Last weekend I spent time with Michael’s dad in SouthWestern Queensland.
It was a bit of a pilgrimage for me, you might say. I wanted to visit one of the areas where Michael and his brother had spent time as children, visiting their mother, Mary Ann. And the place where she herself was buried 30 years ago.
Michael and I had planned to visit her together one day, on some future adventure through the west that we would / could / should have had.
So I went anyway, accompanied stoically by Michael’s dad. A mixture of feelings had been drawing me out there to visit her since Michael died. A curiosity, into the places where Mary Ann and her boys had spent their limited time together. An area where she would have lived, driven, walked, perhaps bought groceries and gone about her own business.
I felt compelled to go; both to fulfil an adventure with Michael and to pay my respects to the woman that created him.
Charleville is a typical Australian, country town with a stark and candid vibe. Two kilometres out of town they have the most amazing ‘Cosmos Centre’, where a troop of friendly ladies guide tourists in star-gazing and education about all areas of Astronomy.
We spent a magical (and freezing cold!) evening using a planisphere and enormous, high-tech, GPS-tracking telescopes. We got to look at near and distant stars, star clusters, planets and Magellanic Clouds (now my new favourite word, ‘Magellanic’).
I saw and heard many fascinating things during the visit but a statement that stuck with me most was that;
“for stars to form, a star must die.”
Our own star is about half way through its life at 5 billion years old, created randomly from clouds of dust and gases floating around after an enormous star exploded. One day it too will collapse and leave gases and dust that may then create further stars. The energy and matter never dies, it only takes on new forms and is re-directed, re-shaped, re-used, like some immense, self regulating recycling system.
Yet again, I came to ponder on how such strong, bright and vital energy from a man like Michael, cannot simply disappear into nothingness. It just can’t.
Standing at Mary Ann’s graveside contemplating the numbers I felt immensely sad about the tragic and painful snapshot of this part of the Vaughan clan. Michael’s mum was 36 when she died. Both of her sons are now gone, Alan in 2006 aged 35 and Michael last year aged 45.
I felt confused standing beside Michael’s dad. Watching this man observing the names of his three loved ones, carved in stone before him, was almost unfathomable. What must he have gone through? And HE had come away for the weekend, to support ME. That he could stand there, hold my hand, hug me back. Unbelievable.
There was a pleasant surprise at this sad vigil however. I had been searching for a grave for, ‘Mary Ann Evans’, in her maiden name. But what I found was a, ‘Mary Ann Vaughan’. A Vaughan woman.
For some reason it made me feel closer to her, through Michael of course. A fellow Mrs Vaughan… That made me smile to think of Michael and I discussing that together.