternity ring which had the diamonds reset from my late Grandmothers eternity ring.
As we ended the ceremony, I tearfully scattered Gloria’s ashes into the harbour waters directly below where Simon and I had just sealed our love and in full view of the Harbour Bridge which had always been so iconic to her.
In my bouquet there were 3 sunflowers; one for Mark, one for Gloria and one for Bill. I pulled them out of the bouquet and dropped them into the waters to drift a while with Gloria’s ashes to wherever the winds and the tide may carry them.
It was the most loving act I could think of giving to my Mum and the most perfect way to honour my brothers life, his existence in this world – and the most positive and uplifting ending a story which had contained so much sadness. It was the end of end of one chapter but the beginning of a brand new one. One which I 100% know Mum would have approved of.
Mark was at rest and Gloria was finally home and at peace. After 58 years the circle of love was now complete.
GLORIA 1938 – 2020
This song was played for Gloria both at her funeral and as we scattered her ashes in Sydney Harbour: https://youtu.be/9RZs6Ge1y78
Copyright 2022, Terri Shanks
2 thoughts on “Gloria – Part 14 (The final chapter)”
My gosh, what a story! Thank you for taking the time to put it all together. I could not stop reading until I finished it
I was also on the Maasdam covid cruise, which is how I found your blog. Look forward to reading more adventures.
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Thank you Kim, I’m so pleased you enjoyed it x