Best day of my life: Sophie Barker

SOPHIE BARKER, of Dunedin. Photo by Jane Dawber.
SOPHIE BARKER, of Dunedin. Photo by Jane Dawber.
Continuing last year's Summer Times quest to find out what was the best day of people's lives (except the birth of their children or the day they met or married their partners), another eight Otago residents tell their stories.

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight the best day of my life was also the worst. The old cliches, what does not kill you makes you stronger, fire forges steel etc, abound.

It often takes a crisis to unmask the truth of your life. The incredibly bittersweet-memory of the best-worst day of my life is branded in my mind forever. It began lightheartedly, returning from a successful sales trip, on a high from aceing business and enjoying colleagues' company. The emissary appeared, a letter was delivered, a job lost, the family split, my perfect world cracked.

Foisted from the gilded cage that I had inhabited for 40 years I was fledged to build my life anew. Friends rallied, friends disappeared. Hands of help were offered from unexpected places. Gates were closed and the proverbial doors opened.

So why do I share the best-worst day of my life with readers? To show that often it is not the rosy days of happy memories that shapes our lives, but the searing swing of life's realities. Being baldly forced to find independence, freedom and self reliance. Finding your aloneness and making it a strength. Reassessing your priorities and realising that the one thing that matters to you is creating a safe loving platform for your child.

Finding the strength within to withstand life's random slaps is a gift. A gift that I certainly did not realise at the time and which was wrapped rather poorly. This was the kind of gift, that, like a lump of coal on a warm summers christmas, requires the right set of circumstances to appreciate. The gift only became apparent when I was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation and syringomyelia. AKA a brain defect and a large spinal cyst. Alone, facing, surviving and recovering from three risky brain operations in 15 months requires an inner strength and serenity.

To face three surgeons. One explaining that you have a condition that inevitably causes paralysis. The other two, that your surgery failed and you need your head cut open, again. Mentally staring fear in the face and not flinching. Taking the risk, signing the papers and open-eyed accepting the consequences. Looking at your beautiful loved daughter and wondering if you will see each other again. And still going ahead with the risky surgery.

Showing a cheery face to the world and not giving into heart-wrenching fear. That is the gift of the day of fledgling. The best day taught me to appreciate the momentariness of life. To place one foot in front of the other until the bad moments recede. To stop, breathe, look and enjoy the world's gorgeous moments. And to ensure that thoughtful moments are shared - like this one with you, kind reader.