Posts tagged ‘child death’

LOVE IS WATCHING SOMEONE DIE. 

We are through the first half of 2017, and almost halfway through July now as well. I made it through the 14th anniversary of Daughter Number One’s murder but only just, regular viewers, only just. I am still here, still breathing, still putting one foot in front of the other. 

I don’t try to pretend it is easy. It really hasn’t been. During the first five months of this year two beautiful souls I had the privilege of connecting with died and in June another, most precious, followed. On top of my own personal grief, watching people I love in pain is almost more than I can bear. I say almost because there isn’t a choice. I love them and they are in pain. If the most I can do is bear witness then it needs to be done. But I have been so sad. For me, for them. It all hurts so much. My body hurts, my soul hurts and oh, I’m so tired. So very, very tired. 

In the week before the anniversary of Daughter Number One’s murder we had the bombing in Manchester, at Ariana Grande’s concert. An attack on children. An attack on music. Shortly after came the London Bridge attack, again involving young people on a night out and shortly after that came the Grenfell Tower disaster. Babies and children, whole families, living their lives, losing their lives and all of these events in quick succession hit me like a ton of bricks. The weight of it, mixed with the other losses in my own life. The pointless waste of snuffed out potential. The reinforcement of how tenuous our grip on life is. How quickly everything we have and know and hold dear can be gone. It was crushing. 

As always, during these times, we were offered the very best and the very worst of humanity. Stories of homeless men running to give aid and strangers holding children, comforting them as they died. But the overwhelming aftertaste was of man’s inhumanity to man. These are the things I try not to hold onto. I really try. Consciously. I choose to look for the good and to be better, not bitter. But every ‘Missing! Hasn’t been heard from’ photo on facebook and each confirmed fatality, each snatched glimpse of footage showing billowing smoke and bereft people before I quickly changed the channel, took me back to a policeman’s face and the sound of his voice saying “There is nothing to identify. We’ll have to use dental records”. Over and over and over again. 

I am still sad. I am still scared. I am scared because at some point, in some way, love will equal loss, because that is the deal. And I choose to keep loving. Is it better to have loved and lost? Still, yes, I guess. For me at least. But the loss bit is just so very hard. 

Still, I get up in the morning and I put one foot in front of the other. Some days are slower than others, but I try and I try because the best way I know to honour the dead is by living. All the dear ones I have loved and lost, none of them would want me to not live my life. It would not give them back theirs. 

I have spoken before of the privilege of being adopted by a network of ex servicemen and women of all designations; military, police, fire and ambulance: Their support and generosity of spirit are second to none. A friend wrote recently to share his positive experience with a new medication he was trialling. Traditionally a blood pressure medication, it is said to have the bonus side effect of getting rid of ptsd related nightmares. As someone who routinely screams herself awake this sounded almost miraculous. In truth, after all these years I cannot imagine what life might be like without them. I just know it sounds good to me. 

After using antidepressants for over ten years I stopped taking them four years ago. A doctor said to me that she didn’t think my depression was biologically based, rather a reaction to events. I thought ‘Abso- fucking- lutely’ and at that moment there didn’t seem to be much point in continuing to take them. I only speak for myself. I don’t make judgements about what does and doesn’t work for anyone else. I was under medical supervision. But for me, I have not had any more bad days or anymore good days since I stopped taking them. That’s what I know. 

Four years down the track from that decision, hearing about a medication that specifically targets the nightmares was pretty exciting! So I made an appointment with a gp and asked. The Dr I was seeing had never heard of using this particular medication in that way so she rang a registrar for more information. She confirmed what my friend had been so generous to share. So, I got my prescription. And I don’t know that it will work for me but I don’t know that it won’t. And hope is a fine thing! 

One foot in front of the other until you get to the other side, while sirens in the distance have me listening for the voice that will never come. 

Safe onward travel to all my lovelies, wherever you are and wherever you are headed x 

AM I ON MY OWN? AM I EVEN CLOSE? 


