I still remember the feeling in my chest, in my heart. The feeling was a mixture of despair, fear and an absolute sinking into somewhere unknown. “Six months”, she said as she looked at me with a fixed gaze, watching for my reactions, “they can start a course of chemotherapy, but it is only to give us more time together.” My mum started to cry, but continued to watch me, more concerned about my own reaction than her own fear. From that point on the world changed. I had heard people warn of this cliché before, but I was completely unprepared for this new world with a schedule of hospital visits, midnight calls of pain, overwhelming waves of sheer emotion and the absolute fear of the changes that appeared daily.
It was my mum’s suggestion, “We can stay at home and be sad, or we can take a trip and build some new memories together.” For as long as I can remember my mum had taken me on trips to far away places. I grew up in Australia but was the mixture of an American father and an Indian mother, and had lived for several years on my own in Switzerland. My mum was also a citizen of the world having lived for portions of her life in India, Malaysia, Ireland and now Australia. We loved nothing more than to go on an adventure together. I had inherited from her the need to roam beyond the places I knew to more challenging grounds. At 60 years old, she also knew what I at 27 had not fully yet realised, that each moment was to truly be cherished and that a seemingly simple idea to travel could entirely change perspectives and provide an relieving solace.
We scanned through travel agency websites looking for something that would be within our budget but also within her physical capabilities. “I want to go somewhere where the sun shines”, she said, and it was then that her eyes lit up and she called out, “Broome! I always wanted to go to Broome.” So the decision was made and a few weeks later we set off on a small airplane to travel from Perth to the north of Western Australia and the coastal town of Broome. Our vision of Broome had come from local travel documentaries with long sunny beaches and Pearl farms and whilst Broome did provide all of those attractions, we were grateful for the simple experiences that Broome gave us.
On a day with open blue skies, we wandering through the local market set up on a field. When she could walk no more, I spread out my scarf on the grass and my mum fell asleep whilst I read beneath the shade of a giant Boab tree. I felt the heat from the ground radiate through me and heard the distant sounds of buskers and chatter at the markets. I watched her face as she slept, free of worry and pain, finally relaxed in this place away from the reality of home. By chance we found a new seafood restaurant that night and enjoyed the fresh prawns and fish from the region, grateful for the opportunity to share the delicious food together. We joined the groups of tourists and watched the sunset over Cable Beach in the evenings casting a beautiful light across the ocean.
On the advice of a friend we stayed in an apartment near the beach. It had a pebble lined outdoor bathroom and shower, perfectly suited to the balmy heat of the Broome nights. The novelty of the bathroom spoke to the child in each of us, and silliness erupted whilst dancing under the moonlight or shrieking as a unaware frog joined someone under the shower. One evening after a swim at the beach my mum erupted into song in the outdoor shower, suddenly re-enacting a cabaret act in her bathing suit. On this trip to the tropics we had managed to recapture a feeling of being carefree, enjoying the moment that found ourselves in.
Just before my mum passed away she said to me in reflection, “I know that the time will come when you will need to seek something for yourself. Don’t be afraid to venture in the world as it may well bring you the peace you need.” I have continued to carry her message along on all of my journeys and have never failed to be grateful for each moment that I experience in the world around me.