Steve, who Janette met when she was 16, had a family history of heart issues, suffering his first heart attack aged 28.
“When we first arrived in Australia, we were fortunate to do a lot of travel,” Janette, who lives in the Somerset Dam region, north-west of Brisbane, said.
“The children had a wonderful time with the four-wheel drive and caravan we towed.
“We saw a great deal of rugged terrain, venturing almost to the top of Australia.
“We’ve always felt as though we’re on holidays here.”
With an aunt living in South Australia and having “researched the Queensland climate”, the family, after two stints returning to England, resolved to make Australia their permanent home.
As well as Steven’s family, Janette farewelled her parents, two sisters, including a twin, and a maternal grandmother, the woman to whom she credits the blessings of her faith in God.
“Mum was a strong Catholic, as was her mother,” Janette said.
“My grandmother would be found in the church, within the empty pews, doing her rosary.
“She was a mild, beautiful person and my first, big, big, influence of the faith.
“She would be found, sitting in the church, in solitude.”
Janette was animated recalling the reality of her father, who worked in the railways and “was almost anti-Catholic,” earning “good money on a Sunday,” allowing the women to attend Mass and enjoy routines of this holy day of the week.
“It was a good fortune that dad worked on Sundays,” she said.
“We would go to Mass and then drink coffee by the fire after church.
“There was butter on the toast too, very important.
“It was like a Little Women (the film and novel) scenario.
“(But) of course, mum would cook a meal for dad when he came back and we all were very grateful.”
Janette said that from an early age she “aspired to the depth of devotion” of her grandmother, who died young, aged 65, of a brain tumour.
Her maternal grandfather, heartbroken, “died ten days later … (and) very penitent.”
The colourful RN, who helped her mother nurse her dying mother-in-law to age 90, remembered when “there was whiskey on the medicine trolley”.
“My older grandmother would have whiskey in her tea,” Janette said.
“Mum nursed her to her death … (and) I remember, mum rang me (for help) and I talked her through it, best I could, while I was on a shift.
“(And) when I got off shift, nanny had died.
“It was a healing. Mum felt fulfilled that she had done her best for nanny.”
Within this familial experience and having navigated the health challenges of Steve, who died in 2011, Janette said she feels as though her life is short lived.
Her twin sister in England is also in remission for breast cancer.
“I don’t think I’ll live particularly long,” Janette said, conscious of the value of “living our best lives at every moment”.
Her advice, beyond giving all to God, is “to breathe fully”.
“I did research on breathing for pain relief and for the mitigation of fear,” she said.
“If I spend time at a patient’s bedside, I know the power of breathing deeply and sitting in silence when possible.”
Janette said she doesn’t intend to remarry and “still wears the wedding ring”, grateful for all the blessings of the past and present.
“Steve and I had a fantastic life in Australia,” she said.
“He lived better and longer here, without a doubt.
“I’ll be 52 years a nurse on August 12 and I’ve loved every day of going to work, it’s always a privilege. “
All the while, Janette keeps her eyes and heart on God saying, “When I die, I’m looking forward to joining Steve.”
“Death is part of living,” she said.
“(And) I like the saying, ‘If you learn to live well, you will die well’.”
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
The Catholic Leader acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Peoples of this country and especially acknowledge the traditional owners on whose lands we live and work throughout the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.