Do you get ice cream in heaven?

My phone vibrates, it’s a reminder to tell me it’s the Derbyshire county show today. I remember vividly adding the date to my calendar. Telling Daniel about how much fun we were going to have. The animals we would see. Describing how loud and full of so many different sounds, how I hoped the highland cow class in the show ring was going to be on again. Daniel sat eyes wide open listening to me, cuddling in closer as I went on telling him about the horses the tractors. He wasn’t happy that his favourite vet and wife wasn’t going to be there but we were going to have a wonderful day, I’m sure of it.

How I wish I was back there in that state of ignorance. Not knowing how less than a month or so later my world would be in pieces, shattered completely by my broken heart.

How I wish that I could have got up this morning and got Daniel ready for our day of animal heaven, not a day of grieving him in heaven.

How I wish

How I wish.

I hope Daniel visited the show today, that he and Livvy watched the show rings and guessed at the winning animal. I hope they danced to the music playing, flew high on the fairground rides, enjoyed ice-cream and candy floss. Do you get ice cream in heaven? I hope so.

I on the other hand have spend the day in tears, valid of course but overwhelming and so so painful. I truly feel like my future is over, I just have no idea what to do or who to be. I did wonder about going today but decided I couldn’t. The pain would have been too much and actually finances wouldn’t allow it. I do really need to find a job.

No one warns you about the loss of identity that comes with grief, with the loss of your loved one you lose the role you were to them. If you lose a parent you stop being their child, if you lose a child you stop being their parent. I don’t mean in name but in what your day consists off. Losing Daniel I stopped being his mom , carer, nurse, advocate my favourite role, the cuddler all gone with my beautiful boy. Of course I’m still Daniels mom but right now he doesn’t need me and oh my I loved being needed by my boy.

Along with the county show today I have many more moments, appointments that I don’t have to attend any more. My days are empty and I’m finding this hard to navigate. What the heck do I do with myself, 24 hours are now endless and empty.

As I’ve said I’m job hunting but even that has me at a lost. I haven’t spend the last years planning, working on my future career. I had my plans perfectly set before me. I would live to love on Daniel, to spend my time caring for him. Using my time to advocate for Daniel and any one with disabilities who are facing so much discrimination right now.

I had my plans

Did God laugh at them?

I don’t think so

Covid just stole them.

You cannot rush grief

Ok ok I’ve made a rookie error. You know this grief business, well you would think I would be be an expert. Losing three children, one would assume I would have this grief journey down. I wouldn’t need the map or sat nav; this journey should be set in my sub conscious, innate directions.

So why oh why am I finding myself trying to rush through to the end. You know the part where you find some acceptance and maybe a little peace. Come on Sara you should know better that this, there are no short cuts and no quick way through. There isn’t even a toll road that costs you a fortune but cuts out half of the journey time. Nope, no chance,not happening.

No matter how much you don’t want it to the pain of grief has to be lived, the reason why is simple , we love.

Right now it’s perfectly ok and right for me to be lost in the pain of losing Daniel. It’s correct for me to find every breathe painful in missing him. My tears should fall and my heart should be broken because I loved my beautiful boy, I love him, desperately.

Changing the sofa around, painting the walls even maybe putting his toy box out of sight may be what I need to do just to calm the waves but a fresh lick of paint won’t erase the memories of Daniel giggling on the sofa, holding him on my lap, snuggling into my chest, nothing will.

There are no short cuts in grief. What is it the Going on bear hunt book says “you can’t over it, your can’t go under it, you have to go through it”.

I know why I’m trying to push through the pain, the truth is I’m scared I won’t survive it. I survived losing Livvy by the love and need of her sisters, I am truly scared I’m not strong enough to survive losing Daniel.

I’m actually really scared of this darkness I feel.

My whole world changed with Daniels death, my identity as his mom, his carer, his nurse, physio et etc all disappearing with his last breath. He was, my purpose, my joy and my reason. My life was planned with him, I still cannot comprehend a life without him. It’s like my mind just won’t go there, a robot stuck moving back and forth “I just can’t compute, I just can’t compute”.

Oh gosh I’ve sat here thinking how better it would be to be a robot with no feelings, no emotions, no grief ; yet I wouldn’t be happy. I’m a person that feels intensely, if you are loved by me, well you get loved my me. I don’t do half measures. I tell myself I will protect my heart again and again but if I had of done that then I wouldn’t have had the gift of Daniel. I got to love and care for my boy for 6 years, I got to wake up knowing cuddles awaited me, that smiles that would fill my heart would bless my day.

