Last night I watched a great program called Australian Story. It is broadcast on the ABC and is an “award winning documentary series with no narrator and no agendas”. It tells the stories of extraordinary Australians – both famous and not – and is always a fascinating watch.
I hadn’t actually watched the show for quite some time but yesterday a friend of mine and I were talking about whinging and whingers – people who create suffering in their lives over such small things! She said to me that people lose perspective and they need to be reminded that really, their lives are great. She said that she was going home to watch Australian Story as it was on a couple from Perth who lost their three children – Mo, Evie and Otis, along with their grandfather Nick Norris – on the MH17 flight that was shot down while flying over the Ukraine in 2014.
My girlfriend – who very loosely knows this couple – was saying that when people are complaining about “insignificant stuff”: weather, traffic, doing their jobs etc she gets infuriated. She wants to remind them that in the scheme of their life, there is so much to be grateful for, yet they choose to focus on what makes them unhappy. They choose to suffer even though they haven’t experienced horrific loss, they are not dying of a terminal illness, and they are not living in poverty on the streets of India!
We had a fascinating discussion about why people choose to focus on things that make them suffer and others do not – what is the distinction?
When I finally sat down on the couch last night, it happened to be 7.55pm and I took that as a sign to watch Australian Story, which started at 8pm. I must admit, there was a part of me that was fascinated to see how these people coped with the instant destruction of their family. The pain they must have gone through is unfathomable and I’m sure they still feel pain every day – it’s just a more watered down version.
After five years they agreed to being interviewed on Australian Story to show how they had coped with their loss and how they are moving forward with strength, positivity and compassion.
There is definitely something for all of us to learn from these people!!
Anthony Maslin (Maz) and Marite Norris (Rin) were in Amsterdam, a city they had spent lots of time in due to Maz’s work commitments, with their three children and Rin’s dad, Nick Norris. It had been agreed that the children would travel back to Perth with their grandfather to get ready for school, which gave Maz and Rin a few more days to tie up loose ends.
In the middle of the night, 12 or so hours after the children had left to go home, Maz woke up and went downstairs because his phone was ringing. It was his assistant, who was hysterical, and she kept saying “Tell me the kids weren’t on that flight, tell me the kids weren’t on that flight”. After a brief conversation, Maz went to his computer and pulled up the itinerary.
Yes, Nick Norris and his three grandchildren, Mo, Evie and Otis, were indeed on that flight.
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 had been struck by a missile over a Ukrainian warzone and shot out of the sky. All 298 people on board were killed.
The Maslin’s refer to this day as The Day The World Ended.
As I watched Australian Story last night and had tears rolling down my face, my affirmation that we all choose how to experience our lives became even stronger (if that is even possible!).
Maz and Rin spent the first months after this tragedy wanting to die and understandably so. Their friends rallied around them and set up a 24 hour roster so they were never left alone in those early months. Food was prepared for them every day and the space was opened so that they could grieve with as much love and support as possible.
Maz said the reason they didn’t kill themselves was because he couldn’t stand the thought of people in their lives feeling the way they did about losing their children – compassion of the highest order.
As time passed, Maz and Rin created a routine and plan to get them through the day – exercise, being outdoors, eating good food, journalling and so on. They knew they needed to be very specific in how they moved through their grief because it was so huge and overwhelming. The only way through was having a plan.
To listen to this beautiful couple talk about their journey with such vulnerability and courage is incredibly moving. They both channelled their pain into projects: Rin into The Artspace Collective, a community space in Scarborough for exhibitions, art classes and workshops, and Maz into a business focused on reinvigorating food production in the wheat belt in Western Australia This is called. called Wide Open Agriculture
Their children are celebrated in these projects and both of them feel guided by their kids. The children are talked about, celebrated, and honoured in the most beautiful way. The Maslins feel a strong spiritual connection to their children and recognise that even though they no longer inhibit their physical bodies, their spirits are always close by.
Do these people feel pain, yes, but they made a choice.
To move forward and find meaning in their lives again. As Maz said “We choose to think and act positively whenever we can. The best example of that is focusing on what you have, not on what you’ve lost.”
We have control of our suffering, not of what happens to us but how we respond to it. This gorgeous couple are such an inspiration of what deep love, compassion, hope and positivity looks like.
Their friend, Rebecca Fiore-Leach said ” They just want to show people that if they can survive what they’ve survived, other people can also survive what they’re going through and, don’t give up”.
So what is the distinction? Suffering is a choice. When the days, weeks and months pass, there comes a point when we can let go of what happened and find meaning it all.
If the Maslins can do it, there is no excuse for any of us.