“Being Blue is a way of life. Once you’re in it, it will never leave you.” It’s this final statement, delivered almost as an afterthought in a follow-up email, that sums up Deb to perfection. Everything that she’s done since meeting her husband in 1978 has been deeply, passionately, enmeshed in the world of policing, with all the ups and downs that entails.
That first meeting couldn’t have been better scripted if it had been in a Hollywood romcom. “Marooned with a girlfriend and a guy that couldn’t swim,” on Lion Island in Broken Bay, her future husband, Sergeant Alan Anderson, had to come to their rescue in a Police Marine boat.
“I looked up at this big white boat coming, and I said to my girlfriend, Jeez I’d laugh my head off it that was the police. She said, I’ll kill you if it is.” It was. She didn’t. But the fateful meeting had taken place, and six years later they were married.
Deb and Ando (the only way she ever refers to him) moved into a house in Avalon. It’s the house she lives in today. It’s the house she nursed her husband in, through his first bout of serious illness in 1994; it’s the house she watched him die in, after his second bout of serious illness in 1999. “I have no idea why he had to suffer so much – twice – before he got to move on to the next world,” she says.
Other people might have taken the opportunity to move house. Not Deb. Her “boots and all” philosophy of life kept her there, through a tumultuous time in which she didn’t always cope well. She kept herself as grounded as she could through outdoor activities, including half-marathons, Mullumbimby to Brunswick Heads kayak paddles, trekking, squash, and basketball. Completing the circle, Ando’s ashes were scattered off Lion Island.
She lost her way for a bit before acknowledging she could use the support NSW Police Legacy could offer. “I was a bit scared to start with, not knowing what to expect… Now I’m in, boots and all.” She joined the Police Wives and Friends Support Group, aka “The Bear Ladies”, where she found a warm welcome amidst a host of non-judgemental women. “They bring an ease and calm to your situation without even saying anything.”
Alongside this introduction to the healing powers of NSW Police Legacy, Deb undertook Diplomas in Grief and Bereavement Counselling and End-of-Life Therapy, and has been practising ever since. She relishes it. “It’s an honour to do this. It’s a pleasure,” she says, of helping out Blue Family members in need of assistance.
In the meantime, she’s working part-time at a dermatology clinic, and a funeral home (where she loves the black humour), and looking to move more into counselling. She has a lot to give back, and is now focussed and ready to do so. “Boots and all will do me, but sometimes it does take time to work out where your boots need to be.”