Well, that’s Mother’s Day done and dusted for another year. I know I am not the only one who finds Mother’s Day hard. There are lots of reasons it can be hard for people. Those who have lost their mothers. Those who have not been able to have children but who have deeply wanted to. I don’t pretend to have any monopoly on Mother’s Day related pain. Really, who would want it? Truth be told though, it is not a day I enjoy.

There are obvious reasons for that and for those of you following along, here’s one more:

In a few days it will be Daughter Number Two’s birthday. She will be nine. The day after that it will be Son Number One’s 22nd birthday, but he is much younger than his years in some ways and however old you are it’s nice to feel people appreciate having you around, particularly on your birthday. Thirteen years ago I was decorating a Thomas the Tank Engine birthday cake with my beautiful first born Daughter for her brother’s 9th birthday and then ten days after that she was dead. Each and every year since Sam’s death my eldest son’s birthday has fallen into the chasm of grief that opens between Daughter Number One’s birthday and the anniversary of her murder. Every. Single. Time. And since Daughter Number Two rocketed into the world her birthday is consumed by the same black hole.

It’s not like I forget the dates. I know when they were born! I was there. It is just that the dates kind of sneak up on me. Every time. So last Friday I was speaking to Daughter Number Two on the phone and I said to her “It’s Friday tomorrow, so there’s only one more day of school before the weekend!” And she answered “Yes! And you know what the next Friday Is!” And I, her Mother, said no.

“Next Friday is my birthday!”

Fuck. Fuckity fuck fuck. “Oh yes! Of course I know that!” Fuck. Really? Already? But there has to be more time, surely. I have to have more time than that! I need more time!

When I was awaiting Daughter Number Two’s arrival into the world I was so excited she was due after the anniversary of her sister’s death. It would give me a positive focal point past that dreaded anniversary, I thought. But best laid plans and all of that… Daughter Number Two made her grand entrance six and a bit weeks early, completely overshadowing her eldest brother’s 13th birthday the following day, a fact from which he has still not completely recovered.

It’s not like I don’t try. I do. I knew the birthday’s were coming up. I knew I had preparations to make. I had thought a little bit about what to do this year. I just hadn’t done anything yet. But there has to be more time, surely. I have to have more time than that! I need more time! Except now there wasn’t any time left and to have any chance of getting anything to them in time for their birthday’s I would need to get something into the mail to them the very next day. I said my goodbyes to Daughter Number Two on the phone and sat on my bed berating myself for my failings as a mother. ‘What THE FUCK is WRONG with you Kate? You are their MOTHER! You know when their birthday’s are! How can you drop the ball EVERY. FUCKING. YEAR??!!’

Since detailing my shortcomings didn’t seem to be getting me very far I decided to focus on what I actually do have and what I actually could do, better late than never. Limited time, limited finances and limited capacity to think of anything in the face of my guilt and shame made it an uphill battle. Until it hit me; what I have in abundance! Where my wealth of riches are found. In my family of the heart. My beautiful and amazing friends.

So I wrote a post on facebook asking for help in making my Son and Daughter’s birthday’s special. I asked if anyone would be willing to send them a card, because I thought having more than expected mail would be a fun thing! And so many of my lovely people came through. People who have their own shit going on. No one particularly financially wealthy but all incredibly rich in heart and generosity. I know I have told you before here but it is a point I cannot make too often; I have the very best friends. Where ever I go and whatever I do, I never walk alone.

I had already asked for their support earlier in the week when I spoke at a workshop run by Angelhands. It is always a honour to be asked and I hold on to the hope that sharing my experiences will somehow, someway, someday help someone. My friend Ann was also there and I always get much of value listening to her speak. Ann was recently appointed an ambassador for Our Watch. They are lucky to have her. We are all lucky to have her.

On the day I spoke at the Angelhands workshop I had posted on my facebook saying only that it was a big day for me and asking people to keep me in their thoughts. As always my beautiful people had my back. Son Number Two and another lovely friend physically came with me. The kindness of the comments on my facebook post and even just in the acknowledgement of their ‘like’s’ – ‘I see you, I hear you’ – was a reminder that my friends stand with me. Always. How lucky I am.

