Dear Inner Circle,

The Governor of NSW, General David Hurley, put a medal on my chest last Friday afternoon and proclaimed it official – I have Amazing Mates. I requested that I be allowed 15,000 guests at the ceremony but was strictly limited to three. Having Robyn, my daughter, Mandy, and my eldest granddaughter, Paityn at my side meant the world to me. I made one mistake on the day. I told my daughter to book us into the kind of restaurant I would normally avoid so that for this one occasion, we wouldn’t worry about the cost. My daughter took us to a place that was not only a cultural shock, but I may need counselling for some months yet. The menu on one side had a lot of choices, none of which I understood. The other side of the menu was called “Devastation” or something similar. It’s the only time I’ve seen a menu that anticipates the moment when you get the bill. With this choice, you are served everything on the page. A couple of times I was served a large plate with what looked like a small pile of bird seed with a few squirts of something that didn’t look like food. I asked our waiter what it was that was on my plate but he answered me in French. I don’t speak French but I’m pretty sure he told me that my plate had been put into a bird cage for an hour and then the contents were arranged by their star chef. He then said, “Bon Appetite” which being translated from French means, “Our bird wasn’t very well today”.

In the morning on the same day I went to the intensive care unit at Prince of Wales Hospital where one of our dearest Aboriginal friends was dying. Our Senior Aboriginal Worker, Mon, was already at his bedside. Mon’s tenderness with our brother stopped me in my tracks. I’d already had a busy day with quite a big day ahead but I stopped, captured by the awesome sight of love. Our dear brother was a dark-skinned, handsome-faced man who somehow carried thousands of years of pride, hurt and wisdom in his face. He was weak and near his end. His eyes still connected even though he had trouble holding up his head. He gestured for me to come close and I put my ear right up to his mouth. “Pray for me,” he said. I cupped his beautiful face into my hands and said, “Unto him who is able to keep you from falling, and present you faultless, before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy…” It was a precious moment. By now Mon’s tears were flowing; beautiful, precious tears that proved that we didn’t “deliver services to a client” but rather we “loved a dear brother”. For a moment there was no time. The dream time, and heaven to come, all converged into this present moment. In due course Mon and I left the man in the care of his mother and we returned to Wayside. I reckon we returned to Wayside different in some way. Neither of us could say what it was that we had received but both of us had gained something that we hitherto did not have. The only word I can think of is “presence”.

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