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Monday Moment: Here’s where it ends

Emma Grey

Last Thursday, I received a copy in the mail of a book to which my husband, Jeff, contributed a chapter.

It was the last thing he ever wrote. He was meant to present a paper on it at a conference the weekend after he died, and someone courageously read his words during that session, instead.

Seeing his last words in print, powerfully intelligent as always, was bittersweet (with an emphasis on the ‘bitter’, though I’d prefer a different word: sad, poignant, heartbreaking).

Even more difficult to absorb was the fact that his chapter was published incomplete. The editor wrote: “Jeff Grey’s original text, recovered from his computer in the days after his death in July 2016, ends there.” It just ends, right in the middle of a clever thought …

By Thursday night I was a mess because of this, and other stressors, and meeting my son’s teachers to discuss our approach for Father’s Day activities at school. I was so distraught I had to pack the kids in the car and visit a friend for chicken soup, tea and a shoulder to cry on.

So much about sudden loss involves abruptness. Things left exactly as they were. Discarded clothes lying at the foot of the bed or in the dryer. Glasses upturned on a book ready for the next day. Bills in a pile to be paid. Everything incomplete.

His chapter might be unfinished, but it’s valuable. We have an obsession with ‘completion’. We feel anxious when things are left undone. Our brains struggle if we don’t conclude something. We’re led to believe some things are ‘wasted’ if they’re not drawn to a full close.

It’s not always true. Sometimes getting part of the way there is just as valuable as ending something. Sometimes pressing through just for the sake of completion is far more wasteful of time than drawing a line in the sand, ceasing, and doing something different.

When my time is up, I don’t think I want to step out of life with everything tied neatly in a bow. I want to step out mid-sentence, as Jeff did. Still thinking and planning and dreaming of a future that is never guaranteed for any of us.


Emma Grey

Emma Grey is the Canberra-based author of ‘Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum’ and ‘Unrequited: Girl Meets Boy Band’. She’s director of the life-balance consultancy, WorkLifeBliss and co-founder of a fresh approach to time-management, My 15 Minutes. She lives just over the ACT border with her two teen daughters and young son. More about the Author

  • Ms Jennifer

    Emma, thank you for sharing this intimate part of your life (and childrens) it really makes you pause and think about how things don’t need to be perfect, don’t need to be complete and to accept and cherish things way they are.
    I am amazed by your strength and I hope you find peace and happiness x

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