Warcry: Finding hope
Sandra Davis’ photographic essay gives her life new perspective.
‘Everybody has something’. ‘Life goes on’. Those words were mantras I recited over and over in my little eight-year-old mind. Not coping was not an option.
My family had been in a head-on car crash with a drunk driver. Our injuries were varied, broken nose, back, ribs and teeth. We were all broken.
But, after a further accident within the hospital, my mother became a vegetable. It meant she was a shell for 14 years, until she died. There followed a legal battle with the hospital.
It was the 1970s. The medical world was not awake to what life could be like for someone with brain damage. We felt she could hear us, sense us, feel and show some emotions; but even so, there just wasn’t any way to improve her life.
Over the years the visitors dropped off. Dad’s life had to go on. He started to see other women. It was excruciatingly difficult for everyone. As a child there was a lot of grey in my previously black and white world.
Dealing with grief and loss is very different for everyone. My process at the time was to accept the positive mantras given to me by my Dad and Nana. I just kept trying to be the best I could be.
I found my own faith at 18 when I met an old primary school friend on holiday. She positively glowed with the warmth of God’s love. She told me about being born again. I knew God in my life was going to be better than no God in my life. I found hope through faith.
I came to grieve when I was ready—25 years later. It was a mixture of postnatal depression and a concoction of my own particular brand of guilt, anger, resentment, fear and abandonment. I searched for therapy that would help me be a more caring and loving friend—to myself as well as to those around me. My faith, plus a lot of hard work with a trained psychologist, was my way through grief.
Six years ago at the age of 44 I began studying photography. Doing a creative degree ‘later in life’ was an amazing experience. I had a background as a primary school librarian and decided my final folio should be a picture book about a child on a quest for truth.
The child in the book was me. I wanted to tell my truth. The direction of my folio became clearer as I discovered old family slides from my childhood, including some taken by Dad on the day of our car accident. I incorporated Dad’s slides into my own images and began the work of telling my story.
It was very personal work. I incorporated the vase from the hospital, legal documents, as well as some of Mum’s personal items—her cape, a love letter from Dad, a tablecloth I made for her, the ‘Thank you’ card we sent in reply to cards after her funeral and an old family Bible.
Through my quest for truth, I found a new way to see my story. My mother became the hero, rather than the victim. Our relationship became wonderful, rather than unfulfilled and incomplete. And the following verse expresses the truth that sustained me.
Lamentations chapter three, verses 21–26: ‘Yet there is one ray of hope: his compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his loving-kindness begins afresh each day.
‘My soul claims the Lord as my inheritance; therefore I will hope in him. The Lord is wonderfully good to those who wait for him, to those who seek for him. It is good both to hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.’