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Life Chez Dee Episode #113: #15forEdward

It’s April already, and with this comes the thoughts, the build up, the feeling which permeates every bit of my being, knowing that we’re in the days approaching Edward’s birthday.

What I should be doing is hiding the presents I’ve bought him, finalising party arrangements, putting aside cards which arrive through the letterbox so that all these surprises are there waiting for him to excitedly open when he gets up in the morning. But that is far from reality now. I will get up, and think again of Edward, and there will be so many memories flash before me in that moment, so many emotions which engulf me, and I will smile, and cry, and wipe the tears before going downstairs to prepare breakfast, drop Oliver at school, and post something on social media, both on The Edward Dee Fund charity page, and also a personal post too.

This year, on 15th April, Edward would be 15. 15 on the 15th, that’s never going to happen again I thought, and what a good way for me to both mark the day, and for me to raise awareness of the work of the charity, and so I set up a #15forEdward fundraiser.

It has been a difficult year for the charity, with events not happening, and not being to raise awareness in the same way as I would have done. I thought the #15forEdward fundraiser would be a good way for the charity to raise awareness and funds by harnessing the power of social media.

I knew I wanted to post an update each day leading up to Edward’s birthday, but on day 1 I opened the JustGiving page and froze, wondering what on earth to say.

2nd April –Today I chose a photo which Edward loved. It was taken by the official sports photographer at the St Annes Triathlon. I wanted to try and get others on board with doing a challenge, not only to raise funds, but also a bit of publicity and in turn help to raise awareness. I wanted people to run, cycle, swim, whether that be 15k or 1.5k, 15 laps or 15 lengths. I thought people could do 15 days of something, or 15 little challenges. Maybe they could lose 15lbs, or make 15 cakes. The possibilities were endless.

3rd April – Easter Saturday, and already the chocolate eggs were piling up for us all. As I sat and looked at the mountain of boxed eggs, I thought about Edward and how there was none for him. He loved chocolate … he’d no doubt have pinched some of the chocolate from the other boys … or me. I appealed for support on the fundraiser, for people to support with the price of an Easter Egg. I knew it was actually easier for people to support an appeal by actually physically picking up an Easter Egg and adding it to their shopping basket, but I did hope that clicking on the fundraising link would be easy enough for people to add a couple of ££s in support of this.

4th April –Easter Sunday. For this special day I shared 15 snapshot pictures of Edward. Many of the pictures were ones I’d not shared before. It made my heart sing, it always does, to share pictures and anecdotes of Edward, and yet my heart ached so much, as it felt as though I’d given just a bit more of him away, which was mine. I so desperately wanted people to see different pictures, see the boy, see the life and soul of him, and how in an instant his life was extinguished.

5th April –Oliver had been pondering what #15forEdward challenge he could set himself. He decided he’d like to run 15k. I thought this a little out of his capability, but we talked about how doing 5 x 3k runs would probably be a better challenge for him. To hear Oliver ask to do this for his brother was really special, and I’m immensely proud that he always wants to get involved with the fundraising and awareness raising we do.

6th April Today I was reflecting on my charity work. I'm immensely proud of the work I do, but it's really hard work. I constantly take to social media, informing, raising awareness, asking, begging for help, for manpower, for financial support, for business support, for someone to listen, someone to share; and all the time giving myself to the cause, sharing information about meningitis, about sepsis, about the charity work, about my boy, about myself. The pictures I share are so precious, they're all I have of Edward ... those, and the memories ... and still I share. Some I keep, some are mine and for me only, I need to keep some things of my boy just for me, but sharing something so personal, so raw, so heart breaking, time and again ... is exhausting. But it might help, it might resonate with someone, it might save a life – and that’s all that matters.

I look through my feed on facebook, the number of pictures of what people are eating for tea getting loads of likes; they buy an ice cream and there’s 100s of comments; there’s a picture of a dog and suddenly there’s share upon share happening. I am quite astounded that the burgers, milkshakes and ice creams actually get more likes and shares than the face of my beautiful boy, and that I will never, ever understand.

