Posts tagged ‘death of a child’

MAY YOUR DAYS BE MERRY AND BRIGHT.

A few weeks ago Son Number Two came home from a movie night with The Boys. He said “Mum, there’s a movie we have to see!”. He went on to explain that he had seen the shorts for a film called’Goodbye Christopher Robin’. He said “Mum, we have to see it, it’s Winnie the Pooh”.

As I’ve said before, Daughter Number One loved Winnie the Pooh and her room was full of Winnie stuff. After her murder my Sons and I decorated her coffin with Winnie the Pooh stickers, messages of love, glitter and their tiny handprints. So, “Mum, we have to see it, it’s Winnie the Pooh” – Of course we did.

Off we went, on my birthday at the beginning of the month. It was a very good movie. Terribly British in a charming way; it had themes of the futility of war, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the mistakes we make as parents, forgiveness, family of the heart and how we carry on. It is the back story of bow Winnie the Pooh came to be. I didn’t have any knowledge of Winnie the Pooh author A.A.Milne outside of Winnie himself and it was incredibly moving and interesting to watch this film. I cried, oh, how I cried. And I unreservedly recommend you watch ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ too. I also recommend doing your own research around A.A.Milne and reading some of his other works.

Well guys, it’s been a year! Christmas is almost upon us and then another year. I don’t know about you but I’m tired. My plan is to spend my time and energy on the people I love, who love me. That’s all I’m sure about. As always I am tremendously grateful for those who travel with me.

Wishing you and yours health and happiness! Safe onward travel x

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IT’S EASIER TO BELIEVE IN THIS SWEET MADNESS, OH THIS GLORIOUS SADNESS.

We are hurtling towards the end of the year and soon 2017 will be done.

To be honest, I’m not sure I will miss it. Next week, here in Australia, we find out the result of our criminally wasteful, hate mongering, progress delaying postal survey to see if some of us can have the same right as the rest of us. And still nothing will change, because this postal survey doesn’t actually change anything – except the degree to which people now feel free to spew hate about a certain group of us. Oh, and the millions of dollars less we now have to spend on silly stuff like education, health, the homeless, the environment. All those trivial things which can’t really matter much if we have money to burn on what is essentially ugly confetti at the end of the day.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe they are seeing how many more mass shootings they can cram in before the end of the year because gun control is a less attractive alternative (What. The. Actual. Fuck. ?????!!!!)

SIGH. If only we could use our powers for good.

Guys, I’m exhausted. The last few months have been intense. Good things and bad things, both, but intense and I’m weary.

Son Number Two graduated high school recently. This is a good thing. I am incredibly proud of him. I know how far he has had to travel and the obstacles he has had to navigate. I didn’t finish high school. I was pregnant with Daughter Number One by age seventeen. I went back to tertiary studies after having children but I didn’t finish high school. Son Number Two is the first of my children to finish high school. His graduation was a big deal to me, for his sake and for mine.

I don’t think I anticipated just quite how much of a huge deal it was to me until we actually attended the ceremony. Son Number Two had to be there early for a rehearsal so he’d gone ahead with his friends. I was attending with one of my friends. As soon as we entered the ceremony room tears started streaming down my face. Luckily the lights were low and I held on to my friend tightly as I struggled to compose myself. I managed to contain any sobs but the tears quietly snaked down my face for a long time. Before proceedings had even begun; before the graduating class was even in the room. Eventually, my tears slowed, then stopped. ‘Ok’ I thought, ‘I’m ok, I’ve got this under control.’ And I did. Right up until one of the speakers asked us to think back to when our students had started school.

I do remember when Son Number Two started school. He started school eight months after his big sister was murdered. My little boy’s world had been blown apart and at that stage we were still lurching between the inquest and other court proceedings. There was no security. There wasn’t even much familiarity. Everything and everyone Son Number Two had ever known had either been brutally ripped from his life or changed almost beyond recognition, including me. He was so small and so defeated. I remember standing beside his desk – was it an orientation or the first day? I can’t be sure. What I remember is the sheet on the desk and his downcast eyes as he said ‘It’s too hard. I can’t do it.’

It was too hard, because everything was too hard. Over the years I’m not sure things got easier. Times changed. Schools changed. Six times over the course of his educational career. It’s only really been in the last several years that Son Number Two has had any confidence in his abilities or discovered there were actually things he enjoyed about learning. He was lucky to have some help along the way, someone who cared enough to see his real potential. Someone who, one way and another, inspired my Son to start living up to that potential. Like me, he has very good friends. Son Number Two took the road less travelled but he got there in the end. I am so proud of the young man he is and so excited by who he is becoming.

