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Posts Tagged ‘Toowong Cemetery’

My husband started a certain family tradition many years ago when our three children were young. One by one, he would take them out for a special dinner date. The chosen venue was never anywhere too expensive—when we lived in Adelaide, a favourite haunt was a pancake place called ‘Bertie’s’, which the children all thought was wonderful, considering their dad’s students often called him ‘Dr Bertie’ at that time! Yet whatever the venue, whichever child whose turn it was would dress up in their best clothes and feel so important, as they headed off on their ‘date’ with Dad.

In more recent years, my husband has continued this tradition with our four grandchildren. Sometimes, the chosen venues have been truly exotic—venues such as … um … er … Maccas! But currently, our two younger grandchildren love a certain café near the Nepean River at Penrith that serves extremely tantalising drinks, donuts and desserts. And, since the meal is their choice, this is what they get!

Recently it was eight-year-old Maxine’s turn to go out with her eighty-one-year-old Granddad. When he asked her, her response was, ‘Ooh, I’m going out on a date!’ Great excitement ensued—along with the satisfying thought that her brother would be ‘sooo jealous’!

The evening duly arrived—and yes, Maxine chose that favourite café by the river and that favourite milk shake for dinner, with a big donut perched on top of the container and a straw threaded through the hole into her drink. As well, she was allowed the important task of ordering the food herself and paying for it with her granddad’s credit card, while he watched on.

In my own growing up years, my times with my grandfather definitely did not involve dining out at cafes. Instead, we would often go walking on a Sunday afternoon when he and my grandmother would come for a visit. In my mind, I can still see his white hair and his erect figure, as we strode along and chatted. One of our favourite places to walk was, believe it or not, to the Toowong Cemetery, not far from our home in Brisbane. We would comment about all sorts of things we saw on gravestones there and I’m sure he sought to impart much wisdom to me during those times.

I am not saying God is some grandfatherly figure, sitting on a throne in the sky, smiling and nodding benignly. But I would like to suggest that God’s heart is to invite each one of us on a ‘date’—that is, a time when we put other things aside in our lives and, instead, delight in simply being with our heavenly Father. When we do, we find God has a wonderful feast laid out there for us. And there is such joy too in simply being together with God, knowing we are loved and accepted completely, just as we are.

But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you. Psalm 81:16

Why would we ignore those special ‘dates’ or times with God? Why would we ever stand God up, so to speak? Instead, let’s turn up—often. Let’s accept God’s invitation. And let’s drink deeply from all the love and wisdom God showers on us as we do.

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I have many vivid memories of my maternal grandparents, seen here with my mother and me. Often on Sundays when I was growing up, they would visit us for lunch. Afterwards, my grandfather would ask us to go for a walk with him, perhaps out towards the University of Queensland or to the Toowong cemetery, where we would look at all sorts of interesting gravestones, or even down to the Brisbane River. Then, once home again, we would enjoy a scrumptious afternoon tea of fresh scones and other treats.

Sometimes, in the early days of TV, we would drive to my grandparents’ home to watch a show with them on Friday nights. And, during the summer school holidays, I would usually stay with them for a week. Most mornings, they would allow me to play the piano in their lounge room. I so enjoyed sifting through their old Scottish and Irish ballads, sacred solos and dance music and trying to play and sing whatever I found.

My grandfather had various occupations in his lifetime, including school-teaching at Rosewood, running a fruit shop in Brisbane, then a general store in Harrisville. As a child, I heard many stories about these places, particularly from my mother, who grew up in Harrisville. So, inevitably, this information has shaped my latest novel, Down by the Water, an historical novel I am launching this coming weekend.

Yet this novel is not my grandparents’ actual story. There are many differences, including the fact that my main characters have five children, whereas my grandparents had seven. But so much else about them influenced what I wrote. I even had fun weaving some of their old music into my story, as I described the local dances in Helidon, where my main character Meg grows up—and my grandmother did too. I also had photos and family records to refer to, but it was those memories from times spent with my grandparents and the things I heard as a child that helped most.

Such childhood memories can be powerful, can’t they? And how powerful they are too in shaping our attitudes and making us the people we are today. I can still remember some of the rather stern warnings my grandfather gave me about life in general, during our Sunday afternoon walks. And I hope I never forget my grandmother’s kindness and gentleness towards me on so many occasions.

I have dedicated Down by the Water to my grandparents and am delighted I have had this opportunity to let some of those memories at least live again via my novel. But this whole experience has also challenged me to remember the way God has shaped my life and walked with me and treated me with such kindness for so many years now. Without God’s gracious, patient hand on me down through the years, I would not be here writing these words. I need to remember that—and to let such memories influence everything I write.

In the years ahead, I hope I will continue to be able to say honestly, along with King David:

I remember the days of long ago, I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Psalm 143:5-6

Is that your sincere hope too?

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