Two years ago my head was bursting with thoughts and feelings and tears and fear and last year, worn out with another year of trying to conceive and grief and loneliness for a little boy who was never coming back, I just wanted to mark his moments and revel in having had him. We lit candles and thought of him and wished for him and missed him and celebrated him as best we could.
This day two years ago he had rallied and looked at us and made noises at us and I told him to sleep and rest his eyes and get strong and well. But he closed his eyes and never woke up again. I’m haunted by the clicking noise that started in his throat the day after, baffling us all and then we went for a walk and talked about what we thought might come and when we came back he was failing, so suddenly and dreadfully that everyone was stunned to horrified stillness. I walked in to the ward to turned onlights and people in his room and a doctor staring at blood results and I knew, I just knew, that was the end. In an hour he was lying in our lap and gasping for breath, dying in front of us in panicked and desperate fashion. So different an end it nearly was to the gentle, exhausted death he had a day later. A crash of decisions to make, all at once, making choices, trying to be brave, trying to work out if this was a crisis or the end. Max dashing home to prepare the girls, me sat with him on my lap in his blanket, just stunned into nothing by what was happening.
You don’t think, when it happens like that. There was no time no prepare, no time to think about outfits to put him in, no time to process anything. Just life careering towards death in the space of moments, from health care to death care in the space of an evening.
It seems extraordinary, impossible to understand, that for some of that last night I went to bed and left him with his nurse. I didn’t know, of course, that he’d be dead in the space of a few minutes the next morning. Everyone expected him to linger for hours, not fifteen minutes, when we took away his life support. We went for breakfast before we took him to die.
I bought a yoghurt and couldn’t eat it and carried it out of the hospital afterwards, cradled it all the way home (having walked out of the building in socks and pyjamas) and put it carefully to one side before I told my girls their brother was dead.
One cherry muller light. Witness to all.
I’d call all that callous, sleep, breakfast, yoghurt, if I saw it. But I didn’t see it. I did it and nothing about watching your child die, choosing to let them die, leaves room for logical thought. It makes nurturing yoghurt pots reasonable.
I think it is pretty terrible that this year, just for a while, I want to pretend he wasn’t real. 3 nights I forgot his candles and that was a dreadful betrayal. I just want to be happy. Breathe baby smell, cradle baby head, curl up with living breathing children.
Remembering with love is not quite the same as acknowledging the loss every day. I think this is the same as 4 months in when I decided just to pretend nothing had ever happened. I really thought that might work.
I hate it when other people forget. I hate that I can’t forget. I hate that I CAN forget. I hate, still really, really hate, knowing we have to live with this loss forever.
It’s nearly two years since we said goodbye to our Freddie. Nothing can ever make up for that.
So I’m wordless this week, because none of this makes good reading, nor even cathartic writing. It means I throw myself into making other people happy and going to work to be a different person for a while. Even Ben, gorgeous bundle of real and present boy that he is, is an intruder this week. He pushes me further, joyfully further and bitterly further from my first born son. And he’s relentless about it. He needs me, loves me, talks to me, makes me be here. Thank goodness for that.