I have spoken and walked through child loss with a number of people over the years ( too many ) and the one thing I tell them is it’s ok to feel broken, it’s ok to feel the pain, because you loved. Give yourself time and to be kind to yourself. This wasn’t how life should be.

Missing someone you love will never be easy and it shouldn’t be. This pain, this agony that I feel now it’s worth it, because I got to love Daniel and if I had to live this pain all over again for just one more moment with my boy I would do so.

So right now all I have to do is be, to be whatever I need me to be, to hold on and allow myself to grieve. There is no rushing grief, it sets it’s own timetable just like love does, as it should because grief is the love we cannot give and I love Daniel intensely.

In the brokenness

I’ve never been one to follow the calendar. I often don’t know what day of the week it is let alone the date, this has especially been the case in the last two years due to shielding. I mean who cares what the date is, we aren’t going anywhere. Yet since Daniels death I have found myself coming slightly obsessed.

When April turned to May my heart was aching, a new month that Daniel won’t be part of and today we begin another month that won’t hold him in it, it’s so very hard and feels so wrong.

How do I do this life without my beautiful boy? I really feel the need for direction. Nothing makes sense , the things I loved are now too different without my son. Alan suggested I join him in keeping the house tidy but even thinking about it makes me tired. I mean we are just cleaning up our own things when I’m so used to changing beds because Daniel had peed on the sheets, often literally after I had just changed his pad. That boy loved a clean nappy. I should be cleaning up milk when I forgotten to clamp the tube. Weighing pads, chasing prescriptions and so much more. What i am not doing makes what I should be doing feel so out of reach.

I know it’s going to take time and it should, shouldn’t it. You don’t move on from losing your heart in a day, week, lifetime. I’m just so lost it’s crazy, I think that may be my forever statement. “I’m lost.” Then I think of one of Daniels favourite hymns “ i was lost but now I am found” maybe I will be found or find myself again.

Who knows?

Alan and I are struggling so scared about the future. It’s hard trying to make a life you so didn’t want. Everything is different, everything is hard, everything is missing Daniel. People keep telling us of the holidays we can now take, the places we can now visit, the freedom we now have. I know they mean well but this so called freedom came a high cost. Plus I never felt so free when I got to love on Daniel.

I remember so vividly when we lost our beautiful Livvy my anger, I was so angry that the world continued to turn without her in it. I feel that same anger with Daniel but with an extra element of bitterness, we lost him to what we tried so hard to protect him from. His life was stole by a virus the world wants to forget. He is just one in million statistics that we just have to accept. It’s shocking, it’s cruel and it’s so very wrong.

I’m never going to be the same person again and I don’t think Alan will either. Sometimes the spotlight is too powerful to not see the truth. I don’t want to stay bitter but the brokenness of my heart allows it to creep in.

My wonderful friend reminded me at Daniels celebration of the Japanese art of embracing brokenness, Kintsugi. Kintsugi teaches you that your broken places make you stronger and better than ever before. When you think you are broken, you can pick up the pieces, put them back together, and learn to embrace the cracks. Kintsugi teaches you that your broken places make you stronger and better than ever before. She reminded me that I had once before filled my brokenness with gold and that I will do again.

I’m beginning to think I may end up with a bowl full more of gold than china but that’s ok every crack, every bit of brokenness was made because I was blessed enough to have loved and to be loved.

To be so very loved.

My beautiful boy.

I have been asked by a number of people if I would share what I said at Daniel’s celebration of life and to be honest I wasn’t sure as it was me being honest and very vulnerable. Then I was reminded that’s what I do I share my heart to allow others to share theirs. So here is my speech please if you don’t like it keep that to yourself because this was literally just for my beautiful boy.

My beautiful boy, my son.

It is said that grief is the love that you cannot give so right now this pain feels validated, feels true. You see Daniel I love you with every breathe I take. From the moment I met you I fell in love, breaking all the rules but not caring at all. The day you officially came our son it was day that the the legality caught up with what my heart already knew, you were my boy, you were my son.

Thank you Daniel for reminding me of the joy in the world, for allowing me to love you with no restrictions. It has been a gift to be so needed, to be your safe space, to be your person. I’m not sure how to go on with this endless void in my heart but I will try for you. You fought to live with a strength that is beyond comparison, if love could have saved you well we wouldn’t be here today.