I was completely overwhelmed throughout the graduation ceremony. My head was pounding. We were seated near the door so after Son Number Two had sauntered from the room like a rock star my friend and I went into the hall to wait for him. We found him as he and his friends went to get a photo together at the end of the corridor. The entrance to the building was at the other end of the corridor and, as we waited, the corridor started filling with people spilling out of the ceremony room. I could feel my throat closing over and my chest getting tight so my friend and I elected to head outside for some air.

Son Number Two finally emerged. We took some photos and exchanged hugs and wished him on his way. I was staying at my friend’s place so my Son and his friends could celebrate at ours. As soon as I got into my friend’s car the sobs I had been containing broke free. Noisy and ugly. We made the short journey back to his place where his daughter had dinner waiting for us. I went to get changed into less formal wear and then walked out to the back patio to sit with my friend. As I walked through his back door the nausea I had been trying to suppress all evening overtook me and I walked straight past my friend and threw up in his back garden.

There were so many conflicting emotions. My focus had been my Son but the empty space where Daughter Number One should have been felt emptier that night. As proud and happy for him as I am it is bittersweet for me that he is the first of my children to graduate high school. And I fruitlessly wonder how much more of his potential he would have realised, or how much sooner, if things had been different. I let the anger wash over me and let it go. It is what it is. And really, as far as he has come, it is still only the beginning for my Son Number Two.

I haven’t really been able to hit my stride again yet. There are lots of emotions at this time of year and this year has been a long one. Not the longest, to be sure, but still. Lots of first times. Lots of last times.

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I took this photo and the one below at Stockton Beach on the east coast of Australia, mere months before my Daughter’s murder and around a year before Son Number Two started school. In the top right of the photo of Daughter Number one dancing in the waves is a corner of the shipwrecked MV Sygna. You can see it clearly behind four year old Son Number Two here.

Last year, a few days after the anniversary of Daughter Number Ones death, most of what was left visible of the MV Sygna slipped into the sea during storms. Apparently there’s only a tiny bit there to see now. Soon enough you won’t be able to see it at all.

There are only so many days left of 2017. Try to fill yours with love. This too shall pass. All of it. Make memories, take photos, go gently with yourself and others. Travel safe x

I’VE LOOKED AT CLOUDS FROM BOTH SIDES NOW. 

In the last few weeks there has been the twentieth anniversary of the death of Princess Diana and the sixteenth anniversary of September 11. There were many television programs commemorating the anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. I watched some of them. I heard her sons speak of the last conversation they had with their mother; a brief phone chat. Their regret that they had not spoken to their mother for longer. Those poor little boys. 

There were also lots of articles commemorating the anniversary of 9/11. Tales of ordinary extraordinary people. Stories of brave survival and honourable death. Poignant conversations. Answering machine messages. We don’t generally have the luxury of knowing in advance when ‘last’ times come. The luxury of savouring each millisecond and commiting each moment to memory. We usually only recognise them when they are past. The last time we hear someone’s voice or see them smile or hold them in our arms. 

In between the anniversary of Princess Diana’s death and September 11th this year Connie Johnson died. Boy, that chick knew how to live! And how to love! Connie was amazing. Her public memorial service was held in Melbourne today. If you are not familiar with Connie’s life and her work you can read up on her at loveyoursister.org  Please do! Or, you know, google. Look up Connie and what she was about. She left quite a legacy for everyone who loved her, especially her sons. But I bet they’d rather still have their Mum. 

Anniversaries, anniversaries, anniversaries. Whether it’s an hour or a day or twenty years they pack a punch. That’s loss I guess. That’s life. 

Even without working it out exactly I know that I have now lived longer without my Daughter Number One than I lived with her. I don’t need anniversaries to still feel the enormity of that loss. It is the way it is. This cartoon references mental illness but could just as easily relate to grief and loss for me. 

It’s not that I am unaffected now. Far from it. Just that it is what it is. I have lived longer without my Daughter than she lived her entire life. And however wrong that is, , however unbelievable, however fucking unfair, that’s the way it is. Knowing that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a night last week, as I turned the tv off and locked up the house, when I glanced at a photo of my Daughter and a sob burst from me with such force that it bent me double and I found myself on my knees, with tears streaming down my face saying over and over “Please come back! Please come back!”. But however much I plead and beg and cry she is never coming back. And the world keeps turning and the sun keeps rising. 

