Good People

Every so often someone comes along to restore your faith in humanity.

About three weeks ago, my sons’ football coach approached my husband to say that he was very sorry that we had lost Clea and that he hadn’t known. He followed up this conversation with a very heartfelt email saying that he felt stupid not knowing and that he was sorry for being six years too late. He said a number of other kind and brave things about us and Clea.

I’m not sure how he had found out but he had done his homework. We had recently become friends on FaceBook so maybe he had wondered why there were three children in my profile photograph. Or maybe he had clicked on the bad video link of my husband and I reading my husband’s poetry at the National Multicultural Festival and wondered why we would read a poem about our dead daughter. However this man found out, he followed up his discovery by searching for more and more information. He had read my blog and he had read my husband’s poetry (and he’ll probably read this).

But he didn’t leave it there as most people would. He actually reached out to us to show that he cared. He didn’t have to do that and many people, I’m sure, do find out about Clea and leave it at that. Their excuse is that they do no want to upset us or bring back bad memories. Believe me, and I’ve said this before, no one could upset us more than we are and those memories live with us on a daily basis.

I don’t expect everyone to know about Clea and I don’t think anyone is stupid for not knowing. I did mention Clea to a man at work recently, assuming that he did know, and he was very shocked. One should never assume.

I am very grateful that this man was brave, that he did face up to the nightmare of our lives and that he didn’t shy away from his own fears – the fear of our pain and how he would cope with that pain. That is everyone’s fear when they confront us with our pain. No one likes to face that fear. I wouldn’t want to.

I have lived with this pain for 339 weeks. Sometimes I cope OK. Sometimes I really, really do not cope at all. At present, I wouldn’t say that I was coping at all. My ability to cope changes almost daily.

But I am grateful for people like this man. People like him help me to cope just a little bit better.

Thank you.

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We’re Skating

“We’re skating” Clea would say as she slipped around the new cork floor in her socks.

Today is my daughter’s 13th birthday.

She desperately wanted to go ice skating during the July school holidays in 2009.

We are 6 1/2 years late but we finally made it. This morning, we went ice skating for Clea’s birthday, without Clea.

Happy birthday Chickie.

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Another Christmas

Yesterday, a friend posted on FaceBook that she was not buying her children presents this year and there was a photo of a letter from her daughter which included the words ‘Worst Christmas Ever’.

None of their three children believe in Santa and they’re not that wealthy but the comments she received amazed me. I was quite taken aback by the amount of people who thought that Christmas was about the presents and that these children were missing out on something special.

So this post was going to be my usual rant about the waste that is Christmas but I may as well re-post last Christmas’ post. I rant every year and people just think I’m some sort of loony who makes her sons suffer for her principles.

My sons are just fine. I asked them what they wanted for Christmas and the response was that they would buy themselves new iPods because they had plenty of pocket money. I did point out that that was not the purpose of a commercial Christmas but they didn’t seem to care. They bought their iPods last week and have been playing them ever since. Their father bought them books which they have already read. I put money in their bank accounts and bought them some science sets and chocolate coins. So we do buy them presents.

This year, I’ve invited my family to my house for lunch. Everyone will bring something to share at the table. There will be 17 people at my house; only four will be missing (three in London and one in a nursing home). That’s not bad for a family which includes people who do not speak to each other unless they have to. We’ll see how it goes.

Tonight, we’ll eat fideua (a type of seafood paella but with pasta instead of rice).

In the morning, we’ll go to the cemetery with flowers and chocolate coins for Clea. We will wish her a merry Christmas because she loved Christmas. It will be our seventh Christmas without her. It doesn’t get any easier.

I miss her with all my heart.

Merry Christmas.

PS. I leave you with a song written by a woman I know in Singapore. She wrote the music after I told her the story of Clea. It’s called ‘Seis’ (six) because she couldn’t remember my daughter’s name but she remembered that Clea was six when she died. Thank you Yann Lih.

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Clea’s death day

Tulips

Today is Clea’s death day. I find the word ‘anniversary’ a bit distasteful as an anniversary is usually a celebration of sorts. My daughter has been dead for six years now and I’m beginning to understand how long a life may be. Before 12 months are out, she will have been dead longer than she had been alive – that is not a long or satisfactory life.

I don’t have much to say today. I miss her. I love her. I would do anything not to have had this day six years ago.

These are tulips from our garden. The Compassionate Friends gave everyone tulips last Christmas to plant in remembrance of our dead children. These are two of the beautiful ones growing in our front yard.

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300 Weeks

Tomorrow (Tuesday), my daughter will have been dead for 300 weeks.

Clea would be 12 ½ now. She would be in Year 7 at Amaroo School. She would be tall probably already taller than me. She would be Clea.

Each day, I tell Clea that I love her and that I miss her. I say good morning to her as I open the blinds of her window to let the sun shine into her room. Each evening, I say goodnight, sleep tight, I love you to her photographs. Each night, I sleep with her photograph inside my pillow case and with one of her pillows underneath mine. And as I am closing my eyes to go to sleep, I whisper goodnight to her wherever she may be.

I wish on stars as often as I can but my wishes never come true. She is never inside with Papa or tucked up warmly in her bed. She is never with her brothers. She is never anywhere. She will never be anywhere.

I count the weeks. I am still unsure how long I will count for but I will know when to stop. I write to Clea every week telling her what is happening in our lives and what she is missing. We visit the cemetery every Sunday with fresh flowers from the garden (and the neighbour’s garden) scattering the old petals on her grave. I rarely leave the house without her pink headband wrapped around my left wrist and a locket around my neck containing her photographs. I talk to her as I drive or as I’m walking along trying to catch a glimpse of her beside me out of the corner of my eye.