After I managed to get something in the mail to my children I had time to reflect on why this happens each year despite my best efforts. I realised that if I don’t actively acknowledge the birthday’s are fast approaching then the anniversary cannot be fast approaching either. Because there has to be more time, surely. I have to have more time than that! I need more time!

Because I remember what we were doing and that my Daughter Number One was still alive this time thirteen years ago. Because I didn’t know that those would be the last times we ever did things together. Because there has to be more time, surely. I have to have more time than that! I need more time! But there isn’t. There is no more time. And that is that.

I am so thankful for all the kindnesses I receive. I try to pass on these kindnesses, to pay them forward. It doesn’t take much, as I said in my last post, to change someone’s day. I can’t pretend that it’s completely altruistic on my part; making someone else feel better makes me feel better. It really is more blessed to give than to receive. But a win-win can’t be a bad thing!

I have been doing a bit of reading on love languages recently. There are, apparently, five main ways we express love; words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. I like to think I am fairly fluent in all of those but that doesn’t mean there is not room for improvement. The more opportunities to practise, the better. Love is my religion. My reading has also been useful for reflecting on the ways that others around me show me I am loved. Acknowledging that to them and to myself is important. Especially when I don’t feel loveable.

I love and I am loved. At the end of the day it is all that counts. So, just do it, while you still have the time.
Two days before the anniversary of Sam’s death this year is the eighteenth anniversary of the day a man I loved deeply committed suicide. I still miss him enormously. He was my friend.

The day before the 13th anniversary of Sam’s death is the first anniversary of her father’s death. While I know he suffers no longer my heart breaks at the thought of how hard this day will be for his wife and his sons. Selfishly I mourn another piece of my Daughter gone forever from this world.

Then comes the 13th anniversary itself. And I inch ever closer to having the time spent living without my daughter become longer than the time I had to spend with her and, truly, I don’t know how one bears that. I just know that there doesn’t seem to be a choice.

Hard days. Hard days. I’m not going to lie. It is the love of my children and friends that holds me upright and in that way I am truly blessed. That is what I hang on to. At the end of the day that is what matters.

Life is short. Love hard.

Safe onward travel x

BEAUTIFUL PAIN.

TRIGGER WARNING: sexual assault, violence,murder, suicide. Safe onward travel my friends x

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Happy Birthday Sam. You would be twenty seven years old today. This photo was taken in the flat where we lived above a mechanic’s shop in The Entrance NSW. Your first birthday was almost exactly two months after the Newcastle Earthquake. On the day the earthquake happened you had gone back to sleep, so I was sleeping too. Something woke me and I wasn’t sure what had happened. It was quite disorientating and very unsettling and I picked you up out of your cot and dressed you and took you down the road to the shopping centre, and we sat in a café and people around us started talking about what had happened, and then I knew it was an earthquake. It was surreal.

When your second birthday rolled around your Daddy and I were still together. By the time you were two and a half, though, we had separated. Just after his 21st birthday, just before mine. It’s been almost nine months since the day he killed himself. My grief today includes his wife and his three sons, your brothers that did not have the chance to really know you. I know, like you, nothing can hurt him any more and I hope that if there is an afterlife, that you have found each other.

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This lovely birthday cake and yummy cupcakes were made by a friend, not by me. By the time you turned four I already felt that I had failed you as a mother. Everything I didn’t want for you, everything I wanted to give you that I had never had, I had not managed to provide. Luckily you had other people who loved you and who picked up the slack. Hayley, I love you.

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You turned five at the start of your educational career – it was only a day or two after you had started school and I brought this cake to school so you could share it with your new classmates. By this stage we were already living with the man who would become your stepfather, and then later, your murderer.

You had a brother to help you celebrate your seventh birthday. He’s twenty one years old now. Seven years older than you ever will be. He stands over two metres tall and although he still has issues he is far more independent than I ever hoped he could be. He misses you. At this time in our lives I had gone back to studying. I was studying welfare. I felt like I finally had my shit together.

What a smile! From the days of your first smiles until the day you died you had this huge, infectious smile Sam.

