Closure, what is that?

“Closure” – noun

  • a feeling that an emotional or traumatic experience has been resolved.

Amongst other more trivial definitions, this is the word that is commonly used when a non-bereaved person has no idea what to say to you. At least after the funeral you might get some closure, when the inquest has finished it should give you some closure, when you have received an apology from those that failed your son, you will get some closure. Erm, no. As it says above, closure refers to the resolution of an emotional or traumatic experience. Losing a child, losing William will always leave a gaping chasm in my life that can never be resolved, fixed or even emotionally explained away. The only way to resolve my profound hurt, is for William to be alive.

The last few weeks have been a real whirlwind, what you have seen in the news, the news papers, on the internet is a representation of the way my mind is bubbling all the time. It is everything that I have been hoarding in my brain for the last 14 months, and only a small proportion of it came out in one day. It was emotionally charged and overwhelming, something that I knew I had to do. A double-edged sword. I didn’t want to be there, but I did. I didn’t want to see William’s beautiful smiling face on the TV, but I did. The most unusual bittersweet sense of pride one can feel. I didn’t want to talk about what happened to William, there’s no getting round it, and having to revisit the most traumatic day and subsequent days of my life on repeat was a difficult task to endure. But it was a sacrifice. A sacrifice I made to see my pint-sized William make a difference. And what a difference he made.

As I sit here now, finally able to sit and write, the emotions that inhibit my body, from the pit of my stomach, the waves roll through my chest, my jaw clenches as the tears flow. I have barely cried these last few weeks, well, that’s not entirely the truth, I cry everyday, I cry in the morning, some days I am already crying when I wake up. I cry in the shower, in the car, at my desk whilst writing a memo. But, I haven’t cried so loud in the shower when no-one can hear me, I haven’t cried so hard I couldn’t focus and had to stop the car. I haven’t allowed my body to let go, to heave and purge the compressed tension that sits in my soul. Initially after the media frenzy I was simply so exhausted I would just sit and stare, and then I got scared, so scared that I held it in, knowing that when it came I would not be able to control it.

But today was that day, today I opened an attachment on an email, ‘re: William Oscar Mead, Deceased’, deceased. My son is deceased. My son, my only child, my everything is dead. It is so very easy to somehow objectify your actions, to travel to London, to go on the television and talk about the failings in William’s care, so easy to talk about what needs to happen, what needs to change, to educate people and help to raise awareness of sepsis. But I did that, because my little William knows what it’s like to die, my son shouldn’t know that, and no matter how much positivity you harness, how much you empower parents, and how much awareness you raise of the catastrophic condition that took our little boys life, William is still not here. We still came back to an empty home, no mess, no toys strewn on the floor, no laughter and contagious smiles. Nothing. No William.

You get to a point, and I’m at that point where people don’t approach you with caution, people no longer ask you how you are, with a sympathetic look, worried for the answer they’ll receive. No, now, there is an expectation that when people see you that you are okay. They will ask you how your weekend was, they will engage you in conversation, or as I like to put it, small talk. My tolerance levels are no better than they were six months ago. My tolerance levels are worse, I have just become a seasoned pro at wearing the mask. When you ask me how my weekend was, it was shit. Just like every other weekend. It was shit because on Friday after work I didn’t pick William up from nursery, I didn’t flop onto the sofa with a glass of wine when William had finally succumbed to sleep. It was shit because my weekend didn’t involve trips to the park, 25 loads of washing, chasing round after a cheeky two-year old, packing him into the car with ‘plans’. I will tell you it was ‘okay’, because I can no longer be bothered to explain, people no longer really want to hear it, people are busy with their own lives, people’s lives have moved on, albeit tinged with sadness but nonetheless, their lives have evolved.

My mental health has not moved on, it has not evolved. I am no longer preparing for an inquest, I am no longer bracing myself for the next version of the NHSE report, no, I know what happened to William, although I’ve known for months, however, it is not something that I felt able or inclined to speak about publicly. We’ve had every apology we can possibly have, the doctors involved in the failings in William’s care have apologised, face to face, last week. South Western Ambulance Service (111) apologised last year. NHSE have apologised, and now Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, stood in Parliament and apologised on behalf of the NHS and the Government (see video below). But, where is William? It doesn’t bring my little boy back, it doesn’t take away the suffering he endured in those last few months, and in those last 36 hours, it doesn’t take away the guilt I feel, the blame I impose on myself, probably a form of self-harm. Control perhaps. I know it’s not my fault, I did everything I could, I sought help, I listened, I followed advice, I didn’t know what sepsis was, I didn’t know that William’s symptoms were life-threatening. But regardless it was me who took him to the people who failed my son, me. The one person that has ultimate responsibility for my son, he trusted me to protect him, trusted me to make the right decisions for him, he trusted me with his life, and as his mother I wasn’t able to do it. I was let down, let down by people and systems that are designed and are in place to help people, but until I take my last breath, the buck stops with me. No amount of changes, recommendations, lives saved, and sorry’s will ever stop me feeling that.