How I wish I could hold your hand in mine again, how I could run my hands through your thick crazy hair. How I could feel your head on my chest and your gentle breathing in the place your called home, my arms they ache to hold you. My lap feels empty and lost.

Daniel your Daddy misses you so much, his Grand Prix buddy or sofa naps excuse. How he wishes he could moan again about the number of clothes, shoes, coats you needed, well I believed you needed. How even his fear of animals was lost in your excitement.

Daniel Robert you were a gift, a mind so full of questions always wanting to learn more. Your love of animals was unbeatable, your desire to put your hand up a cows bum unrepeatable.

Your love of nature was inspiring, teaching us to slow down and really take in the glory of our world. We listened to the trees as they danced on the wind, marvelled in the bird song, and cherished the fragrance of the flowers.

Daniel you loved God with all your heart, how I will miss hearing you sing along to worship. How I wish you would try and shout over Tim once again in church . Our prayers, oh my our prayers how you prayed for those you loved with a compassion beyond your years. You prayed so hard for your sisters, for their happiness, their hope. I know you are still praying over them and hopefully having words with the big guy up there.

I used to call you my little old man, childrens tv or music you didn’t care for. The documentaries, zoo programs and of course your complete favourite the Yorkshire vet. I’m going to miss your Dad complaining, so sure that we had fixed a prolapse viewing for every mealtime on purpose. We didn’t but maybe now I will.

Oh Daniel my beautiful boy, You touched the lives and hearts of everyone who met you. Your cheeky Elvis smile, your dirty looks all part of your character that we loved. You were joy, hope and faith all rolled into one handsome cute package.

So many people here today will miss you, your nurses and your flirting, the hiding in your hospital room for sneaky cuddles, you loved them all. Your Drs all inspired by your courageous spirit and your ability not to do it the usual way, always the Daniel way. “That’s Daniel”

Daniel you were a gift to us all, you gave us all hope again, you taught us to love hard once more. Right now I’m not sure I will ever fully love again but I know that’s not what you would want from me. Not the legacy you would choose.

I will feel you Daniel in the wind that blows around me, In the flowers that bloom and in the dancing of the trees.

Thank you my son for giving me the gift of loving you. Thank you for loving me with a need unlike I have every known.

Thank you Daniel for being my son, my forever beautiful boy. Now go dance with Livvy and sit in the arms of Jesus until we meet again.

I love you x”

Job hunting is painful

Ouch, my heart is beating so quick it’s a question a simple question.

Do you care for someone?

Job applications, oh my goodness when did they become so in-depth I mean I’m literally waiting for the question asking me my bra size. How much do employers need to know to see if I’m suitable for a job, why does the number of dependents matter? Are they only after those without. Then the realisation hits, I don’t have any dependents any more. My girls are adults they don’t depend on me. No one does, then to knock the realisation out of the ball park, the final question, do you care for someone?

Ok ok please leave me alone. Isn’t it hard enough that I’m applying for jobs I never expected to have. That my world looks completely different to the one I was in a month ago.

How much more of this pain can I take?

Oh my goodness how hard, too hard.

I know people have told me not to job hunt yet but obviously the bills still need paying and the day the one you care for dies, all payments stop. Giving myself time isn’t a option. Also the truth is time is something I have too much of right now. The days are endless and I mean endless. I swear my days are now made up of 48 hours not 24.

I need a focus, I need a challenge. I’m not the kind of person who can sit still I thrive on being challenged and I love being busy. Yes I have to learn some boundaries for my health and well-being but I need to do something. But what, and who am I now? For the last 13 years I’ve been a proud foster carer but after losing Daniel I cannot do this right now. Maybe in the future but not right now. I need something different, something that doesn’t make the familiar painful. Does this make sense?

But beyond being a foster carer who am I? I’m definitely not the dance teacher I was in my 20’s that’s for sure.

Could I do something in my passion, could I use my words to earn me a living? I would love that but have no idea how to make that happen.

Could I continue to advocate? When I write, speak and fight for equality and against discrimination the words form themselves. My passion allows the letters to fall from my fingers. It matters, I want it to matter.

So who, what and how?

If you haven’t caught up yet the reality is I’m in pain, I’m lost and I really want direction.

Any suggestions?

Any jobs offers?