You had two brothers helping you celebrate your eleventh birthday. Your youngest brother towers over me now and turns eighteen this year. He misses you too and he doesn’t really remember you, which is another loss. He was so little when you died.

This was the year before you started at the Hunter School of the Performing Arts. Although you were good at school, socially you found it a bit hard sometimes; you didn’t feel like you fitted in. You started at the Hunter School of the Performing Arts in year 6 and there you finally found your home. All the other oddballs who were born the stand out, rather than blend in. These were your people. And they stayed your tribe until you died. Hell Sam, they are your tribe still, and you are still part of them and there are no words for what that meant to me then and means to me now.

The Hunter School of the Performing Arts is the only fully selective Year 3-12 performing arts school in NSW, Australia. You had to audition to get in. Everyone did. I remember preparing for the audition with you. I remember you attending the audition and having the time of your life! And I remember you getting the letter to say you had won a place in your chosen category of drama. That passion was something we shared and your youngest brother also shares it. Your little sister, born four years after you died, has it too. I see you in them.

Just before your twelfth birthday you broke your arm playing basketball at Vacation Care. You had to spend time in hospital for a closed reduction and you shared a room with two girls around your age who had cystic fibrosis. The three of you had a ball! The break meant your ice skating birthday party had to be postponed but a couple of months later it happened, with all your beautiful friends.

Your fourteenth birthday was the last I had to spend with you. There was a school dance that night and your adored best friend came home from school with you that afternoon. I love you Harley. You were so happy, so excited and it was so fitting that you spent your last birthday celebrating with people you loved in a place you were so happy. After you died, Sam, your school was so great. Honestly, I love that school. The care they provided to you continued after your death and extended to us, your family, and they looked after your friends too Sam, which I know you’d be thankful for. Above and beyond their job descriptions.

In the last photo there is a movie poster behind you for The Matrix. Your murderer told us he was taking you to see the sequel on the day, just over three months after your fourteenth birthday, that he killed you. Instead of the cinema he took you into bushland and repeatedly sexually assaulted you before murdering you.

Today is a hard day for me Sam. Some days are harder than others and this one is a tough one. I think about where you would be now, if you were here, on your twenty-seventh birthday. Would you be married? Have children? Be paying off a house? I see your friends doing all those things and more. Someone asked me if it became easier with each birthday that passed. Does it get easier the more time that passes since the last time I hugged you? Does it get easier the more days you do not get to see? The more things I realise you will never do? Does it get easier knowing that next year will bring a point in time where you will be gone longer than you were here for and I don’t even know how I will bear it. No. It does not get easier. Yes, I live with it. I don’t have much of a choice.

I live with knowing that the Monday after you died you were meant to go on an excursion to tour NIDA, when it was your DREAM to study there. And that does not get easier either. I live with knowing there is much I cannot change, but that your little sister and your brothers have flown on many aeroplanes because you never flew on one. Hey Sam, your lovely friend? The one with your name? She flies planes now – as the pilot! She flies sick children in for treatment. She studied really hard for many years but she’s living her dream now. And I’m very proud of her.

For days now I have been dizzy. All. The. Time. Brought to my knees by tears in the kitchen at 7.30 in the morning, crying in the shower so nobody hears, crying in the toilet after seeing photo’s of Luna Park in Sydney and remembering the time we celebrated your first brother’s birthday there. You were six and walked to the front of the orchestra playing and conducted them, in your jeans and denim jacket. A photographer took photos of you for a local newspaper and I still have copies somewhere. Everything today is too loud, too bright and way too hard.

On the night you were born I was eighteen years, two months, two weeks and five days old. Your Dad was working as a station attendant on the railways and I had travelled down the North Shore line to work with him before coming back to the Central Coast, where we were living, to pack as we were moving out of our first little rented unit. I had fallen asleep on the train back and as I got off the train at my stop I didn’t feel very well. It was around half past three in the afternoon. The flat was only across the road from the station though, so I walked back and continued the work that needed to be done. I really didn’t feel well at all and I started to feel pain. It occurred to me that this could be it, this could be you, but surely not? I rang the hospital and spoke to a midwife who advised me to stay at home for as long as I could. And I rang your Dad and asked him to come home, please.

