Thirteen

Zoe on her last birthday, her sixth

Today you would be thirteen. That means that some day around now, I haven’t calculated which exactly, you will have been gone from us for longer than you were alive.

It’s a thought almost too hard to bear. We have moved further and further from the reality of you and our lives together, left with only memories and photographs. So oftentimes I don’t bear it, I distract myself so as not to think of it, I skirt around the edges, so I can still keep going, still keep living, as I’m sure you would have wanted.

On your last birthday in this world, your sixth, I wrote “My baby girl turned 6 today. What a delight she is to have around.”

What would thirteen year old you have been like? At thirteen I was a mess of hormones and anxiety, on the verge of coming to form my own world view.

I will never know what thirteen year old you would have been like, but I can imagine.

I imagine you would be more fiercely yourself. More fiercely thoughtful, more fiercely loving, more fiercely optimistic, more fiercely wanting the world to be right and fair. You were all these things at six and a half, I image you would have been only more so at thirteen.

I imagine you would have been at the climate change change protest some of your peers were at because you always wanted to put things right.

But I fear that you would have been disheartened by and cynical about the state of the world you were inheriting. That’s what I also fear for your peers.

I’m glad you don’t have to come to terms with mosque shootings and genocide and increasing inequality and the instagram bullying that kids your age seem to accept as normal.

Listening to my friends I’m pretty sure you would be in the grip of your own pubescent hormones, with all the accompanying tumult and sass, but frustrating as I’m sure that is, I’m jealous they have it.

Heartbroken is not a big enough word to describe how we are missing you discover yourself as a young woman, as someone with her own sense of identity and purpose. That you will never experience all of the firsts of young adulthood that are so frightening and wonderful and exhilarating.

Heartbroken is not a big enough word to encompass all the love we still hold for you in our broken broken hearts. Miss you my baby girl, six and half forever.

Click here to see what we did for Zoe’s thirteenth birthday.

My one and only

Mine-was-the-only-one

I cannot buy it—’tis not sold
There is no other in the World
Mine was the only one
– Emily Dickinson

One of the first things people ask when they hear your child died of cancer is “Do you have any other children?” Even some other parents whose children have died ask this. Only a few have lost their only child and many of those have gone on to have other babies. Really? I wonder to myself, would having another child make it better? Continue reading

The labels I will not own

“Above all be the heroine of your life, not the victim” – Nora Ephron

A few months ago, someone I had met just recently told me he thought I was fragile. In the context I don’t think they meant anything negative by it, and yet I was taken aback, and I’ve thought about it a lot since.

Not only is this not how I see myself (at least not these days), but I had deliberately chosen not to mention “my story”, as I sometimes choose with people I have just met precisely in order to avoid this type of response. The pity in their eyes, the frantic scramble to find something appropriate to say, the labels they attach to me, that I am Brave, that I am a Victim, that I am Permanently Sad, that I am some kind of Tragic Heroine because my daughter died. Continue reading

My tribe #1000speak

He aha te mea nui o te ao
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata

What is the most important thing in the world?
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people

Mosaic-heart_small

Mosaic heart made at the Stepping Stones family camp,

Around a year ago, along with my laptop, camera and kindle, most of my jewellery was stolen. Thankfully all of my photos of Zoe were backed up on a hard drive I kept at work, but I was devastated, because much of the jewellery was a memorial to Zoe. Jewellery she had helped me choose the beads for and “supervised” the making of, lockets with pictures of her, pieces with hearts and butterflies I had collected, been given or made in her memory and the thing it hurt the most to lose – a little glass bottle pendant with a lock of her hair that I cut after she died.

After a week of dealing of dealing with the police, insurance companies and the initial shock of feeling vulnerable and violated, I thought about where I was at. “I should be feeling worse than this” I thought. “But I feel fine – even better than fine.” Here’s what happened in that week.

Continue reading

Marked

Bereaved parents are a kind of reluctant tribe, the one that no-one wanted to join, and some of us have chosen to mark ourselves as such.
The reasons we do it vary and each mark has a different meaning for those who choose it, but many of our motivations and the symbols we use are similar.

I felt after my daughter Zoe’s cancer diagnosis at age three as if I had become become both transparent and luminescent, as if my interior life was so visible that my story could be read on the surface of my skin. I felt that when we left the house strangers would know our story at a glance, that we were visibly marked by cancer. Of course Zoe was visibly marked, though she seemed not too worried by her battle scars (she called the scar from her mic-key button her “other belly button”).

I felt the same after Zoe’s death at age six, that people would know I was a bereaved mother from the grief, pain, love and despair written on my skin. That the wound of having my child ripped from my life must have left a scar. And that felt right, that I should in fact be physically marked from surviving this. Continue reading