7th April I decided today to share 15 fun facts about Edward. Some of these facts, some people will know, but many will not, and I thought it would give more of an insight into Edward, the reason for the charity, the reason for everything I do.

8th April On looking back through photos, I came across this photo of Edward painted up as a clown, which I recall was a day they were supporting Red Nose Day at school. Knowing how Edward loved to joke, and indeed was ever the practical joker, I thought it would be nice to hear some jokes and get people engaged with the page. I can hear Edward giggling as he says to me “Why did the toilet roll roll down the hill?” … “To get to the bottom!” It still makes me giggle now. Many liked this post; there were so many giggles, smiles, oh that’s wonderful, and oh that’s a beautiful picture … but sadly no jokes. I did think the toilet roll joke was worthy of a couple of ££s though, for that joke alone.

9th April I post 15 pics of beautiful stones for Edward. It was hard to choose which pictures to post … actually it turns out that I posted 16 pictures … but nobody seemed to notice this obvious error. I do hope that by highlighting Stones for Edward, that people will join in with painting and hiding the stones, it's a really lovely thing to do, and a lovely way to raise awareness. Stones for Edward facebook group has many followers in this country, and around the world, and I hope it will just get bigger and bigger.

The Duke of Edinburgh died this morning. The TV, radio, social media was awash with the news of Prince Philip’s death, just weeks before his 100th birthday. What a wonderful age to reach; what a privileged life he had; and he enjoyed life and lived life to the full for pretty much most of those 100 years. It is a notable occasion, losing the consort to the Monarch is a significant event, particularly for one who has devoted so many years to the service of the monarchy and his wife The Queen. It is a terribly sad day for his wife, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, his family and friends will mourn the loss, we too as a nation will mourn his loss, but not all in the same way. I’m glad for him that he lived a long and fulfilling life, and am poignantly reminded how growing old is a privilege denied to many.

Maksim is also still hard at work for the charity. He has put in an enormous amount of time and effort helping to raise funds and awareness for the charity as part of his Duke of Edinburgh Award. He’s baked cakes, he’s painted stones, and now he’s sorting and selling second hand books, cds and dvds. So many have supported his venture, and I think to be honest he’ll be inundated with stuff, given that the charity shops have been shut for so long, people will be desperate to offload.

Several other people are on board too, with their #15forEdward challenges and hopefully with more people involved, more awareness is raised, and in turn, funds. .

10th April I was reflecting on how Edward had celebrated some of his birthdays, going bowling, spending time with friends, having sleepovers. There would be no cards, presents or company this year. I wondered again if people would contribute to this fundraiser by giving a couple of ££s, just the cost of a card, or an ice cream, or a coke. I thought at least those who knew him, or were friends with him would do this. I got to the end of the day, thankful and very appreciative of those who did contribute, but there are so many who haven’t, so many who would have been celebrating somehow with Edward, or sending him a card and/or present were he still here ... but he isn't. I know social media is busy, I know people are busy, and I also know how bombarded they are with all manner of appeals, but this is really so deeply personal. It's so easy to get distracted from what others are asking, and it is just as easy to ignore, but I am making a very personal appeal here, to those I know, and to those I don't, to please support.

This family is not just connected personally to a charity, but have personally founded a charity after great personal loss, and I've given my all to that charity whilst still grieving my boy. I do hope friends, and indeed those I don't know who value all I do, will support. All I ask is for all who follow the charity , or me personally to give a little.... it means so much more than that to me. A legacy is all I am now able to give Edward, and I am truly grateful to those who support because they knew Edward, support because they know the family, support because they know me, or have spoken to me, and those who have just read about, and value the work I do in Edward's memory. Children have come to me with pocket money and money from their paper rounds, and this is both heart warming and very special.

