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Life Chez Dee Episode #75: 5th December

I awoke this morning earlier than usual, probably nudged by Edward, who even though is always on my mind, was even more so today … if that was even possible. 5th December 2016 – only four years ago; feeling so long ago, and yet only like yesterday; each and every detail remembered. Vivid thoughts, memories and feelings wash over me, flood me, drown me.

Without much warning, I could feel the tears in my eyes welling up and starting to pour down my face and onto my pillow as I lay in bed. Four years ago, Edward died. The horror, the trauma, the sadness, the pain that was that day, that is with me most days, is more intense, more focussed, on anniversaries. Edward’s birthday in particular is hard; so too is the day of his death. Normally I will get through this anniversary day, tough as it is, as I’ve usually psyched myself up so much that adrenaline carries me through, allowing me to crash the other side of it … but not today.

I get up and sit quietly with a brew. I look at my phone. Facebook says “What’s on your mind today?” I can’t bring the words I want to say, there are too many, there are too few.

I find a picture of my beautiful boy which I’d taken on our holiday in Cornwall the Summer of 2014, when days before that trip, Edward had broken his collarbone. This is the picture I will post on social media, on my page, on the charity page, and my blog page.

I look at this beautiful picture of Edward. How happy he is; full of mischief; full of energy; full of life. How had he broken his collarbone? Messing about one lunchtime at school with his mate Ralphie, the pair of them pinging loom bands from the bench in the playground, both of them jumping off to be the first to catch them … and it all went horribly wrong with Edward landing on the ground first, and Ralphie landing on top of him.

We had so much fun on that holiday, we always did, Edward adored Cornwall, and he loved the beach. A broken collarbone didn’t stop him digging huge holes, or having water fights, or climbing, or playing tag with his brothers … even though he was disappointed in not being able to go to surf school.

I read through the torrent of messages of love and support sent to us today, memories shared; thoughts of my boy from those who knew, loved, remembered him. There are so many messages to read. I have to stop and walk away; my eyes are so full of tears that the words become blurred and I am unable to read them.

I look outside and it’s raining … in fact it’s lashing down. I look up at the sky and smile; he’s done it again I think, and made it rain. How he loved it. Thank you Edward.

As I sit this morning I wonder how I’m going to get through today. There is a lump in my throat so large that I find it hard to swallow. Tears pour out of me, as the torrents of rain pour down the window pane, and I don’t know if it is the pain in my heart or the lump in my throat which is worse.

William has a live jazz session today, which I’m so pleased they’ve managed to squeeze in before Christmas. We’ve got to drive him quite a distance to get there, so we thought we’d go for a walk at Beacon Fell whilst we’re waiting for him. I felt so much better outside; out in the fresh air. The weather was rather cold, but bright; the rain has stopped. Edward loved it here, and I felt him near us as we walked. The snow covered the hills we could see in the distance, and I knew that Edward would be wanting us to go on and on and climb higher and higher … he always did. Sadly, we didn’t have time to scale the wondrous heights today, but the walk felt special.

On returning home, the doorstep was covered in cards and gifts which had been left for us. A beautiful planter, beautiful flowers, chocolates, cake, and cards. It was so lovely, so incredibly touching, and set me off again.

We decided that we’d cycle to visit Edward this afternoon. Take some decorations for his tree, including a lovely new one which Justin made. We stopped to look at the entry in the Book of Remembrance, before carrying on to Edward. A Christmas Wreath and a knitted tree garland look beautiful on his bench, and the decorated Christmas tree, the gorgeous orange roses, and the many candles we lit for him, made everything look really, really lovely, and very, very special. We lit so many candles in the lantern, that it started to get very hot, which we thought Edward would find funny.

This evening we put our Christmas tree up. I don’t know whether this is going to be such a good idea this year, and I’m not sure if the cats are going to be subjected to some bad language over the next few weeks. Hopefully, all will be well, and the tree will remain intact.

Putting up the Christmas decorations should be a magical time, one full of happy and special memories. For me, the last few years have been far too painful to be able to do this. The day Edward became ill, we’d decorated our Christmas tree together. To this day, I cannot decorate our Christmas tree. I leave this to the boys to do. They put up our tree, and put the decorations where they like. There is no matching colour theme, there are no decorations which don’t have a story. There are so many memories; each and every one of the tree decorations holds a story, a tale, a memory, a thought. Our tree holds the story of our family in its branches; it is incredibly personal; it is incredibly special.

As it has been for the past four years now, and so it will be for many more, today has brought so many memories and emotions; I have smiled and chatted with Edward, I have cried because I miss him so terribly I don’t even know how to begin explaining, I relive the horrors of that day four years ago. I remember the sadness of the day before. Edward was so ill, on Justin’s birthday too, and how this day is always marred for us, despite us now trying so hard to keep the day separate for Justin. The boys have had music exams again this week (they do seem to fall this week every year, which can’t be easy for them). They seem to have gone well for them both, but have added to the many stresses and emotions this week has seen.

This year has been difficult for so many, and in terms of being able to remember Edward personally, but also being unable to do the work of the charity in his name and in his memory, raising awareness, saving lives, and doing so much to turn something so horrific into something so positive, to give Edward a wonderful legacy. Events haven’t happened, fundraising ceased, and charity income dried up. So too is it difficult to be heard at the best of times, but in the midst of a pandemic, shouting the message of staying alert to the symptoms of meningitis has been somewhat muted. Creating a platform to talk about child loss, and the taboo surrounding it, bringing this difficult topic out in the open, breaking down the closed doors and barriers which bereaved parents and families face, has also been difficult, constantly shadowed by the lives the pandemic has claimed. No loss is insignificant, but it does feel as though COVID deaths have trumped deaths caused by any other disease, or in any other circumstances. Hopefully as we move into the new year, a vaccine for this virus will be more widely available and administered, and we will gradually return to a normal way of life (whatever normal is), and many, including the charity will be able to bounce back.

I’m so terribly sad … heartbroken at Edward’s death; that he’s no longer here, no longer with us. Milestones missed, family events missed, just wanting him to be here and to be part of our lives, and part of the chaos that is our family. There is a massive void in our home, in our family, in our lives, in ourselves; a void that can never be filled, a void that I don’t want to be filled with anything but Edward … and so it is … Edward has left a void, and yet Edward fills it too. Every day is hard, some days are easier than others, and some days are so debilitating, so painful they knock me off my feet, sometimes I can endure the pain and hide behind a mask, a façade which becomes easier to hide behind as time moves on, other times it takes every ounce of my being to just be.

I’m happy and give thanks for the time we had with Edward, and the beautiful, wonderful special memories we have of him, what a privilege it was to know him, and I’m comforted to feel he is with us in spirit, always. I’m a proud mum. I’m proud of all my boys. And I know Edward is always by my side, and always in my heart.

To everyone, who has kept Edward in their thoughts and in their hearts, and especially those who have shared their thoughts, their memories, and their love with us, and particularly those who do this on so many days of the year, not just the anniversaries. Thank you, sincerely; we’re incredibly touched, and means more to us that you will ever know.

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