Today marks one year since Oscar died. On the one hand we cannot believe we have survived without him for this long yet on the other hand it’s hard to imagine our old life and how simple that was.
It’s strange to say because I would not wish what we are going through on anybody, and we did not find our life boring before, but it has become much more interesting now. Before Oscar died we might bump into an old friend whom we had not seen in a couple of years and I would have been able to summarise what we’d been up to in 5 minutes maximum. Now, quite apart from the events surrounding losing Oscar, we have so much going on.
In the past twelve months we have founded a charity, welcomed our third child to the world, agreed two areas of need with Oxford’s John Radcliffe Children’s Hospital in order that our fundraising efforts have immediate and wide reaching benefit rather than just being a reaction to a family’s devastating loss. We have run two very large scale fundraising events, raising £10,000 at the first and more than £50,000 at the second. We are beginning to build a network in paediatric health care which enables us to understand where we can have the greatest impact. On the home front, with immeasurable support and care from friends, family and bereavement specialists we have got ourselves and Holly through this first twelve months in one piece and we are embarking on a garden project in memory of Oscar. We have learned about the fragility of life, the brutality of the passing of time, which insists on marching on. We have learned about the depths of our own strengths, the varying capacities of other people to handle what has happened and the unbelievable generosity of others which bears no relation to how well we know one another. We have many friendships which are deeper than they would have otherwise been. In managing our own grief we found that we needed to be open about what it is like, with the hope that this would help others around us to help us. In doing so we have worn our hearts on our sleeves and exposed our own vulnerabilities without apology. I still like the quote which says that grief is not a weakness but a reflection of how much you loved someone. Our love for Oscar was and still is complete, and so our grief for him is similarly all encompassing. Having said that on a day to day basis people would observe us getting on with life and taking a positive view and that is true. If we have to live life without Oscar it may as well be worthwhile. But at the same time I would still describe myself as completely broken hearted. I leant forward to kiss Barney on the cheek this afternoon and as I did so I felt the sensation of kissing Oscar’s cheek for the last time. And at bedtime tonight Holly commented that she and Barney are unlucky because their brother has died and then she went on to describe to Barney what he was missing. Conversations like that are always hard to hear.
Experiences like these happen every single day of our lives. People asking us how many kids we have, how old they are. Music on the radio, watching children of a similar age to Oscar running around, news headlines, memories of what we were doing this time last year….it is constant and uncomfortable to say the least. True enjoyment or happiness no longer exists for us. The best we can do is compartmentalise an experience and enjoy it for what it is. When people have asked us about the recent fundraising weekends and we may have described them as amazing or great. But we don’t mean those words in the way that we used to. That is not to say that we aren’t going to try very hard to be happy; for the sake of ourselves, Holly and Barney. We have every intention to be happy again. It is just difficult to imagine that the happiness could be deep or complete. Living outside of our comfort zone has become the new normal.
This leads on to our thoughts about the money raised via Thinking of Oscar so far. When people hear about the money generated by the charity already most of them are amazed. They think that what we have collectively achieved is remarkable. But we don’t feel that way at all. What price would you put on your child’s head? That’s not to say there’s no satisfaction in that. Raising the funds is critical to us because we are focused on positive outcomes and making a tangible difference to the provision of healthcare to young children, over and above that which is provided by the NHS, and that costs money.
What feels really exciting to David and I are the personal achievements that others have experienced in the process of raising funds for Thinking of Oscar. People being prepared to go outside of their own comfort zones in order to achieve something remarkable or in some cases changing their own lives. We’re not suggesting taking risks or people putting their own lives at stake, but just challenging themselves to do something that they would not otherwise have considered. An automatic response of “but I could never do that” becomes “well maybe I could”. The concept of living life outside of our comfort zones, living life to the full, learning something new will underpin many of our fundraising efforts in the future. We are working on a number of ideas at the moment but welcome any suggestions that you may have. As one of the Thinking of Oscar Triathlon team asked on Sunday “Where is Oscar taking us next?… I’m in!”