But he was hours away and there came a point when I realised I couldn’t wait for him so I called a cab and went, alone, to Gosford Hospital. After I arrived I was taken to a room and apart from being periodically checked on, there I was left, alone, waiting for your Dad to arrive. I had been there several hours when I asked the nurse to call your Dad again. He hadn’t left yet. He was settling the till for the day. He was still hours away. And then I cried. And the nurse asked if there was anyone else she could call? But there wasn’t. So I waited, alone. For your Dad. And for you.

He arrived around half past ten and you arrived just before 11.30pm. It was overwhelming. Shortly afterwards your Dad said he was off. He needed to finish the packing and was tired after work. It was just me and you, kid. Until a nurse came in and offered to take you to the nursery and look after you, so I could get some rest. And I didn’t want you to go but I guessed this was what new mothers did? I didn’t want to make a fuss so I just agreed and as I lay there and waited for the nurses to bring you back to me I felt so guilty for letting you go. I feel guilty about it still. Deep inside me there is a little voice that whispers in a scratchy, spiky tone, that maybe if I’d said no and not let you go, maybe if we had spent that time together after you were freshly arrived in the world, maybe you would have been able to tell me that he had hurt you. Maybe I would have been able to save you.

And in my head I know that there would have been threats and promises to keep you quiet. I know that you stayed silent to try to protect us. But that wasn’t your job Sam. It was mine to protect you, to look after you. And I feel like I failed from the start.

But I can’t go back Sam. I can only go forward. So I do. Every day, even on the hard days. And I’ve been asked to speak about you again Sam which is so terribly, terribly important to me. I think, if talking about your life and your death helps just one person then that will be the only sense I can ever make out of it. And I tell it all Sam, even the hard bits. Because you lived it. And all with that giant smile on your beautiful face.

I miss you Sam and it hurts like crazy. But nothing can hurt you any more. I love you Sam, so very, very much.

Happy Birthday my Sammie.

On this day 27 years ago you made me a mother. And I will stay,

Always,

Your Mum x

 

 

 

GONE, GONE, GONE.

Each morning, out of habit I turn on my computer. It means I can see the time and as the day gets going and the morning routine begins I play music on youtube. I open all my regular sites – I usually have at least five open at once – and it stays on most of the day, even if I am not sitting in front of it. Some things I absorb without being really aware of it; things on my home page, stuff I scroll past on my newsfeed. This morning however I was stopped in my tracks. A page I have ‘liked’ on facebook, which is for a website that I enjoy called ‘Mamamia’ had shared a story about a mother whose child had transitioned from female to male. 

Regular readers will be aware that I am extremely open and accepting of diversity. I celebrate all colours of the rainbow! In a little while I will be going to the wedding of one of my dearest, oldest friends and my friend and her wife to be have asked me to do a reading as they formalise their commitment in celebration of their happy home, gorgeous family and ten year partnership. So, any article about a mother’s acceptance of her transgender son would only be a good thing in my book, ordinarily. Except, and it’s quite a big ‘but’ really (I like big butts and I can not lie!) the story made statements about her female child having died and been reborn again as a male. Ok, metaphorically I get it. I do not think that situation would not be without it’s own grief and losses. But she lost me when she said things like “My daughter Grace passed away in September 2010. There wasn’t an obituary. There wasn’t a funeral. There wasn’t a casket or even a body to put in it. No one sent me sympathy cards. No one brought me casseroles.”

She then, two sentences later, stated the obvious “It was because my child was still alive.” Well, yes. I had lots of food delivered to me. Mostly lasagne. I had a body that was the charred physical remains of my beautiful, intelligent, loving, talented child. I got to plan her funeral not long past her fourteenth birthday. Lucky fucking me, hey?

