Life lessons from a Wonder Woman who knew what was important

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Sarah Long arrived in Australia from the UK in early 2010 and met her Mr Miner soon after. They're based in Sydney and he does drive-in, drive-out (DIDO) to Orange in country NSW. Sarah came out to Oz as part of a six-month backpacking trip around the world, and never went home!

This week I lost a beautiful colleague and friend. At 68, she was a lot older than me – as one of my friends described her, she was a sort of "Mum away from Mum".

After twice battling breast cancer, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last June and was given four weeks to live. She survived 18 months and made the most of them.

Why am I telling you all this about a woman you never met? Because standing at her funeral made me realise she was a bit of a Wonder Woman: someone we could all learn from.

The first thing that struck me when I arrived at the funeral was how many people were there. I knew it was going to be a busy affair, not only because they had to move the service from the church’s chapel to the auditorium, but also because Wonder Woman (we’ll call her WW) knew so many people.

At 68 she had a far busier social life than me, or any of her younger colleagues. You needed to allow at least 15 minutes to ask what she had done at the weekend, as she had invariably been for a brunch, a bush walk, a dinner, afternoon tea and another event (three of which she would’ve catered for) over just two days. In the same weekend I had managed to wash and dress myself twice, possibly do the groceries and think about ironing my clothes for Monday morning!

I wasn't surprised she had so many friends, she collected them! If there was an opportunity to meet new people, she was there. At the front of the queue, with her arms and smile wide open, she was the original 'yes' woman. Whether it was school tuck shop duty, work social committee, her kids' football events or church groups, whatever the reason, she would be there ready to get her hands dirty.

And this leads me to my WW Rule One: Say yes to making new friends.

Often in the mining game, particularly moving to remote locations and having to start afresh, the hardest thing is losing your support network and having to make new friends. But as long as you are open to meeting new people, you can do it. Of course, it does help to have her confidence and no-nonsense attitude, but start small with something that suits you and the more people you meet, the easier it becomes.

Which leads me to WW Rule Two: Stay positive. Listening to her eulogy, I learnt that she had managed about 10 house moves, four kids, three cancer battles and her husband being made redundant twice, all with a "she’ll be right" attitude. Not one to make a fuss, she just got on with it.

Obviously you can be a little too strong-willed at times and asking for help is important, but getting knocked down and getting back up again will make you realise what’s really important in life. When she finally told us she was dying (reluctantly), in the next breath she said with a wry smile, "See, now that makes everything else you’re worrying about seem not so important." And of course she was right.

She worked right through chemo and radiotherapy and carried on even when in pain, because it kept her going. So next time you’re finding it tough going, take a moment to consider the alternatives, get up and put on something that makes you feel great (she was a great one for accessorizing – so do the washing up in your wedding dress if it works!) and get out there and have a go.

WW Rule Three: Remember the importance of sharing. Yes, my Mum did teach me to share (hard not to when you’re the eldest of four kids) but completely selfless sharing just to make others happy is what WW did best. She was constantly cooking and buying presents for others and keeping the work lolly jar full for the 3pm lulls, even when she was sick. And seeing the pure joy it gave her was wonderful.

If you’ve lost your warm and fuzzy feeling, share something.

If your mining man’s away, why not share your lonely time? Invite someone over and share your cooking, or just open a packet of biscuits, share little gifts, wine, tea, lollies or lend a friendly ear. It doesn’t matter what it is, it’s the giving that counts. Not only will it make them feel good, but it’s a great way to make friends AND feel positive too – three rules covered for the price of one. Winning!

And if all else fails, pour a cup of tea, get a slice of cake (vanilla slice was her favourite), call an old friend for a chat and make them see how much you appreciate them, just because you can. 

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