Pretty please.

It’s just a van

It’s only a van I tell myself.

But it isn’t. It’s a symbol of the life we lived, the life we lost.

The boy we have lost.

This van was our escape to the Yorkshire moors, our spaceship to the land of green fields and so, so many cows. It was Daniels and with its return it’s another piece of my beautiful boy that I have to lose.

It’s not only a van, it’s a vehicle full of so many memories that I can never repeat. A vehicle with blemish’s created from adventures. Sand from the beach, leaves from the trees and a wheelchair now devastatingly empty.

Every piece of equipment taken away feels like a vicious blow to my stomach. I’m nauseous with the pain of loss. I know we don’t need them anymore but my goodness it’s just not fair.

We should be packed up ready to go visit with Daniels favourites, to feel my heart slow in it’s dance as we pass the border into Gods own country. I should be parked up by the river with my gorgeous boy on my lap feeding the ducks. Listening to the sounds that they make, laughing at Dads reluctance to come close.

How many “ should i’s” can one heart take, we are only weeks in and there has already been too many. How in the world can I survive a lifetime of this?

Grief is not new to me but this pain is unique unlike anything I have ever known, anything I have ever felt. It’s grief for Daniel, individual for my beautiful boy. Pain twisted in the memories that we shared, agony in the cuddles we won’t get to share again.

To say I miss him feels like the understatement of my life, I literally feel like I’m walking about with my heart missing. Breathing is pained by grief, my memories are torturous.

So as the van leaves the driveway for the last time. It takes with it a dent of my bollard hitting moment. The scratches of bushes too close to the sides but most of all it takes away another part of a life that I cannot live again.

It’s not just a van, it was Daniel’s van

Hope Day

Yesterday we received the news that the The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation have given approval for a low-dose vaccine to be offered to vulnerable primary school children aged 5-11 years old. This news has literally had me dancing around my sofa.

I finally feel hope that one day soon Daniel will be able to live his life fully again. This is something I have openly campaigned for and today my heart is so blessed.

Throughout this pandemic we have heard that Covid 19 does not adversely affect children and whilst this has been great news for the majority there have been thousands of parents, carers and children like myself living in fear.

My son Daniel has complex needs in total he has over 15 diagnosis and a number of them affect his immunity and his ability to fight infections. He has been hospitalised numerous times due to the common cold so you can imagine the fear Covid 19 has brought to our door. The only way I can describe it is that for the last 22 months I have been unable to breathe deep. The fear has closed up my chest in panic and anxiety and I know I am not alone. Thousands like me have lived in fear, hiding away, not living our lives fully to protect those we love.

Campaigning to get this vaccine has been hard, sharing my heart, my worries, my fears to the country in hope of having our children’s voices heard has been scary.

Yesterday’s decision has made this all worthwhile.

I have spoken about children like Daniel as the “forgotten children” today we can say we were not forgotten and we were heard and we were given hope.

I now have hope for a vaccine that will help protect my son.

Hope that soon Daniel will be able to live his life fully again. Return to school, return to his therapies, visit with his animals and get hugs from those he loves.

Yesterday was a good day.

Today is a Hope day.

The veil of pretence

What is it about the early hours on a hospital ward that makes you feel so alone? Yes there is the hustle and tussle of people in the other rooms, the pacing of the nurses as they walk their endless steps up and down the corridor. Even the constant beeping of the machines all which should make you feel less alone but actually have the opposite effect.

I’m going to be completely vulnerable right now and tell you along with the isolation I feel fear. Right now I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. Daniel is doing ok but the residue of previous visits, previous trauma tastes bitter on my tongue.

I can hear Daniel swallowing and for some reason I’m swallowing with him. Anxiety is making my mouth go dry. I’m lonely here in this side room yet I also know I’m not on a holiday and the reality is I’m extremely grateful for the individual room.

I think this is something that parents of children with complexities don’t talk about enough. The fear hospital stays bring with them. The isolation and weight of the world we feel when we are here, but also the echo of past trauma and how even though the situation is different it doesn’t allow us to breathe deep.

My husband tells me to go home and he will stay yet I cannot it just doesn’t feel right, I actually feel like I’m abandoning my boy. He tries to explain that he is also his parent but I’m sorry , I do him an injustice as I cannot hear his words over my own fear.

