Julie Stafford, author of ‘Seagulls on the Ganges’, has healed herself after her partner’s loss. She is a strong woman because of her belief that we are not less because someone is gone, but rather know that we are more because they once loved us.
Aditi: Tell the readers a little about your book ‘Seagulls on the Ganges’.
Julie Stafford: ‘Seagulls on the Ganges’ is a love story that crosses the borders of the here-and-now and an afterlife. Though written as fiction, the story follows actual events and experiences of author, Julie Stafford, as she sets out on a journey to heal from grief and write a new chapter for herself, as a single woman, at 53, after she loses, Bruce, the man she’s adored for more than thirty years, to mesothelioma (asbestos cancer).
Julie’s story begs the question if a departed loved one can find ways-and-means to communicate messages to those still living. It questions what our lives might look like if we trusted more in the whispers of our heart and we followed our heart’s messages. And, it explores how Carl Jung’s a-causal principle of synchronicity just might be a natural energy force that is constantly working around us to keep us on the path of our purposeful journey.
Aditi: Why did you choose this title?
Julie Stafford: The title came to me when I unexpectedly received a photo from my niece (my husband’s sister’s daughter, Alannah), via email. She had taken the photo, at dawn, from one of the old, wooden boats that she was riding on, as it floated on the Ganges. Across from her, in another boat, priests in colourful robes were throwing ashes of the deceased into the Ganges and chanting prayers over their souls. What fascinated Alannah was the hundreds of seagulls flying low on the Ganges between the two boats. She wrote, “This image made me immediately think of you and Bruce.”
Alannah could not have known I was home in Australia struggling with the idea of should I or should I not publish my manuscript. And, if I did, what would I call my story? Apart from the extraordinariness of my story, and how I had been changed by events and experiences, I wondered if my story would resonate with others. This certainly would be a reason to publish.
I heard my heart whispering to me that Alannah’s photo and the timing of receiving the photo was a sign that I should indeed publish my story. I began researching her sign – the Ganges, the boats and priests, burial rituals on the Ganges, etc … This led me to discover the term moksha. Moksha explained and validated perfectly to me all that had transpired in my experiences.
I began sharing my story with others at every opportunity and discovered others were sitting on similar experiences and looking for validation of their experiences. The reason to publish my story suddenly got bigger.
Aditi: After being the bestselling author for many cookbooks how did a love story happen?
Julie Stafford: The ‘Taste of Life’ cookbooks were always an extension of mine and Bruce’s love story. When Bruce was diagnosed with life-threatening Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, just two-and-a-half-years into our love story, I researched all the ways we could help build a strong immune system to help Bruce beat the cancer. It was obvious that a healthy diet was paramount. Bruce was my reason to write cookbooks. As my number one food taster, if he loved what I made – using healthy, life-enhancing ingredients, then it became a recipe in my ‘Taste of Life’ cookbooks.
The Book Cover
Aditi: Did your writing style change when you wrote this book as compared to your cook books?
Julie Stafford: I’m certain ‘Seagulls on the Ganges’ was always resting in me, waiting for its moment: waiting for me to grow in my capacity to be able to deliver it. Cookbook writing is structural and methodical. Cookbooks are all about technique and quantities and rigid instruction. This story, especially writing it in fiction, confirmed I am a born story teller, and I love the power of words.
Aditi: Your story takes the readers through various cities – have you visited these yourself? Which one if your favourite?
Julie Stafford: Although the story is written as fiction, it follows real events and experiences of the author, so yes I did go to all the cities mentioned, except India. I believe cities call you when you are ready to know their lessons. They sometimes plant seeds in you much earlier than when they actually call you to come. Such was the case for me with Dubrovnik. This city saved me from my grief because it had experienced its own grief, from war, and it knew how to rebuild its spirit and better in its rejuvenation than it was before because that’s what life demanded of it. Its lessons for me were plentiful and powerful. There, I became aware that in the least likely people you learn some of your biggest lessons in life. Paris also called me when I was ready to find the woman ready to embrace life again after loss. I love Paris, but Dubrovnik will always be my favourite city. I have returned there every summer, since my first visit in 2006.
Aditi: What is real love?
Julie Stafford: Real love is a state of blissful being that is the consequence of two people coming together, to unconditionally support each other’s individual growth in spiritual consciousness and share in the rewards of each other’s awakening.
Aditi: Do you think love dies after someone’s passing away or grows?
Julie Stafford: For me, my love for Bruce felt all-encompassing when he was alive, but after he passed, and after my extraordinary experiences, all pertaining to a seagull, I find myself in a new state of loving Bruce that feels more highly elevated than it ever was. I am at peace with his loss. I miss him of course, but I have a great sense he lives on in his life. Rarely does a day go by without us connecting, usually triggered by the sighting of a seagull.
Aditi: How can we heal ourselves when we are grieving?
Julie Stafford: By allowing the pain of loss to teach us something beyond what we already know, and by believing we are not less because someone is gone, but rather know that we are more because they once loved us.
Aditi: Is there someone in your life who helped you to help when you were grieving?
Julie Stafford: Our two children, Timothy and Cais, were my rocks during grief. Young adults, they held me when I needed holding and they set me free when they trusted it was time for me to fly solo. They allowed me to be who I needed to be in all the stages of my grief. They are both important characters in this book. Laura is my daughter Cais; and Scott is my son, Timothy.
Aditi: What is the meaning of life according to you?
Julie Stafford: Life is a purpose greater than ourselves for the good of all others. If we listen to the whispers of our heart and follow what we hear we will know what roads to walk to find our purpose.
Aditi: Do you have any message for your readers?
Julie Stafford: You are more than your circumstance. You are braver than you imagine you are: and, you don’t walk through life alone. If you trust these three wisdoms you will find a strength to handle anything you face in life.