Soon I will be trekking across the country again. This is a trip that I didn’t know if I could make happen and by myself it would have been completely outside the realms of possibility. Luckily for my children and I, we have the great gift of our family of the heart. The people who love and support us in so very many ways. There are some days they make cross country travel possible and some days they make getting out of bed possible, but there is not a day that goes by that I am not grateful they are there. Cheering us on, lifting us up, lighting our way.Not long ago the psychologist I first worked with after Daughter Number One died sent me photos of her gorgeous new puppy. Last week I had a phone call from the friend who rang me every day that I spent in a mental health unit years ago. Someone I’ve only ever met once in real life. Who I met through a friend I had met on Plenty of Fish. The other morning I had a message from Daughter Number One’s friend who shared her name; that is, until she recently got married! This trip, to pick up Daughter Number Two for the school holidays was made possible by, in no particular order;Another lovely soul I met through the same Plenty of Fish guy as above – THANKS GLEN MY FRIEND! The incredible mother of Son Number Two’s beloved Hope, who has been Daughter Number Two’s guardian angel on earth this year, One of Daughter Number One’s treasured school friends, who also recently made a beautiful bride, An extremely dear friend that I have really only known two years but feel like my heart has known forever, A newer friend still, who I met through the friend above, who regularly thrashes me at word games, A special friend who has had much travelling on many levels this year but has still made time and space to connect with me,A lovely and glamorous friend who has moved houses recently and mountains always,A friend who comes from my life before, before Daughter Number One died, who continues to fight the good fight for vulnerable children, The one I bought from eBay, despite their pricelessness,My dear ones who always give me a safe place to land,My favourite former housemates,My high school friend and regular bridesmaid, The sister of Son Number Two’s Best Friend and the Best Friend himself, who I trust to keep an eye out for Son Number Two when I am not there to do it, Son Number Two himself. This list above is just of people who have helped in concrete and measurable, practical ways. It is by no means comprehensive! From different periods of my life, across varying distances and on many levels we have a wealth of people checking in, supporting and encouraging us and believing in me on the days that I can’t. Every kind word said, every good wish expressed, every ‘I hear you!’ counts. I do not walk a day where I feel like I am doing this alone and the responsibility and privilege of knowing people are genuinely invested in us keeps me wanting to show up for them. With this support I am growing into the best version of myself I can be. More steady on my feet than I have been for a very long time. All these threads; old friends, new friends, dear friends, true friends; weaving themselves into this safety net/ security blanket that gives me enough confidence to fly. This week, literally. In my own ways I try to pay these gifts forward, in whichever way I can. Last week I attended Angelhands’ Guinness World Record Attempt and as often as possible I send the message, make the phone call, post a card, pay a visit; reaching out my hand to let people know that I am there and I that I care. For me, that human connection has been the thing that is worth sticking around for. As challenging as I often find social interaction – and I really do, in numerous ways – the not insubstantial effort is worth the rewards. Even as I sit here now, doing the things I didn’t think would be possible, it still feels surreal. It is overwhelming me a bit to grasp the reality of having such a huge wish come true. The joy, the utter relief, the continued anxiety of waiting for the next step to fall into place; I am looking forward to the pace slowing a bit so my head can stop screaming so loudly “WE DID IT!!!! WE REALLY DID IT!!!! THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING!!!!”. We have the capacity to change people’s lives every day. Even our own. Especially our own. What you put out into the world matters. It counts. Sometimes in ways you don’t expect, many times in ways you will never know about. But in absolutely real ways that can make all the difference. Never underestimate the power of the little things. To my Dearest Hearts, my beautiful people, for every thing that you do and are, THANK YOU. I hope, even if just a little, you understand how incredibly huge this is and what we have accomplished together. We did it, guys. We really did. Safe onward travel x
Posts tagged ‘kids’
Earlier this week a friend was taking me to an appointment and we were on the freeway. The traffic ground to almost a standstill and we were barely crawling along. I googled traffic conditions and the website said that there had been an accident resulting in partial closure of the freeway with no information about injuries as yet. The post was several hours old and I immediately thought that there must have been a fatality. As we crawled past no less than three lots of cars, who seemed to have run into each other in the barely moving traffic jam and were exchanging details, I was transported to another freeway and a rock faced wall. My hands sifting through sandy dirt at the edge of the road and finding a melted section of a car badge. Another freeway almost fifteen years ago.