This year has been another one filled with loss, for me and people I hold dear. But not ours exclusively. Loss is the flip side of love. I try to focus, as best I can, on the love. It’s what there is left to hang on to. When all else is gone love is what remains. 

So I guess this is what I want to say today; love hard. Take the photo, make the phone call, send the message. Connect with the people you care about in any way available to to you! We have the technology! Get the most out of it! Send a video message or record a voice message. Do a video chat! Or go old school! Send a letter, write a card, post a care package. Let those you love know about it. You, your time and energy, are the most important gift you have to give. So invest in the people who matter to you, while you can. As much as you can for as long as you can. Savour it all. 

Safe onward travel x 

BRIGHT EYES.

I love this blog. For over six years now I have come here to write out my heart and soul and pour myself into the Universe. I’m not always regular with my posts and there are varying reasons for that. Although I primarily write here for myself the fact that others read my words and are kind enough to say they find something of value here is a bonus really. I’d write anyway. It is how I process things and words are pleasurable to me. It’s not been an especially long gap since I last wrote but it’s worth mentioning  because there was half a thought in the back of my head that I’d not write again until I had something fun and happy and upbeat to write about because things have been a bit bleak. I don’t want all my posts to be sad.

The truth is though that I am sad. I’m very sad a lot of the time and I also feel stuck and powerless. Not a great combination, really. I’m not enjoying it much and I’m in the frame of mind where I feel like a liability to those around me, like I am inflicting myself on others, so am loath to do it. But I realised something yesterday, that I was discounting two things I know to be true. The first thing is one I know about myself and that is that I make the best I can of what I have. Secondly, that once you put forth your energy into the Universe it has a life of it’s own. People will make of it what they will and although you can try to guide it’s path the truth is that you cannot control how it will be received by the big wide world. A bit like giving birth to a child really.

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Two very significant things have happened in the time since we last connected and they are what bring me to you today. They were very different events but they resonated with the same message for me. My connections with others, the love of varying flavours, that is what it is all about for me. My facebook friends list is an interesting blend of my before and after lives; Daughter Number One’s friends, all grown up now, friends from my own school days, parents of my children’s friends. Friends from my life on the other side of the country. My former psychologist, colleagues from my previous life, other mothers of murdered children, the police officer who worked my daughter’s case. Old friends, new friends, dear friends, true friends. All these people who were strangers once.

During the worst time of my life I met the detective who was investigating my Daughter’s death. The day after she died and several times after that he was the one who interviewed me, at my home and at his station. He attended my Daughter’s funeral. He took me to the crash site and the police car lot to see what there was left to see and answered my questions.He was at the inquest, not just in his official capacity but he was really there for me during that whole process, walking me through. His wife was pregnant with their first child when my Daughter died and their daughter was born the same year. I so appreciated the work, the really above and beyond efforts, of this man that I nominated him for ‘Police Officer of the year’ and do you know? He actually won! And he generously shared with me the pleasure he had in telling his family of his award and how he looked forward to telling his own daughter about it in the future. He protested that he only did his job, only did what many, many others would do, did do, every day. In the dense blackness following my Daughter’s death this guy was a beacon. We emailed. He and his wife had a son. I had a second Daughter. Life moved on.

Nearly two years ago I found him on Facebook. He isn’t in the police force any more and I felt so glad to find that out. As good as he was at his job I can only imagine the toll that work takes on you, day after day, when you do it properly. So, I was glad for him, and for his family. I’ve seen the family photo’s his wife tags him in – beautiful, accomplished children, extended family celebrations, holidays – and all of them, without fail, bring me joy. Because even if the only work he ever did was with me and on behalf of my Daughter, all the respect and compassion and humanity he showed, then he deserves all the happiness in the world, every single day for the rest of eternity. Of course that wasn’t all he ever did and life doesn’t work like that.

So it happened that almost two weeks ago now I read a post this former police officer wrote in tribute after the death of his ten year old nephew, to his nephew and his family and about the decision to donate his organs, made during DonateLife Week. Despite the fact I avoid mainstream news I happened upon more information in the days that followed; this posting was on a website I follow and it summed up my own feelings and intense grief. I now know so much more about this family and yet, really, know nothing. But I will never forget this boy’s smile or his name. Sweet dreams Banjo, live on in happiness.

