By Martina Simos.
The Greek philosopher Sophocles famously wrote, “Children are the anchors of a mother’s life,” and for Adelaide author and poet Doris (Falidis) Nickolas, her children became her anchor at a time of grief.
Doris spoke to The Greek Herald about dealing with loss, finding a way to heal with the help of her adult children, and how writing her memories became a book of poems.
Doris and husband Jim raised four children – Angelo, Terry, Alicia and Christo – in suburban Adelaide, South Australia, when life took a turn of its own.
In October 2020, their happy family life was turned upside down when their eldest son Angelo, then aged 30, was diagnosed with bowel cancer.
From that moment, the Nickolas family and Angelo’s partner Stacey supported him through the challenges of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, always hopeful he would beat the disease.
Angelo kept working while receiving treatment, achieving his dream of establishing his own real estate company – Noakes Nickolas – and marrying Stacey in front of family and close friends.
Doris says she was in awe of her son as he did not let cancer define him and he remained upbeat about the future.
“He did not let his illness get in the way of his hopes, dreams and living life to the fullest,” Doris says.
“Boy, he was an incredible soul, like no other. His fight for life was inspiring, he never let the cancer define who he was.
“He kept working and even when he was having chemotherapy treatment, he never complained although we all knew of his pain.
“Angelo inspired us all with his courage and together as a family, we remained positive – supporting each other, never losing hope.”
Sadly, Angelo passed away in June 2022 leaving his wife, parents and siblings feeling devastated and ‘broken.’
The days after Angelo passed were a blur for the family and Doris felt numb with grief but somehow stayed strong for her family as they navigated their grief together.
“I was barely managing to get through, though remembering the beautiful years we were gifted with, going through old family photos, Angelo’s school books, birthday cards, anything to keep our beautiful boy’s memory alive, helped me place one foot in front of the other,” Doris says.
“Even though it brought on so much pain, somehow it gave me solace as well.”
One night about two months of Angelo’s passing, Doris was looking at his baby photographs, feeling ‘empty and broken,’ when she felt the need to write down her feelings.
“I recall thinking how I was so glad that I held him [as a baby] and rocked him to sleep every night and not put him down straight into his cot,” she says.
“All of a sudden, words started to form in my mind, so I grabbed a pen and paper and started to write. In about ten minutes I had written my first poem… I called it A Mother’s Love.”
Doris began to write in her dining room, in front of Angelo’s photographs, feeling his presence. Over time she wrote 32 poems, which coincidentally was how old Angelo was when he passed away.
These poems, which are written in English, have formed the basis of her latest book – PIMATA, dedicated to Angelo and honouring his life.
Each poem has its own story and illustration and while all are special, Doris says there is one that stands out.
“Every single poem is so special but ‘Because of You’ holds a personal place in my heart,” Doris says.
“It takes me back to the most blessed day, and to the moment I will cherish for the rest of my life.
“Angelo lived life graciously. His love for life fuels us, giving us purpose and is reason we [his family] go on.
“With this in mind, I truly hope my book of poems, PIMATA, will warm one’s heart, give solace to aching souls, and give an insight to how amazing my beautiful Angelo was, and still is.
“He lives in our hearts.”
PIMATA is available at bookstores and online, including DYMOCKS GLENELG, WILDFOWERS CAFÉ – CENTENNIAL PARK, MOSTLY BOOKS – MITCHAM, and OPENBOOKHOWDEN BOOKSTORE.
Oakleigh Music Centre at 22 Chester Street, Oakleigh, Melbourne, will host a “meet and greet’ with Doris on Thursday, October 12, about her book from 12pm.