In the present day my heart rate and breathing escalated and I started to cry. My phone vibrated with a message from a friend asking how I was going and I told her. Fifteen minutes later – maybe? It could have been quicker, everything was moving very slowly – another message from my friend. “No fatality. It’s a diesel spill xx”
Just over seven years ago I posted this post titled “With a little help from my friends”. This week, again, always, I have had much cause to be thankful for the beautiful people who surround my children and me. There has been so much going on, many layers of things. Those people who walk beside us make this life a gentler trip.
So this shoutout goes to ones who are there. The ones who get us. The ones who love us. The ones who pick up the slack and give us a boost. Who take us to concerts and give us safe places to land. Who know what to say and when to say it and when to say nothing at all. The ones who don’t give up or turn their backs. With all our love and thanks to you, because we seriously couldn’t do this without you! Which is really something I can’t say enough.
Safe onward travel x
I left the house early the other morning to go and spend time with a friend. I thought it would be more efficient to do my make up en route so I made my way to the bathroom at the train station, where I was meeting my friend. The ‘mirror’ was a piece of polished metal and I looked at myself with the scratches and smudges and distortions of the metal overlaying my features and thought to myself that I looked the way that I felt. I thought that all of us go through days when we present a (relatively) poised and polished outward appearance while the scratches and smudges and scars we accumulate lie beneath the surface. That anyone looking at us would have no idea of what is underneath, how much it weighs to carry. And yet, we get up, we put on our faces and we go out into the world, one foot in front of the other.
A little while after writing my last post the School Captain of Daughter Number One’s graduating year, that is, the graduating year she would have been a part of had she not been murdered three years beforehand, uploaded to facebook the speech he had given at their graduation ceremony. One of Daughter Number One’s friends saw it and let me know it was there before tagging me so I could read it. There were beautiful references to my Daughter but more than that, the writer relayed a story about her that I had not heard before. In a couple of months it will be fifteen years since she died. Can you imagine what it’s like to hear something about my Daughter that I have never heard before? It is SPECTACULAR! Such a profound gift. To know she was remembered on such a significant day for her peers, to know she is remembered fondly still; priceless beyond all measure.
On my Daughter’s birthday I was looking through some of her things. She had these books – I can’t remember what they were called? Slam Books? I think that’s it – anyway, they are notebooks with questions in them and you pass them around your friends and get them to answer the questions about themselves. Daughter Number One had also answered them herself, several times in the months before she died. Beside each question that asked “Person I most look up to” she had written “My Mum”. It is exquisitely devastating to me, to read those words, but I try sweet girl. Still I try.
Safe onward travel x
To the Students of Stoneman Douglas High School,
There are not words to convey how sorry I am for what has happened to you all. On a day most associated with love, in a place that should be associated with growth the magnitude of the horror you have experienced and continue to experience is almost incomprehensible.
I don’t pretend to know what you are going through but my heart bleeds as I imagine you going from funeral to funeral, from hospital bed to hospital bed. Even just going from day to day, as you navigate this, your new normal.
This Sunday, my eldest Daughter would have been turning 29. She would have been, but she was murdered aged 14. I don’t pretend to know what you are going through so I will speak to what I do know.
I know that all these years later, my Daughter’s friends still say her name.
