The following is an extract from: This, That and the Other: An autobiography – Iris Koehler’s life story. If you have wondered (or can remember) what life was like before the age of technology, this story is for you. The book provides a glimpse into an earlier, simpler Australia – a quality and way of life now gone. It’s about overcoming difficulty, living well and being at peace.
HE WAS STILL WARM
It didn’t feel like I was on my own. He was still lying there next to me.
He wasn’t cold – he was still warm. I mean, I held his hand you know. Oh dear, oh dear! That was the most devastating time of my life.
It took a while for me to fully understand of course – that my seventy-nine year old husband had just died. An odd sort of feeling, like floating in water.
. . . In the Billabong Creek, as a child my Dad had taught me to float on my back in the water. And later when Reg and I were courting he visited me on the farm and we went swimming in the creek . . .
The nursing home had phoned at four o’clock in the morning and it took me a while to wake up . . . It’s Edgewood Park, she said. And I looked at the time.
Why would they be ringing me? I thought. And then I said, Oh it’s Reg, has something happened? She asked if I was on my own.
Yes I am, I said. But is there something wrong with Reg? Oh yes. I’m very sorry, Iris. He has just passed away.
She was very intent on knowing whether I was on my own or not, and didn’t want me to come down if I was on my own. But I was all right – I just got dressed and got in the car.
When I got there a nursing sister was waiting out the front. Oh dear they were good, I’ll never forget that. He was in a front room.
They had done it out beautifully – flowers, and candles burning and there was a Bible open next to his bed. So they had not rung me straight away – they had prepared him first.
But it was a lovely time. We just . . . I just sat there, I wouldn’t know how long. Could have been the best part of an hour. She looked in a couple of times. Are you all right? Would you like me to stay? No. I’m fine thank you.
Later when I left I said, I’ll just pull the blanket up. Better not let him get cold.
I’ll never forget that. Then I smiled and they realised that I realised . . . oh dear, what a thing to say. It makes me laugh.
In the end I knew that I had done all that I possibly could. To feel like that is very rewarding. Very peaceful, and he was at peace too. Everything would be different now. It took a while for it to sink in.
THE BILLABONG CREEK
It would have been a hot time of year when I was born – 4 February 1925. I remember the way the crops in the paddocks would blur in the shimmering summer heat. My name, Iris Joyce Paech. I am a third generation Australian from German farming immigrants. My mother had wanted to go to the little Walla Walla Hospital, but my grandmother thought that a bigger one would be better, so I was born in a beautiful old private hospital called Meramie in Albury.
My father and mother took me home to what turned out to be a wonderful childhood on our family farm, Parkside, on the Billabong Creek. It’s five miles (about eight kilometres) out from Walla, which is just north of Albury in New South Wales . . .