As the writer went on and outlined her road to acceptance she waxed lyrical about special events that had caused her to shed ‘happy tears’. Um, yes, that would be because her child was still ALIVE. Able to grow and change and develop. To live and love and learn and as his mother she had the privilege of being able to watch that and support him and nurture her child. To some extent, at some stage in our children’s lives we all have to let go of the child we dreamt of and imagined and accept them for the people the actually ARE. This woman’s experience was probably more than most of us would expect but how dare she, HOW DARE SHE compare her child’s transition to losing a child to death. There were NO happy tears shed after my daughter died. Because my Daughter actually DIED. Wasn’t alive any more. I can no longer watch her grow, hear her laugh, hold her in my arms. Never again. Ever. Not in this lifetime. That kind of dead.

The article was originally published here on the Huffington Post site. and then republished here on Mamamia. If you have any thoughts please feel free to go there and share them. Comments here welcome also!

I cannot even explain the white hot anger I felt at the words so thoughtlessly used. I know that unless you have outlived your child you cannot imagine it. I am GLAD for you that you can’t. But in this situation there was no comparison and you’ll be lucky if you get to take my word for that.

Safe onward travel x

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ISN’T SHE LOVELY.

Tomorrow is my eldest Daughter’s 25th birthday, or it would be, you know, if she hadn’t been murdered and everything over ten years ago. 

It’s still her birthday I guess, only she doesn’t get to be a year older. 

I don’t get to meet up with my twenty five year old Daughter for lunch and reminisce, or chat about her job, or what she’s wearing out to dinner – with her friends? A new romantic prospect? A long term partner? 

I will never know my Daughter as an adult. Years of birthday’s flash through my head before coming to an abrupt halt at the last one. 

There were nowhere near enough of them. 

Tomorrow I will give thanks for having known her at all. And that is not enough either. 

Travel safe x 

It’s life, Jim……

I went to see Rabbit Hole today at the cinema, with Nicole Kidman. It’s a story about a couple whose son dies. I almost wrote ‘who lose their son’, but they don’t misplace him, he dies. I’d read good things about it, and had lamented to my Stepmother that it was on during the school holidays which meant I’d probably have to wait to catch it on DVD. My Stepmother and Father offered to babysit, and you know how often that happens, so I jumped at the chance. I’m not a huge Nicole Kidman fan. I expect she’s a really nice person once you get to know her, but usually in her movies I can’t get past that she’s NICOLE KIDMAN- which is quite obviously a failing on my part, not hers. Anyhow, every good thing I’d read about it was correct. There were moments of brilliance. There is a group therapy scene where a couple is talking about the their daughter’s death, ending with ‘God had to take her. He needed another angel’ Kidman’s character responds ‘Why didn’t he just make another angel? He’s God!’ – I almost stood and applauded. It’s a really good movie. And I managed to forget it was Nicole and saw simply the emotions of her character. Good job, well done.

It’s funny the things that stick with you. The things you notice. I came out of the cinema with a nice case of the shakes. Not a surprise. Dad picked me up and as we pulled out from the kerb I noticed the car in front of us had  twin booter seats in the back seat. We did too. In the car my  Daughter died in we had twin boosters in the back. After Daughter Number One died one of the Detectives took me to the scene of the crash, and then to the police impound lot where what was left of the huge white four wheel drive was being kept. There really wasn’t much left. I do remember noting though that the booster seat anchors were still clipped to their bolts. There were no longer any booster seats, they’d beeen incinerated, but it impressed me to know that the anchor points had held through an impact into a stone wall. Such a random thing to be thinking about, while examining what was left of the vehicle, but there was a fairly high level of detachment at play, so I guess that goes part-way to an explanation.

Because there were so many things I’d never know about my daughter’s death I wanted to know all that I could. It’s why visiting the site was important to me, and seeing the wreck. And I really took a good look around too. In the footwell of the front passenger side, under some charcoaled debris that had come from the glove box, was the remnants of a meal from McDonald’s. In the middle of a mound of things burnt beyond recognition were these perfectly preserved fries. I kid you not. In the event of nuclear war, when cockroaches are the only living things left, they’ll be chowing down on McDonald’s fries.

Daughter Number One’s death continues to be the filter through which I experience things. Sometimes bringing them into sharp focus, other times leaving them blurred. It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it.

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