If you’ve ever faced a tragedy and someone tells you in any way, shape or form that your tragedy was meant to be, that it happened for a reason, that it will make you a better person, or that somehow when responsibility is taken for it, it will fix it. They are lying. Grief in all it’s forms is brutally painful. People encounter grief in many ways, when relationships fall apart, you grieve. When dreams die, you grieve. When illnesses destroy you, you grieve. These are words that I’ve uttered countless times; words that are powerful and honest they remove the foundations of anyone participating in the debasing of the grieving. Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.

This video is the link to the apology William received in Parliament, if you would like to watch.

You were only one, but….

…Your smile was the most captivating I have ever seen.
…Your smile made me smile.
…Your eyes came alive when you smiled.
…Your eyes were full of love and trust.
…Your eyes emanated the true depth of beauty.
…Your eyes made mummy’s eyes leak.
…Your little face made mummy’s heart burst under the pressure of love.
…Your presence allowed mummy to feel entirely at ease with the world.
…Mummy is entirely in love with you.
…Giving birth to you defined me.
…When you arrived my soul was purged of any hurt.
…You fixed me and were the glue that held mummy together.
…When I cuddled you, you made everything ok.
…You gave me moments I wanted to freeze in time.
…You gave me ten little fingers and ten little toes that mummy could count.
…You gave mummy a cute button nose that she could ‘beep, beep’.
…You allowed me to sit up to the wee hours and watch you sleep.
…You were that little baby my arms had longed to cradle.
…You always kept your hat and gloves on like a good boy.
…You had already decided you didn’t like broccoli.
…You knew how to be perfectly cheeky.
…You allowed mummy to act silly.
…You were the little person I could make up silly nicknames for.
…I have never giggled so much as when we were together.
…You had mummy wrapped around you chubby little finger.
…Being wrapped round your chubby little finger was the best place to be.
…We had our very own family meal (with no broccoli).
…When you learnt something new, mummy would feel nothing but accomplishment.
…You taught me how to be patient.
…You taught me that the little things are the things that matter.
…You taught mummy not to be selfish.
…You made mummy realise that she is a good mummy.
…You gave mummy the best job.
…You taught me what it is to love unconditionally.
…You showed me what pure and unguarded love is.
…You taught me a kind of love that has no boundaries, that is limitless and endless.
…Mummy knew she would never be alone.
…Mummy has never worried about anything as much as she worried about you.
…You are the beat in my heart and the pulse in my veins.
…Losing you has given me courage that I never thought I had.
…Your life and your existence taught me endurance to continue.
…Losing you has made mummy feel agonising pain and heartache.
…Losing you has made mummy very forgiving and compassionate of others.
…Losing you changed me.
…Losing you has destroyed me.
…You are the reason I love and the reason I’d die.

When mummy looked at YOU she knew that she had got one thing absolutely perfect.

Your death sparked feelings I never knew existed;
and I want YOU; not feelings about you.

The most Harrowing and Ultimate Goodbye

“The days will always be brighter,
because you existed.
The nights will always be darker,
because you are gone.”

This time last year was the worst journey I made of my life, the journey to visit you for the last time, knowing it really was the very last time. Knowing that later that day your forever bed would be sealed, never to be opened again. As your family arrived to see you, I carefully lifted your fragile and broken little body from your bed and cradled you, rocking you backwards and forwards, treasuring what would be my last few moments with you. All eyes were on you, waiting for God to undo it, all watching you, waiting, waiting for a miracle. That miracle never arrived. So as your family kissed your tiny beautiful fluffy hair for the last time, their tears like a leaking faucet landing on your skin, they said goodbye, goodbye William. Then it was just mummy and daddy. Mummy stood holding you, the need to rock you to sleep long gone, but mummy did it anyway, still instinct, those rocking motions part of mummy’s being, part of what mummy is for, to soothe you, to comfort you, to make it better. But, mummy could no longer make this better, the primal screams from mummy’s body gone from the day you left, replaced only by muted sounds. Daddy pulled us in to a big daddy bear hug, his arms wrapped around mummy, you our baby tucked safely between us, for the last time, for the last time ever, we stood as a unit, as a family, for the last time ever we stood there completely whole, we were one. We were us, we were three. We cried for you, we cried for us, we cried over you, haunted forever by this defining moment. Daddy loosened his grip, he placed his hand on your head, left a lingering kiss on your forehead and he told you that he loved you pickle. Then he left.