I guess I don’t know what to say really or why I’m tumbling over these words. I think it’s just awareness that I really want to raise, for all those that watch our stories and seem to think we are used to our hospital stays, immune to our children suffering.

We aren’t, we are trying to hide our fear to calm that of our children’s. We smile and chat with nurses we have come to know and love but in reality would rather not see again. We survive because we have to, but each visit, each stay tears at our fragile veil of pretence.

For me right now the veil is torn, I’m struggling. Please let tomorrow be a better day.

Desperate

I woke last night screaming, somehow my sleep had become a time machine and I was there again in the hospital begging my child to wake. Desperate to see her chest rise again, begging the Lord to save her.

How can 12 years just disappear in a moment?

Yet I know in grief, time is only my enemy.

I miss my girlie so much, how I wish I could just hold her in my arms once more, to just breathe in the sweet smell of her hair.

Grief is a complex devil, playing games with your heart moment by moment, memory by memory.

Does it ever end?

Only with eternity I guess.

Oh I never knew the heart could survive such pain. The crushing weight becoming bearable against my wishes.

I don’t want to sleep again, I had to leave her once I’m not sure I could do it again.

Why does your memory invade your dreams?

Is there nowhere free from grief?

I couldn’t pretend for a while, I could not create the facade of being ok in those darkness hours. So I let the tears fall and as my whole soul hiccuped through my body I allowed myself to miss her.

I let the memories swarm my mind like a tapestry of bees as they create their honey, I created my moments again. I held her in my arms, I heard her sweet giggle of mischief on the symphony of the night and I breathed her in deep and I sobbed.

I still don’t understand why I had to lose her, why Rett Syndrome had to win the battle for her life. Yet I know it wasn’t for the lack of love. My Livvy, their Livvy, your Livvy was loved with the depths of so many hearts.

If love could have saved her life she would be here.

No the question still stands unanswered, our hearts still forever broken.

I couldn’t breathe anymore the tears had tore my soul and I did fall into an exhausted sleep.

I wake still desperate to hold my daughter once again.

The new day begins,

I trust, I breathe and I hope.

Until we meet again my beautiful girl, until.

Joining in again with five minute Friday, set your timer for five minutes and write.

It’s not ok that our children died.

Often when we face a loss in our community of special needs parenting, our hearts break alongside those facing the pain. We emphasise with the anger and missing we feel the disbelief and sadness. Myself personally I ache for the pain I know those left behind will feel. Each new loss reopening a wound that is far from healed.

Yet one of the things I still do not understand about loss in the disability community is that from those outside of it, is the feeling that somehow it’s acceptable. That in some way it is less. The concept that a life lived with a disability is not as full as one without.

There is no denying that being part of the special needs community we face loss maybe more than most, the wider our community the wider amount of pain. But that’s our life, we choose to walk alongside one another through the good and the bad. We celebrate the achievements and too often we have to grieve the loss.

Yet often those outside the community do not understand our journey and more often than I would like, do not understand our joy.

Statements like “oh well she had been poorly for a while” “sometimes it’s for the best” or my favourite (irony) “God knows best”.

When Livvy died she had a devastating neurological condition. Her body faced so many obstacles, seizures, abnormal breathing, sometimes uncontrollable movements. Yes, to list her conditions it may seem dire. Yet what the reality was that yes she had this list of issues but what she also had was a life filled with love and laughter. She had a family that adored her, she had parents she wrapped around her fingers. Sisters she teased and played with. Teachers she adored, friends she loved. Her life was full of joy and mischief. She was not her list of conditions. Yet still when I speak of my missing, people speak of her with pity. When I speak of her loss, people speak with acceptance, as if her disability makes her death more ok.

Whilst I know this attitude is meant with kindness I need to share that it’s not. When someone who has a disability dies it’s not ok, it’s not even a little ok. It’s a heartbreaking, soul destroying grief.

You see people are not their disabilities they are simply people. A child with disabilities is simply a child.

So I beg of people, I ask desperately that when dealing with a grieving mother, a broken father a missing family, that before you speak of freedom from pain, limited lives or God’s choices, STOP. Whilst the lives lost may have seemed hard to you, or the disabilities overwhelming those grieving see the little boy whose eyes twinkled as he looked at them. The little girl whose smile lit up the room, their son, daughter, sister, brother. We don’t grieve the disability, we grieve the one we loved and their disability wasn’t what defined them. Our pain is not less and their death is not and never will be acceptable.