You will move on from this. You won’t have a choice. Time rolls on regardless. I hope you can hold on to your outrage but not let it rob you of all that is beautiful in life. None of you have chosen this but you will get to have some choice about what you carry with you into your futures. Or how you carry it into your futures. Honouring your friends and your teachers but also, importantly, honouring yourselves. Take it one step at a time.
I hope that you can ask for help if you need it. I know that you will not forget. More than anything else, I hope that you see the change you are fighting so hard for.
Safe onward travel x
For my True x
What goes up must come down. I’m definitely in a slump at the moment but also highly strung – isn’t the English language funny? I’m both of those things and also feel on edge which sounds like I’m being torn in three different directions and actually that’s fairly accurate, if not an understatement.
As wonderful as having my children together is, it is proportionally devastating to have that change again. It is hard.
When they are together it is as if they have never been apart. Sometimes they squabble and I have to remind myself that it is normal sibling behaviour, even as the anxiety rises in me because as soon as the clock starts time is running out. ‘Play nicely guys because this is all the time we have’.
But now is always all the time we have so I try not to focus on the hard stuff to come or the hard stuff that’s been. Instead I marvel at how alike they are, how in sync they are. How much they love each other.
We talked together about Daughter Number One. It made Son Number One too sad so we had to finish the conversation when he wasn’t there. It made Son Number Two sad as well so he phoned his best friend. It made Daughter Number Two sad but she said through her tears that she would rather know all she can about her sister even if it made her sad and together we read some of the things Daughter Number One’s friends had written about her after she had died. We talked about her hopes and dreams and Daughter Number Two’s understanding of her Big Sister gained poignant dimensions; that her Big Sister was a girl not much older than she is now herself, who had hopes and dreams. Followed swiftly by the cutting realisation that Daughter Number One never got to live out her dreams, or her life.
Talking about her Big Sister and sharing our memories is the only way that Daughter Number Two will know her but they are so very alike it is uncanny. Both with similar talents and passions. Both with huge open hearts.
When our time with Daughter Number Two was coming to an end this time – just for now, just until next time – we travelled the country and beat our previous record with four states in twenty four hours. Definitely taking the scenic route! Although we didn’t have time to see everything and everyone we wanted to see we did have time to connect with some very special people who are dear to us. A constant theme here is the wealth of love and support we have to draw on and how strong our family of the heart is. They are there to lift us up, to love us and our lives are so much the richer for it.
Someone speaking to my ten year old Daughter Number Two this week called Son Number Two her ‘half brother’. It was a remark meant to belittle and diminish the bond between them. Instead, it only served to belittle and diminish the speaker, and really, who even thought that was possible?
How pathetic that an adult would try to lessen for my Daughter a relationship she holds so dear. Technically speaking Daughter Number One and Daughter Number Two are ‘half sibling’s as well. Her Big Sister that she will never get to meet. She will never get to sing a duet with her Big Sister or go on adventures with her, as she does with her Brothers. She won’t ever feel her Big Sister’s arms around her, giving her one of the hugs she was renowned for. Daughter Number Two will never see for herself the ways that she and her sister are similar and the ways that they differ. So, hasn’t she lost enough, my ten year old girl? Why would anyone want to try to take any more away from her? Why do some people have to try to tear others down to build themselves up?
And I think of all the people we are privileged to have in our lives, my Daughters, my Sons and me. I think of our family of the heart who stand with us so that we know we are never alone. I feel the fierce love that surrounds us; from one end of the country to the other, across the world, through the years and, as we head towards the fifteenth anniversary of Daughter Number One’s murder, even beyond death. People who show up for us, consistently, when we need them. People who love us, even when we can’t love ourselves. People who speak my Daughter Number One’s name and remember her always. And then, I can feel pity for the person who can only define family in such limited, simplistic terms as shared genetic material. Compassion I will have to work on.
Although I feel in a bit of a slump I lean into the love that surrounds me. All the laughter and good times my children and I have shared are still with me and with them also. Even those I am apart from are always in my heart.
Safe onward travel x
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
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