Since Halloween several people have sent us wishes saying that they are thinking of us, especially as the run up to Christmas begins. It is always nice to receive messages like this, and to know that people are thinking of us all but it prompted David and I to discuss how we felt. It is true that not sharing Christmas this year with Oscar will be very difficult. It is another significant event which will be incomplete but actually for us there will be lots of distractions. Clearly we can’t cancel Christmas, Holly will be really excited and she will be having fun with her cousin, uncles, aunts and grandparents. We will get a lot of ‘happiness’ from watching her experiencing it all. [···]
When people ask us how we are it’s a very big question to answer. I’ve learned to gauge what they are wanting or expecting to hear and then I have a little think about how I am going to answer. It’s not that I don’t feel that I can’t ask truthfully because I can if I want to. The thing is now we are living life in layers. For the past several months we’ve sheltered ourselves from the world. We’ve always seen folk, but usually within the village and almost always in small groups. We try to minimise putting ourselves into situations which could be unnecessarily difficult. So, for example, we wouldn’t go swimming together as a family anymore because we invariably bump into other intact families that we know at the pool and either David or I are self consciously redundant as we don’t have a second child to look after. Which would be fine if we had never had Oscar but which is not fine when you are used to being a family of four.
Today is Holly’s 4th birthday. She had a really lovely birthday weekend and had a tea party with her cousin and a couple of friends on the Saturday and a treasure hunt around the village with her local friends on the Sunday. Several of our friends were extra sensitive to the fact that this was another major event without Oscar but the thing was we were really busy and entirely focused on Holly so it wasn’t too bad. [···]
This time twelve weeks ago it became apparent that the course of our life was about to take a terrible turn and, as events quickly transpired, change our lives and the lives of our family for ever. It was my night off from the hospital. I had come home for a rest. Hospital life was moderately stressful but we were kind of in a groove with it and a couple of girlfriends had come over with a bottle of pink to give me a little down time. It’s not that we weren’t worried about Oscar because we were. He had changed that week and was sleeping a lot. And when he wasn’t sleeping he was connected up to a drip, because he was off his food, and also a pump for long periods of time for the antibiotics. The administration of these clearly caused him a lot of discomfort and for some reason he was always worse at night. On that night he was yelping with pain and the nurse on duty called me in because Holly was having a sleep over with my parents and so I might as well be with David. When I arrived it was very frightening. There were few experts around because it was evening time. Time appeared to pass very very slowly. We seemed always to be waiting for a porter for a scan or for someone from HDU or something. It is just too painful to write down how it all played out. We never had any real sense that there was major life saving activity going on like you see on the tele. It was all very calm and quiet and Oscar was being monitored. As the night went on David and I became increasingly frightened but we were unsure how frightened we should be. He had had a CT scan around 11pm. The results of which we had been informed were clear. He was then, finally transferred down to the high dependence unit and then to the intensive care unit. Just having your child in intensive care and being wheeled off for scans is terrifying enough, never mind if there is a prospect that they may become seriously ill or worse. We just sat in waiting rooms and waited. [···]
Holly caught me by surprise a little at bedtime tonight. We had taken her to a local music festival and she’d really enjoyed the music. Then it was a late night and as I tucked her in she said “I don’t ever want you or Daddy to die Mummy”. I explained that we won’t die for a long, long, long, long, long time. She went on to say that she feels very sad and that she really misses Oscar. I said that I felt the same. Then she said: “I feel sad all the time. Even when I am happy and doing fun things I am sad”. Even when it is my birthday I will be sad”. It was such a poignant conversation as that is how David and I feel too.
Today Oscar would have been 18 months old and instead we buried him. Funnily enough it is ten o’clock at night and that’s the first time I had remembered his 18 month birthday today. It’s been a very draining day but it went how we wanted it to go. The sun was shining, it was quiet and peaceful, we carried Oscar’s coffin to the grave ourselves. As DC puts it, at least we are now sleeping under the same sky. [···]
Had an interesting conversation with Holly in the car today. It came, as usual, quite out of the blue:
“How old is Oscar now?”
“He’s 16 months.”
“Yes, but how old is he now?”
“He’s still 16 months, not quite one and a half years”
“so does that mean Oscar won’t grow up Mummy?”
“so when I see him in heaven I will be much older than him?”
“yes, that’s right Hols”
“I will give him a cuddle in heaven. Where will we play?”
“I don’t know you’ll have to ask him when you see him.”
“..and where will we sleep?”
“I’m not sure. But Oscar will know how it all works so he’ll help you out.”
“Maybe we’ll sleep on a cloud!”
… happy conclusion to a perfectly content information gathering conversation
Holly had an amazing day today. Debbie, at nursery, had organised to release some balloons in order for the children to say goodbye to Oscar. Holly was involved throughout the preparation. She blew up the balloons and, with Debbie, explained to the other children what they were doing and why. She was unbelievably composed.
When she got home tonight she asked to write a card to Oscar and wrote the following… it was all done with a cheerful voice but her few words told us exactly where she is at:
I would like you to come back now. I would like to see you in heaven. Thank you for coming to my 3rd birthday party. I would like you to come to my next birthday party, when I am four.
Love from Holly”
Luckily we are told that at Holly’s age she can only manage her sadness in small chunks. So we make sure that we don’t miss anything if she refers to Oscar, and we follow her lead. After a very short conversation she changes the subject and the moment has passed. And then we all live a ‘normal’ life. She has no idea but this is what keeps us sane.
This morning I moved Oscar’s highchair into the garage. It didn’t seem like a big deal as we move chairs around a lot but as I did it tears were streaming. DC tried to arrange the remaining chairs as there was a big gap left behind, but no matter how he rearranged it didn’t work. You could just imagine Oscar’s head spinning around and calling “Daddyyyyy!” It just shows the emptiness in our lives that Oscar has left behind.
In the first couple of days after Oscar died we were really good at sounding positive. We said his life could not have been in vain. We said we had to live, not die. We saw websites and did a tiny amount of reading which made a lot of sense to us. It suggested that you can’t grieve and then return to your old life because that life is gone. But you can treat your new life like a blank sheet of paper and do exactly what you want to do. Be more ‘you’ than you ever were before. It didn’t mean forgetting Oscar. It meant always being a family of four. Always having him there and learning to live with that. [···]