11th April As we won’t be singing Happy Birthday, I thought A Song for Edward would be something that people might play and it's available to buy or stream on all music platforms. Pennies is all the charity receives, but the awareness this song raises is of far more value to the charity. I do wish people would play it more, and talk about it if their friends ask about it.

12th April I often talk about the massive Edward shaped void in our lives, but I often don’t talk about the impact his death had on his brothers. They have shown so much resilience and have coped admirably with losing their brother, but live with their loss daily, and this so often gets overlooked.

13th April I couldn’t not include a picture of Edward covered in camouflage paint from his time with UK Military School. He was covered in black, and after a stressful car journey home with me constantly saying “Don’t touch anything!” I made him strip off in the kitchen, before handing him an old dishcloth and telling him to scrub himself clean in the shower BEFORE he soaked off the remainder in the bath. He loved his time doing this, and I was full of pride watching him at the passing out parade … and I beamed as he was awarded best boy for strength stamina and speed. Just four days later he was dead.

His headteacher contacted me today as she wanted the whole school to get involved with the #15forEdward fundraising, and take on a variety of challenges to support and also mark Edward’s 15th Birthday. There will be 15 plants planted in the school garden; 15 mins of continuous skipping; 15 stories read; 15 songs sung and 15 laps of the field being run ... and so much more. It will be a memorable day, and as such, we will have not only marked Edward's 15th Birthday, but raised awareness in his name for the charity too.

... and he did it! Oliver completed his 15k for Edward.

14th April I knew I needed to post a picture of Edward with scouts - his favourite place to be. Edward adored scouting. He threw himself totally and utterly into anything and everything that was involved or required, whether that be fun, community, volunteering or duty. He enjoyed every aspect of scouting; he lived and breathed it.

The Edward Dee Fund has provided the new campfire and seating area at Fylde DHQ, so that many more generations of beavers, cubs, scouts, and other organisations can enjoy and benefit from this.

This year, as the weather has been so cold, the cherry tree in our garden hasn't quite blossomed yet. Normally this is in full bloom on Edward's birthday, but it may be just a few days late this year.

Oliver is in the paper today. The Blackpool Gazette have given a really good write up about the #15forEdward 15th Birthday fundraiser #forEdward, and Oliver's 15k for his brother. The piece is going in the Lytham St Annes Express this week too, which is also rather special with this piece being published on the 15th.

We went for a beautiful evening walk, whilst Oliver was actually at the cub hut for the first post lockdown in person session. Our walk took us past the Garden for Edward and we marvelled at how lovely it was looking, bursting with colour with all the spring flowers blooming. A little Robin visited tonight too and sat on the sign; very special given the day tomorrow.

15th April. Edward's 15th birthday.

It has been quite a build up to his birthday this year, which is really special, but I'm feeling quite emotional now. The fundraiser has been brilliant at raising both funds and awareness for the charity, but it has taken a lot of my time, and my sharing pictures, stories, memories, has left me feeling proud, yet mentally and emotionally drained.

I've looked at photographs and into the eyes of Edward as he smiles back at me, and I ache for him to be here. I cannot pour my love onto Edward any other way than I do now, and so it is; Edward is now etched in the hearts and minds of others, never forgotten, always loved, saving lives. What a boy! I'm so proud he's my son, and I'm filled with pride as I tell his story to the world. What a legacy!

Today will be a quiet day, although there will be much to report on with so many #15forEdward challenges taking place. But I will find some quiet time, even if that is just some time to go and visit Edward, take him some fresh flowers, and sit with Edward quietly.

This beautiful quilt arrived for me this week. My very talented friend, Julie McCollum, put hours of love and hard work into making this for me. Many of Edward's clothes, which I just couldn't bear to throw out, have been made into this beautiful piece, which I will love and treasure forever. What a truly special gift for Edward's 15th Birthday.

Today, and always, Edward you are loved beyond measure.

"Your pure determination, And the fire in your soul, Brings eternal inspiration for us all"

Links to make a donation in support of The Edward Dee Fund :

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