..when we meet in the supermarket line or the at the queue for the museum and you look down at my expanding middle and ask, “is it your first?” Or when we are sitting together at a little picnic bench at the park with our children and you comment that there will be a big age gap between my two.
I want to tell you that this will be my third child but that my precious son died suddenly leaving us heartbroken and distraught. I want to tell you that the gap between my children was just two years and that they were the best of friends, playing lego and football together right up until the day he left. I want to tell you all about my amazing little boy and how his big blue eyes sparkled with mischief when he cheated at monopoly. I want you to hear about how smart he was and how much life he had in him until it was cut short just before Christmas. And when you ask if my daughter is looking forward to being a big sister I want you to know she is already a big sister and that she is slowly coming to terms with the role of only-child again. As for the age gap, well that isn’t something that we carefully engineered, but that life isn’t all neat and tidy like a family planner on a kitchen wall, well organised and easily maintained.
I don’t tell you any of this though. Instead I smile and tell you that this will be my third child without offering any more details. I don’t want to ruin your day with a sad story or over share with you as you go about your business. I know that the question is rhetorical and you don’t really want to hear all about my pain but I am tortured by my response for the rest of the day. I kick myself for failing to take the opportunity to say his name or tell someone that he was here and that he mattered.
Today marks eight months since I last chatted with my wee boy. It’s also the day that he was supposed to turn six.
It’s a strange feeling. I was worried about how I’d feel today and I did consider taking the day off, although I had no idea what I’d do with myself. It’s been a day with lots of text messages, cards and kind thoughts from people who knew it should have been his birthday. It’s also the day that someone put a lovely bunch of sunflowers on his bench and a kind stranger who lives near the park trimmed his remembrance rose (although she had no idea it was his birthday today).
But apart from a little bit more attention from our kind friends and family it has just been the same as all the other days without Jude, difficult in parts and not so difficult in other parts. It’s not what I expected. I thought I’d be a wreck all day, imagining what I should’ve been doing and crying at the drop of a hat. But it hasn’t been like that at all.
Sunday wasn’t a great day this week, for no particular reason, it was just a bit hard and I guess that’s what I should expect from now on. It’s never the big things. It’s not the fact that he’ll miss a birthday cake and presents or that he’ll not get married and have kids. It’s the every day absence of him that I find difficult. It’s the fact that I can’t rub my hands through his hair every morning as he sits on my knee, that I can’t hear him argue with his sister or complain about eating broccoli. These are the difficult things and they will always be difficult.
He is gone and he will always be gone. I don’t just think about him on his birthday as lots of other people will come to do in time. He is the centre of my life, all my decisions are coloured by what has happened to him and to us. His birthday was no more difficult than countless other days that have passed since he’s been gone but it’s felt nice to have him acknowledged by so many people today.
Isla had just turned two when Jude was born. She doesn’t have any memory of a time before her little brother. She loved being his sister and she talks about him every day. This morning she created a PowerPoint about Jude. It was all about his favourite food (pizza) and the things he liked to do. She knows things we don’t about her brother. She knows the secrets they shared when they stayed over at their granny’s house and slept in the same room, she knows what he called his favourite playmobil pirate and she remembers the names he gave his feet (I know it’s bizarre but they both named their own feet??)
They would play together for hours. Isla liked it when Jude was little and she could dress him up like a princess. He soon grew out of that but there were more than enough Harry Potter characters that he could be. He was also her wee knight in shining armour. Isla is such a scardey cat that she won’t get out of her bed in the morning until someone opens her blinds. Every morning she would call, “can someone come and get me?” to which we would hear the reply from Jude’s room, “I’m coming.” and he would trot through to her singing “good morning Isla.”
When we were sitting at the funeral Isla turned to me and asked if we could just take Jude’s body home to look after and maybe he would come back to it one day. I wish it worked like that.