Andrew and I are away in Southbourne for three days, dare I say it – supposedly on holiday. It is a wonderful place where I used to come every year as a child with my brother and cousins and where we have brought Skye and Jesse on a number of occasions.
It is not the first time we have been here since Skye died, but despite all the comments saying the ‘firsts’ are the worst hurdles to overcome, it seems to get harder the more we tackle significant events, rather than easier. It has come as a very depressing realisation to Andrew in particular, that now, even during evenings or holidays, when one can expect to switch off from work, health issues and chores, are now some of the most dreaded times of all, as it becomes all too real once again, that there is a deep sense of loss and sadness that hits you right in the stomach, when at other times you can perhaps be distracted by daily life.
Don’t get me wrong, we are trying, we get up, go to the bakers with Jesse in his PJ’s which he finds exciting, play family board games (sometimes with Skye as the fourth player) and go down to the beach. Jesse has been a bit quiet at times, and you can see he is lonely. He is a child who thrives on social interaction and especially looked up to Skye as his best friend, as well as his brother. He recalls how they were going to share a bedroom when he was three and then a flat together when they were “bigger boys”.
After a four hour cycle ride along the promenade yesterday, we both had lots of time to view ‘life’ as we cycled past families playing volley ball, boys learning to ride their bikes, new mums walking like sleepy zombies with their prams, teenagers chilling out and doing the odd skateboarding stunts to impress passers by and grandparents watching the world from the comfort of their deckchairs under the protection of their beach huts. Some of those people will have to face life with few major problems, most will already have stories of sadness unseen on the outside but for all who remain here – life goes on. This begs the burning question that none of us hold the answer to “what is the point of it all?”
Whilst sitting in the flat in the evening unravelling thousands of metres of loom bands, we are either silent, lost and unable to find the energy to string a sentence together, our brains so overloaded with information and emotion that we are mute OR we turn to very philosophical discussions – verbalising the never ending questions over ‘life after death’….
I have not really communicated my deepest thoughts with friends, family or counsellors, as they all want to tackle how to help me, rather than how I might help Skye. I have heard the phrase “it will get better with time” so often and yes, I can see how the worst, vivid memories of watching helpless as your child draws their last breath might fade and one learns to live with the new life that evolves. I don’t expect anyone to ever “get over” or “move on” after the loss of a child but I can see how it might be possible to learn to get used to living with the feelings of loss. What I think everyone seems to have missed, is the fact that these are selfish feelings affecting me and these are not important. The single, most important fact to me is how Skye is now. I can’t see him, I can’t ask him, I don’t know and no one can tell me.
Is he a boy, in heaven being looked after by angels until I die and join him?
Is he a spirit trapped between this world and the next, unable to break away form his family on earth because our bond was so strong, waiting for us to talk to him through a medium? Will he be ‘re-born and live another life, not aware of his old one? Is he now just ‘energy’ fertilising new plants and fuelling the wind and sea, never to be held or seen again but at least, not alone and not suffering? Forever is too long.
I remember one narrative from the Bible, about two women, both claiming they were the mother of a child. After some deliberation, King Solomon called for a sword to be brought before him. He declared that there was only one fair solution: the live son must be split in two, each woman receiving half of the child. Upon hearing this terrible verdict, the boy's true mother cried out, "Oh Lord, give the baby to her, just don't kill him!"
Any mother (or father) would have chosen to sacrifice anything to swap places with their child but of course, none of us can. The single, biggest aspect that haunts me every day is my responsibility to Skye. Neither Andrew, nor I believe for one second that he is “better off” now, whatever one’s beliefs, nature intends for children to reach adulthood. He did not want to die. If there is the smallest of chances that he is still Skye, the boy we all knew on earth, living somewhere else – I should be there with him. If I ever verbalise this, people panic and immediately start finding arguments against why I shouldn’t join him; “you will not get to heaven if you take your own life” – really? So what about the mentally ill who do it – they have a medical illness, surely they are not excluded???
Those who believe in the spiritual world but not necessarily heaven, tell me, if you take your own life, you may have messed with your own natural destiny and may therefore miss the path that would lead you to reconnecting with your child.
For those who believe that once you die, that is it, there would obviously be no point in joining the world of nothingness, as it would never take you on a path of reunion so better to live your life on earth while you have the chance. Maybe this explains why more parents choose to stick around after losing a child rather than joining them?
It is true, that for quite some time after Skye’s death, that I truly felt my place was to be with Skye, not because it would be too hard to live without him, that is selfish, but because Jesse has Andrew and my mum, and Skye has no one. I did not feel that I could offer Jesse a life of happiness, as I so wanted for both of them, and that he would be better off in the long run without me.
I do not currently feel like that, as I realise that Jesse having to come to terms with living without a parent, who has chosen to take their own life and therefore ‘leave’ their child to face life alone is a place no child should ever find themselves in.
So what options does this leave? I am now torn, on a daily basis, with where I should be. I see that Jesse is better off with me around, however rocky the road emotionally, but I have two boys and a responsibility to both. I want to be in both places, however small the chance of actually ever being with Skye again as I knew him.
Andrew was recently diagnosed with cancer himself and my first thought was that if one of us died then at least Skye would have someone with him he knows. This sounds a dreadful thought I know, but I honestly don’t think either of us will find peace until that happens. Andrew even said himself when he told me his diagnosis “well it’s hardly a brain tumour is it?” We both care passionately and wholeheartedly about the Charity’s purpose, but personally, feel so little emotion about our own existence.
As parents, we are responsible for our children until they can fend for themselves and even then of course, we don’t stop looking out for them. After watching Frozen for the hundredth time, Jesse said “Skye is an orphan now like Elsa and Anna as he doesn’t have a mummy and daddy anymore”. Of course I answered his comments bravely and tried to come up with an answer, which was both comforting yet not hypocritical. I have to say though, there is something in what he said which I find mimicking my own private thoughts and is a truly horrid place to be.
I can honestly say that I envy people with a faith, be it religious, spiritual, or scientific because then you know where you stand. I have never truly quite known what I feel. Skye believed in God because he was fascinated by the stories and because he was indoctrinated by us as the all-powerful parents, feeding his mind with what we wanted him to learn, and my goodness did we pray with all our hearts that he would get better. Whilst I think this is an extremely comforting concept, what makes Christianity right and Buddhism and Islamic beliefs wrong? There are so many intelligent people who are wholeheartedly committed to religion so one starts to think – well maybe there must be some truth in it, but then everyone believes their religion is the right one and of course they are all so contradictory, it destroys faith in any of it. The scientific approach has the least loopholes but even that concept is left with a black hole when you wonder how life all began. In the natural world, there is almost always a point to everything that happens, so why should there not be a point to existence at all?
This post does not have the usual positive slant that we all crave, that something good can come out of a terrible situation. Just a series of questions with no real answers. Of course Andrew and I are grateful that we can make a significant difference to the outcome for children in the future who are faced with Cancer but for us, and most importantly Skye, there is no ‘bright side’, no ‘at least’ and no ‘real hope of true happiness’ ever again. That is just a fact, however hard to deal with. It is what it is. We will always be sad, but we will try to make the most of what we’ve got. I in no way intend to offend anyone with what I have said and respect everyone’s beliefs. We have always been honest and tried to shed a little light on how we are truly feeling at any given time. Please don’t stop walking with us through these grey times because it makes difficult reading, we need you all more than ever.
If you are reading this and are not faced with the questions we are, then be grateful, get out there, be good people, help others and make the most of what you’ve got!