For the next year until I finished nursing training I’d fly standby to Sydney for four days every two months. Arriving at the airport I’d be personally escorted onto a flight by a stewardess just before the door of the plane closed. Except for one time about ten months after Bali.
It was summertime. I started getting rigors–a sort of fever where one becomes extremely hot, then sweaty (I skipped this phase in the sequence as I seldom sweat), and finally cold and shivery–and feeling really tired. Eventually I couldn’t manage to work a whole shift without going to Casualty. But I gave up on doctors because they would never find anything wrong with me. When I was so sick I could hardly get up the stairs of the White House–I lived with several other nursing friends in a white house in White Street hence why we called it the White House–my friends insisted I go to the staff doctor at the hospital. Interestingly, I too was as white as a sheet by that time.
Dr Mahoney took one look at me before ordering urgent blood tests for: glandular fever, hepatitis, and malaria because I had been to Indonesia recently. Next day I was home asleep after night duty when one of my friends came in to wake me.
“Debbi, Dr Mahoney is at the door!” she said. Greeting him at the door, Dr Mahoney ordered me to hospital immediately. I had malaria. Me who mosquitos never bite! The parasites hide in the liver, coming out every second day to attack the red blood cells. My haemoglobin was 7.2. Normal is up around 14.0. Below 6.o and the brain starts being damaged from lack of oxygen. It went down to 6.8 next day. But my doctor saviour had a colleague expert in tropical medicine come to see me. He gave me some tablets and I never had another rigor. They were considering a blood transfusion also but decided against it. How glad now I am about that. AIDS was just starting to be passed in infested donated blood but not fully tested for at that time. Many years later I was also to learn that sin is in the blood and is passed into a blood recipient through transfusions. In other words, the recipient will get all of a donor’s demons. Father was still looking after me, saving my life and my soul.
As I was recuperating at home after a few days in hospital Michael walked through the door. He’d flown up without even telling me he was coming. He never failed to be there for me whenever I needed him. Even today he and his lovely wife Annie would help me if I asked it of them, as they have in the past. Despite his comfort and presence then at the White House, I cried a lot. Anaemia causes exogenous depression. I moved home where my mother fed me on liver until the end of my training to build up my haemoglobin. Good thing I love liver, raw or cooked. Also a good thing was that I had started studying for my final exams six months early. When they came round I was still recovering and so tired I could barely stay awake long enough to study. No Doz caffeine tablets became such stalwart friends I slept only about three hours on the nights between the three exam days.
The day after I finished my training, with my cat Astrid, I drove to Sydney to live. On my last previous visit by plane Michael, with friends Tony and Stuart, had found us a house to share on the harbour at Drummoyne. Michael took me around to see it and carried me over the threshold. The power had not been connected so I had to be content with looking at the house in the dark.
I loved living with three guys. Stuart became more like a brother to me than my own brothers. He still is. He was a beautiful slob. He lives in a shed on a hill in South Australia now. Then there was Tony who was an even bigger slob, but he moved out after a little while to marry ultra neat freak Marlene whom he had met only six weeks previously. Despite all expectations their marriage turned out to be a good one. In came Tom to replace Tony. Tom is probably the most gorgeous looking guy I have ever met in my life. With long hair like a Cherokee Indian, he was and still is also a neat freak like Marlene and me. Tom was an avid reader, also like me, but he took reading to a new level. When he wanted a new book, he would always buy two: one to keep in pristine condition on the shelf and one to read and lend out! One night when Michael had to work, Tom took me to see the New Zealand group Crowded House.
Our house became the new hub for all the friends on weekends when they weren’t surfing or going away also surfing for the weekend. We were always off somewhere surfing, camping, having a neat time together. There were probably about 40 friends altogether including girlfriends. We had a table tennis table out the back under our carport and the guys would play the game for hours. I turned 21 in that house on the harbour.
Dave, the fixture on the lounge at the Fivedock house, was best friends with Colin aka Snorter. They went overseas together, but Dave ran out of money so came home leaving Colin to travel on alone. My cat Astrid died. Stuart found her one day laying serenely on the driveway. We buried her in the garden. I got a new kitten from the couple who still lived in the old house. Their cat had given birth. Michael had a beautiful German short-haired pointer named Juanita who adopted as her baby my tiny new grey kitten I named Misty. One day Michael was backing out of the driveway and ran over Tony’s little black dog. It also was buried in the garden. Michael was so upset he cried on my shoulder, which made up somewhat for all the times I cried on his.
