One thousand and ninety five days without you

all the ages you never got to be

Three long years since you left us baby girl. You would now be entering tweenhood, but I find that so hard to imagine. The little girls my eyes always linger on are the ones that are all the ages you were, not the ones you never got to be. The toddlers wearing gumboots and tutus, pre-schoolers wearing glittery star t-shirts and choosing buns covered in sprinkles at the bakery, gaggles of giggling six year olds.

Some days, when something jogs a forgotten memory, or a photo unexpectedly brings a rush of emotion and I can recall the exact sound, smell, touch of you in that moment, I feel so close I could almost touch you. Other days I feel I am drifting further from you, despite hoarding memories, photographs and all your possessions. Continue reading

How to guard your heart

The other day I was telling a friend that I thought the heartbreak songs he had written were lovely. It was the third anniversary of Zoe’s terminal diagnosis, and when I told him I was listening to more heartbreak songs that evening because it suited my mood, he replied that he hadn’t written any songs that heartbreaking.

That exchange got me thinking about how often people tell me that when they think of Zoe’s story, it puts their own troubles into perspective. I get that, and I know it’s been a life lesson for many people whose lives Zoe touched. It certainly helps me to put everyday disappointments and dramas in their place. Aren’t we all learning over and over not to sweat the small stuff? Actually if you have this completely figured out – please let me know 😉 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

Random thoughts on cancer, meaning and happiness Part II

“Hope is not optimism, nor is it conviction that something will go well. Rather it is the certainty that something has meaning…regardless of its outcome.” Vaclav Havel

From where I stand now, I feel I can truly say that life (for me anyway) is not about happiness, at least not in the ways it’s most commonly perceived to exist. Rather it is about finding peace and meaning. That doesn’t mean that I don’t feel any joy or happiness, but that I find those things through the meaning I attach to my life and experiences. Continue reading

The friendship seat #1000speak

It still haunts me to know that being bullied was a feature of the last few months of my daughter’s life, that in the beginning it wasn’t handled very well and that I failed her in this.

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Early in her second year at school, around the time she turned 6, Zoe told me that some older girls were seeking her out every day at lunchtime to tease her, particularly about the way she spoke. Zoe had some speech issues relating to nerve damage either from her cancer or the radiation treatment. She had undergone surgery to her palette before the school year started and along with speech therapy, this was greatly improving the situation, but it was enough to single her out as a victim in the eyes of these girls (I want to say bullies, but that label seems to make them less human than they really are).

I took her in to school early one morning to catch her teacher before others started arriving and explained to the teacher what had been happening. Her teacher’s first response was “Well, I hate to tell you Zoe, but some people just aren’t very nice.” She went on to say that the next time it happened, Zoe should find the teacher on duty and point out who the girls were. While I was a little shocked at the comment, I felt there was a plan of action. And as a busy working solo mum, I didn’t want to rock the boat and be “one of those” parents. I assumed the school had it’s way of dealing with these things.

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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

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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.

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The return of Charlie Cat (or on belonging)

Can one shaggy fickle moggy show you where you belong?

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We didn’t adopt Charlie Cat, he adopted us, soon after we moved to our new house in 2008, the year before Zoe’s cancer diagnosis. We’d moved from a townhouse in the inner city to a single level house with a safe little garden Zoe could play in. No more lugging washing up two flights of stairs along with a strong willed toddler, or driving to where she could walk on the grass.  It was a house that matched my dream of how family life should be, in a neighbourhood of other families, close to the zoo, playgrounds and the beach. There was even a walking school bus to the local primary school and a feijoa tree in the garden.

The week we moved here, I walked with then 2 year old Zoe to the supermarket around the corner. She stopped at virtually every house along the way. “Look, a house, a fence. Look another house, another fence.” With the right house, I felt sure we would become that perfect family, give Zoe a quintessential Kiwi childhood and that our marriage problems would become a distant memory. The addition of a household pet seemed like the icing on the cake. It felt like a sign that he had chosen us. Continue reading