Airlie Kirkham’s story is an inspiring one, with her recently published autobiography, ‘There is a Light at the End of the Tunnel’, already touching many.
Following an accident in 1991 which left her with a serious brain injury, Airlie spent almost 7 years at the Julia Farr Centre in Adelaide ‘confined within herself’, mentally aware but without the ability to move or communicate.
With the support of her parents, Pamela and Les, Airlie began the long process of learning to communicate again – building upon the (limited) use of her right hand – and to rediscover and continue her passion for writing, and particularly for writing poetry.
Written over the course of the last two decades, the book captures the frustration of those early years and is punctuated with many of Airlie’s poems, that powerfully illustrate her feelings and thoughts over time.
This includes an insightful poem that Airlie wrote early in her recovery expressing a wish to someday write and publish a book.
will soon be real.
My book will reveal much.
my journey along
this difficult road.
My book will create thought,
masterful ideas, dreams,
which have come true.
My book, above all,
my faith in God,
who has stood by me,
these long years.
Through the long journey of learning to write again; intense periods of study (the amazing Airlie completed a degree in Musicology in 2005 at Adelaide University and a Masters Degree in 2010) and with bouts of illness along the way, that dream has now been fulfilled.
Through her writing, it’s clear that Airlie has lost none of the traits that she was previously known for; a relentless drive and committment to achievement, a strong conviction in furthering knowledge and the importance of higher education, and (perhaps) a certain degree of stubborness and perfectionism!
It’s clear also throughout the book that the accident has only served to strengthen her faith in God.
Mother Pamela has been with her at every step of the process as a primary support, assisting Airlie to learn to write again with a modified writing tool, serving to prompt and guide shared memories, assisting with the structuring of the book, typing up the pages meticulously written in long hand by Airlie and working with the publisher (Ginninderra Press) along the way.
The book has been assisted through its evolution with help from many friends, students and Ginninderra Press in shaping the final manuscript. In addition, Airlie has enjoyed peer support as a member of respected local poetry group, ‘A Passion of Poets’.
The book was launched last year in November at the Holy Trinity Church in Adelaide by Emeritus Professor Roger Rees, former head of Disability Research at Flinders University’s School of Medicine who has followed Airlie’s journey since her accident.
The modest number of books available at the launch immediately sold out with back orders from the many more people in attendance looking to understand her story and insights.
Life for this high achiever hasn’t stopped with the launch of her book.
Airlie’s next goal is to publish a book featuring some of the hundreds of poems she has written since her accident.
With her incredible determination, something tells us that this is only the start of Airlie’s publishing success!