Marlene and Tony got a new dog from the pound, a huge white long-haired labrador which was found to be pregnant with 11 puppies, so they gave her an abortion. The poor thing would steal my pillows and pretend they were her missing puppies. Imagine! Giving a dog an abortion! I wonder how they killed those tiny little unborn pups.
When Dave came home he became a bit of a fixture at our house. We always had someone sleeping on the lounge. As far as I and everybody else was concerned no one could spend too much time at our place. But we all loved Dave. Too bad he never knew how much. After a while he decided to move north to Port Macquarie with a girl he knew. I remember feeling, though I didn’t share it, disappointed by this because we would hardly see him anymore. In retrospect I so much wish now I had shared how I felt, and that he hadn’t gone. Many years later when I visited him where he now lives in South Australia, Stuart, who had gone out with this girl, and Colin too told me Dave’s housemate was into some kind of witchcraft. Back then none of us knew anything about witchcraft, but now we believe it had an effect on later events.
After a few months Dave came down to visit. He stayed for dinner with us one night. With the dinner finished, we sat around the table talking. Michael was playing Scrabble or something with Stuart or someone. I had given Dave a stack of books to read and we were discussing the merits of them. When we got to one by Tom Sharpe we both started laughing. Tom Sharpe wrote the most obscenely funny stories one could ever find at that time. Dave and I laughed until tears ran down our cheeks. You know the feeling when you are trying to STOP laughing because your belly is hurting so much? I will cherish that memory of him forever. It was the last time any of us ever saw him.
Dave returned to Port Macquairie. Three weeks or thereabouts later he drove out bush and hung himself from a tree. After a few days his housemate informed police he was missing. They found his body. It must have been awful to have to identify him.
The night we found out I was out with a girlfriend. But I must have had a premonition because we came back to the Drummoyne Rowers Club where Michael worked. Or maybe Michael rang me where I went with my friend. They told me the news. Including Michael and me, a number of Dave’s friends congregated there that night. We all sat around numb and in silence, unable to believe we would never see Dave again. Wondering how he could not know how much we cared about him.
The next night Michael and I whipped around all the friends and collected $1500 in about three hours to pay for Dave’s funeral. His mother had other children and she was very poor. He had owed his brother $3000 for a car he had smashed up. I had $3000 in my bank account. I would have freely given it to Dave had I known. So would Michael and many others.
Colin was in Yugoslavia, I think, when he found out. He tried desperately to make it home for the funeral but didn’t. We buried our beautiful friend in a tiny church cemetery in the town of Manilla near Tamworth. Whenever I would drive home to Brisbane, I’d take that detour, put flowers on his lonely grave, and cry for him. A person committing suicide goes immediately to Hell then later, to the Lake of Fire, it is believed. There is no opportunity for redemption or forgiveness. I hope this is not true. I earnestly hope Dave was ignorant and not so accountable. But I noticed at his funeral his mother was a Salvation Army officer. So he was probably not without excuse before YHWH.
Never again, I vowed, would I let a friend get to this stage without me knowing. Many times since then I have had friends and strangers ask me for money and other things. If I have it, the money, or whatever it is, it is theirs with no expectation of receiving it back. If they return it, I’m blessed, if they don’t, it’s an honour. If I see a person looking down or in need of assistance in the street I will ask them if I can help. At the very least I pray for them.
I am guilty of not doing this and then never enough, but we all need to tell our friends, family, and loved ones we care–all the time. Build them up with positive words, not nasty ones that tear down. Put together a prayer list of all those we know and those we don’t and pray for them unceasingly. If we all did this, we’d be spending 24 hours a day in prayer. Sometimes I pray for all the people in the world nobody else prays for. I don’t know their names, but Father does. All the little unwanted slumdog children who live on the streets in every country. YHWH wants them. I never never want another Dave tragedy in my life. Thirty-three years after the fact, the pain is still raw, and I still cry for him.