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At the opposite end of the spectrum came the other event that rocked my world and went partway to re-establishing my equilibrium (Oh, let’s not get too excited! There’s still a way to go!). Last Friday made five years since a chance encounter and a simple question combined to change the course of my life and brought me into contact with someone whose significance and value to me only increases with the passage of time. So much has passed between us and so far we have travelled together, not all of it easy, not all of it fun but he is someone who can always reach me no matter how detached I become from everything else. In that way he keeps me tethered to the present. He was the safe place I ran to when Daughter Number One’s father killed himself and even during hard times between us I have never lost sight of the fact he is a gift to me.

And this is it you see, a word we write, a question we ask, everything we do in our lives has the potential to impact on others. Lives changed. Events of various significance but all attesting to the fact it is a short life and a small world and no man is an island. We are all connected to each other. It is not just the one police officer I remember. It is also the guy at my local station who kept answer my calls on the very long night my Daughter didn’t come home. The same officer I spoke to much later who told me how it felt to speak to me the during the final call, when he knew that she was almost definitely dead, but when I didn’t know. Not then. Not yet. I also remember the newly minted officer who wrote about the intense smell of the crash site but who kept doing his job anyway. Whether it is quite literally by donating organs or by the love, kindness, respect and compassion we share we leave pieces of ourselves with the people whose lives we touch. Those are the things that burn brightly, long after we are gone. I try to go gently, with myself, with others. It is my very real experience that, truly, everyone is fighting a battle you can know nothing about.

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NO MAN IS AN ISLAND.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

John Donne

Make the best you can of what you have. Travel safe my friends 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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YOU WERE ALWAYS ON MY MIND

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I had the usual ‘countdown’ from Son Number One’s birthday nine days beforehand to the anniversary of Daughter Number One’s death yesterday. Really it starts around her birthday in February but kicks in in earnest from Son Number One’s birthday. There’s been the nightmares, with various themes revolving around loss and fear (read terror). I wake from these dreams exhausted and literally sore from holding tension in my body and thrashing in my sleep. Sometimes this translates into actual injuries but aside from a painful wrist and knee I’m not doing too badly. I haven’t clawed at my face, so that’s nice. I’ve been more easily startled than usual, and with the whole hyper vigilance thingy I startle easily anyway so having that rev up a notch has been interesting. We were driving home on dusk the other night and two cars turned near us and that was enough to make me jump out of my skin. Twice. 

Today I woke up with chest pain which went away during the day but is back in force as I write this evening. The eczema on my hand has flared up. Headaches are how I usually manifest stress so it’s business as usual there. There’s some dizziness and disorientation. I am more clumsy and absent minded. My body feels heavy and apart from the soreness on waking there is a pervasive ache throughout, as if I am physically bruised all over. Everything feels too hard. I was more than usual antsy yesterday and couldn’t put my finger on it until I realised that this anniversary fell on the same weekday as the day Daughter Number One died, which added another dimension and made it harder to get lost in the present day. In the preceding days my head plays on a loop her final ones. I distract myself as best I can. On the actual anniversary it jumps to hours and minutes. ‘At this time you were sleeping in because you didn’t know it was your Daughter’s last day on Earth’,’At this time she was walking out the door and that was the last time you ever saw her’ (and I can see her still, see what she was wearing, see her leave but I can’t go back and I know, oh god, that she is gone now, that I have lost her, even though she hasn’t taken her last breath yet),’At this time you were going out of your mind because you didn’t know where Daughter Number One was and you didn’t yet understand she was never coming back’. Thankfully, last night, by the time ‘At this time the police car pulled up out the front and the police chaplain got out’ came around I was in bed with The Love of My Life’s arms wrapped around me, asleep.

I don’t pretend for a second that I am easy to be around sometimes, for any number of reasons, so I am extremely grateful to those that love me enough to stick by me. Special mention as always goes to my knights, those loyal friends who walk with me. Ones I’ve had since before my Daughter’s death, and those I’ve made since. Those of you who drop in to read my words. The person closest to me though gets to witness my grief on a much more intense level. The Love of My Life can’t scroll past my words on facebook or not read my latest blog post or pretend not to notice when he’s not in the mood, because I’m living this life right here next to him. When I exclaim aloud in the car and clutch the dashboard because something (nothing) has made me jump, it is him I distract from driving. He sees my tears and feels them wet against his chest. He asks me questions and listens to me speak Her name.

Throughout the last week The Love of My Life has been able to hold me, gently cupped in his hands, while my wings beat frantically against his palms in my fear, pain and confusion. He has neither crushed me nor let me fall. And when I’ve steadied myself it will be his hand supporting me that lifts me up to fly again.

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BABY COME BACK, ANY KIND OF FOOL COULD SEE THERE WAS SOMETHING IN EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU.

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