Clea - Aug 2009 (2)I do not flick through the photo albums or scan the images on my computer. I try very hard to visualise Clea alive; I get fleeting glimpses of her long legs and her smiling face but I also see her lifeless body in the morgue.

Every so often I have to explain to people that I have three children not only two boys. I have a daughter. I will always have a daughter.

I know that if I cycle too fast at the gym then I will want to cry; any sort of adrenaline rush makes me want to cry. My body remembers the stress and adrenaline from that day.

The pain is different 300 weeks later. It is not the stress and shock of the first few years without her. It is not the twisting of my fingers and the pounding of my hands against my skin. It is not the keening and rocking as I sat crying on her bed night after night. It is not my hair falling out or the loss of saliva in my mouth. It is still a constant aching and yearning for what will never be; for a future our family will never have.

I wake in the night with this deep fear in my stomach that I have done something wrong or that I haven’t done something or that I have forgotten to do something. I can’t quite pin down exactly what I fear but I can feel it in the pit of my stomach and sometimes it rises to my throat and I have to hold down the panic. I don’t trust my own judgement as I judged that day that we would be fine on the beach. Each day is a challenge for me.

I cry on and off. A word, a phrase, an image, a thought. All of them make me cry. I am lonely for Clea.

My heart broke 300 weeks again and it will not repair itself. I did not know that life could be so sad and lonely. I miss her so much. I don’t think it will ever matter how much time has passed. For the rest of my life, I will have to live without her. That thought makes me cry.

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Happy 12th Birthday Clea

P1020015

I made you a cupcake, placed it in a paper flower, and left it at your grave.

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I Don’t Do Christmas

Christmas 2005

Christmas 2005

I always feel obliged to preface that statement with ‘I’m sorry but’ so the title should actually read ‘I’m sorry but I don’t do Christmas’. I don’t do Bayram or Hanukkah or any other religious celebration either.

People look at me in amazement when they ask if I’m ready for Christmas and I respond by saying that I don’t do Christmas. They do not know what to say next and do not know where to look. What’s so amazing? I am not religious or materialistic and I am the mother of a dead daughter so Christmas holds little value to me.

I do like the idea of family getting together and sharing a meal but that should be done whenever you want not only at Christmas time. It can be very stressful if your family is like mine, somewhat dysfunctional, and you feel as though you are forced into a family lunch for the sake of Christmas.

I did try hard to be interested in Christmas when my children were little. I would get a eucalyptus sapling from my parents’ farm and we would decorate it with mostly decorations that Clea had made (my sons were not old enough). I did promise Clea a fake tree for Christmas 2009 but as she wasn’t there, I was not capable of living up to that promise. And I am not capable of making any effort now either. My sons do not ask about Christmas trees or decorations. Although they did make some interesting pieces in Christmas craft at school – one in particular looks more like an evil elf than a Christmas decoration. It hangs on the front door to scare away visitors.

My parents did not make a big deal out of Christmas. I did believe in Santa Claus for sometime because I couldn’t believe that my parents could afford to buy us any presents – they were not particularly wealthy and there were five children. The presents were not considered to be the most important part of Christmas. My husband and I have never exchanged presents at Christmas or birthdays and we have never insisted that our children buy presents for each other or for their parents.

My father would cut down a eucalyptus sapling to use as our Christmas tree. There was an ancient green fake tree once but it didn’t stand the test of time. I remember the smell of eucalyptus wafting through the house in the midst of a hot, windy summer.

I am proud to say that when I asked my sons what they wanted for Christmas, one said that he didn’t want any ‘crap’ toys and the other said that he could not think of anything that he wanted. Eventually, they decided that they would like some comics – easy done.

They happily bought chickens and eggs, pencils, mosquito nets and fast growing seeds from the World Vision catalogue because they felt that they were buying worthwhile and valued presents for people who needed them.

I was interested to hear that some devout Christians do not celebrate Christmas either; they see it as a pagan celebration, which it is. Christmas was originally a pagan celebration of mid-winter but then the Christians took it over to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and now the capitalists have taken it over to celebrate the profit and loss statement that is the holiday season. It now boils down to how much money you can make and how many presents you get that you have to return. Maybe it was always like that, I do not know.

Call me a Scrooge or humbug, I don’t care (someone at work did stand up for me and say that it is more about love and kindness than the number of presents). Maybe I am a parasite on a market driven society. I definitely do not pull my weight when it comes to buying and selling in the market place, especially at this time of the year. Maybe I am a rebel who will not be pushed into buying presents when advertising tells me to. I think my children have always known that they are loved and cared for without a long list of presents they neither want nor need.

We do have little traditions of our own making. I make shortbread. My husband is a great cook so he takes care in deciding the menu for the various meals including noche buena (Christmas Eve) which is of particular importance to him.

This Christmas, my sons will get a few books, comics, Lego and chocolate coins. I won’t wrap them but I will use the Santa pillow cases I made for them when they were little. We will take Clea’s chocolate coins to the cemetery to wish her a merry Christmas. My mother will join us for lunch. My sister and her family will have lunch with us two days prior to Christmas. And I will catch up with the other members of my family in January sometime.

It will be a difficult week with the 10 year anniversary of the Indian Ocean Boxing Day tsunami (and no, that is not the tsunami that we were in) which killed more than 250,000 people. We will be avoiding television coverage of that and of the 40th anniversary of Cyclone Tracy in Darwin.

Tomorrow it will be 273 weeks since Clea died. Christmas is a particularly hard time of year for us. After Christmas, there is New Year, and then Clea’s will be 12.

I so wish that Clea was here to sneer at me about Christmas and to call me a Scrooge for not buying her an iPad mini for Christmas. Nothing is ever the same.

Clea definitely loved Christmas. And if she was here, I might just ‘do’ Christmas. But I can’t, not without her.

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