Tag Archives: grief

30 years on – tread softly …

Do you ever drive somewhere and when you arrive just literally shake your head as you have no idea how you got there? I was having this discussion with an old friend and we both feel like that about our lives – how did we get here? We are pushing  sixty our children are grown up, married, parents. Our own parents are in their 80s and some have died. Life has quite a surreal quality at the minute. This week it Is 30 years since my eldest son died and I want to mark it in some way. He died when he was 8 weeks old and I will never forget how soft his skin felt when he was first born. 

Do I see him as a 30 year old? No he’s my baby, he will always be my baby and I can’t imagine him as a grown up. I think about him, the hurt has faded and I know he would have suffered if he’d lived. Has he left a gap, changed my life … hell yes! When he was 21 – I bought a watch which I have worn everyday since. I take flowers to his grave, I talk to him there. The anger has gone – you can’t be angry for 30 years, the pain has lessened, the memories though as sharp as ever. The sounds and smells of the intensive care unit imprinted on your subconscious. 

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As Matthew only lived for 8 weeks, his birth and death are all intertwined in my memories – I wrote this last year but never posted it.

Certain days are etched on your memory. The sounds, the weather, the emotions. One of my worst days was 29 years ago today. My baby son died in my arms. He lived for 8 weeks and 2 days. I’d  held him up to the hospital window to show him the world he would never get to experience. I’d cried and begged him to let go, I could see he was suffering. The fear, the sheer terror accompanied by the steady hum and beeps of hospital monitors. Death isn’t peaceful it’s drawn out and rasping breaths getting further apart mark life’s end. 

The silence when it comes is all invasive and the need to run or scream or curl up in a ball take turns at overwhelming you.  Nervous expressions, kindly smiles but no one knows what to say. You are offered a Polaroid once all the tubes are removed but I can’t look at it.

The uncomfortable silences, the forms, the formalities and then you go home without your cherished son who has been your focus every single hour of his short life. Emptiness,sadness, bitterness, rage – every emotion you can think of and suddenly it’s 29 years ago. You are divorced from his dad, you have a younger son who has his own children, the floral tributes now include one to ‘uncle Matthew’. Life goes on, the hurt is buried deeper, the scars fade but nothing can take away the memories.

So here I am 30 years on, blessed with two amazing grandchildren- no idea how I got here but I’m going to enjoy it and honour the memory of my beloved Matthew by looking after his namesake Thomas Matthew, and his little sister Layla Jane

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‘Tread softly for you tread on my dreams.’ WB Yeats

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Finding your place

The last few weeks have seen a lot of reflective thought. Mum’s dementia and death have made us all stop and re evaluate what is important.
What is important? What is It that defines us and makes us what we are? The values we hold now are rooted in our childhood and the values our children and grandchildren will have are rooted within us.
My grandson Tommy has been my inspiration this year. His constant smile and perseverance have spurred me on. I talk to him and promise that I will support him and make sure he is the best he can be. He makes me smile. I’m in awe of the fact that if he can’t reach something with his little arm he will use his feet. At only a year old he has learnt to cope with only one hand, he crawls, pulls himself up, balances objects and literally makes my heart melt when he strokes my arm with his little arm. He is fascinated by people and when out with him it takes me twice as long to do anything as he beams at complete strangers who then come to talk to us.

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If you ask anyone about what makes a person special they will talk about personality and character  – why then do we still judge by appearances, why are so many of us on diets bemoaning our shape and our cellulite?
My own grandmother always said ‘ a little bit of help is worth a lot of pity’ that from a women bringing up 7 children in a 3 bed roomed terraced house with no bathroom and an outdoor toilet – oh and her bitter, jilted great uncle living with them too ( he taught us all to swear, took up residence by the open fire, smoked a pipe and never ever removed his flat cap). No wonder she judged people by their response to and care for others. I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard since her funeral when all 7 of her ‘children’ (then in their 60’s and 70’s) recounted tales of bath night and teasing dad who as the eldest got first go in the tin bath in front of the fire. When the lads talked of arguing who’s turn it was to empty uncle Ernest’s chamber pot (apparently one of his skills was to fill it to within a millimetre of the rim) tears were running down their faces as they laughed and remembered their childhood.
Values are talked about frequently in education. What values do we need to encourage and develop.
The Dalai Lama said ‘I have no religion, my religion is kindness’. We encountered such kindness during mum’s last week. It didn’t take much, a cup of coffee, a hug, a listening ear, an e mail, a regular text – all served as reminders that we weren’t on our own.
Today feels significant as it’s the first home match of the season. For the last couple of years that meant that either I or my brother had to go and sit with mum. If I’m painfully honest I dreaded it. It was like being stuck in mum’s frightening and frustrating world for several hours. The last time I did this was the week before I went to Kakuma which now feels a lifetime away. Dad is still struggling, life is very surreal at times – a phone call from my uncle with a message from mum via a medium, a first birthday party, the planning of holidays, taking flowers to a whole range of graves as mum’s ashes are in the same village cemetery as my son, her sister and her mum…and life goes on. Sunday is the anniversary of my eldest son’s death 28 years ago. At the time I couldn’t see a way forward and felt that I would never be happy again. I have friends who are suffering the loss of people close to them, I have friends who are celebrating- all I know is that kindness helps and we should never underestimate the power of friendship.

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