It was just me and you. Me and my baby, my baby and I, William and Melissa, mother and son. Just us. I returned to the seat, I drank you in, after nearly four weeks, your beautiful pink plump skin was starting to give in to nature, a purplish, grey hue, but you were beautiful, your long dark eyelashes extending from eyes that mummy would never see again. Mummy traced her finger down your perfect button nose, taking in the contours of your lips, little lips that hid your first teeth. The glitter in your ear catching the light, mummy had asked the pathologist not to wash you, you needed to still be you, still needed to have that silky soft hair, and you still needed to have glitter in your ear from the little Christmas tree that you made mummy and daddy two days before you went to Heaven. As I sat there, holding you, my mind could not accept that you would not wake up. You were so peaceful, I expected you to scrunch your little face up any moment, kissing goodbye to milky floating dreams and coming back to reality, but it didn’t happen, you remained still, you remained silent, mummy remained broken, just like you.

I hadn’t really thought about what I would say to you that day. I just begged, I begged and pleaded with you to wake up. “Please sweetheart, please wake up, mummy’s here. Mummy loves you so much, please little man, please.” But you didn’t, my chest heaving with every breath, my heart aching with every beat, the pain palpable. “I’m so sorry sweetheart, I’m so sorry that I couldn’t protect you, that I couldn’t save you, I’m so sorry that it’s you and not me, sweetheart I love you so much, I love you, please, baby.” But no matter what I said you didn’t move, there was no sharp intake of breath where you woke me up from this wretched nightmare. I had to say goodbye, I had to put you down for the last time. I knew my time was limited, your funeral approaching, I knew that at some point it would be the last time I touched your foot, stroked your cheek, ran my fingers through your hair, held you and kissed you. I knew that in a matter of moments I would see you for the last time, ever. I wanted to open the door and run away, run down the country lane with the wind in our hair, I wanted to keep on running and never stop, to never be apart from you, for them not to take you from me, but I couldn’t. So, with the heaviest heart, and the hardest footsteps I rose and made my way over to your coffin, but I couldn’t do it, under the weight of the world I sunk to the floor and I could barely catch my breath as I tried to talk to you. My beautiful little miracle baby, the sweetest natured little boy, the most angelic and perfect little man this world would ever see was gone. I stroked your cheek one last time, I gently rubbed my thumbs over your eyes, I ran my fingers through your hair, I cupped your head in my hand and bought your head towards my face, as my lips met your forehead I kissed you, a mother’s fingerprint on her child’s skin. I squeezed you so tight and inhaled your sweet scent for one last time, and with the most agony I have ever felt I stood and I gently placed you in your forever bed. Never to hold you again.

Your legs naturally crossed, mummy placed a photo of mummy and daddy on your chest, your arms hugging it close. We were going with you wherever you went. You looked so peaceful in your beautiful satin white coffin, like you would wake at any moment, but I knew you wouldn’t. I just wanted to curl up in the coffin with you and die, our arms forever intertwined, our bond inextricably woven, untouchable. Just me and you. But I couldn’t. Your little coffin only 30 inches long. There was no room for mummy. I took one step back and just looked at you, this was never meant to be, a sight I could never have imagined I would ever witness. I came closer, I knew it was time, I had asked them to give me a time limit, knowing I would never leave you given the chance. I felt you chubby little foot in my palm, I allowed the shape of your legs to lead my hand up over your body, taking in your little legs, the little legs that had just taken their first steps, over your little belly, and down your arms to your hands. I placed your hand on mine, finger to finger, fingerprint to fingerprint, your little nails, perfectly formed, I placed your hand on my cheek one last time, I placed my hand on top of yours and felt your delicate touch against my face, if I close my eyes now, I can feel you, I can feel your touch and your tiny little fingers pressing on my cheek. I placed your hand over the photo and for one last time I leaned over and I placed my cheek on yours, I put my arm under your shoulder and I hugged you tight, my hand on your left cheek holding us together in unity, as one, as we had started out, our life as one, in one body, death had broken you, it had broken me but it would not break US. I removed my arm and I held your head in my hands, our noses touching, I kissed your lips, I kissed your cheeks and you little button nose, then I planted a kiss on your forehead. As I held your head to my lips, tears streaming down my face onto yours, I knew this was it. I had to let you sleep. I had to let you go. So, mummy made you comfortable, she straightened your hair out, tucked you in to your little blanket, “I’m so sorry baby, I’m just so so sorry, please don’t blame me. I love you, I love you so much, my boy, my everything, my life, I miss you, I’m just so sorry my darling boy. Goodnight sweet William, I love you, mummy loves you.” One gentle kiss on your head, the last kiss, I reached my hands up and I closed the heaviest object I would ever encounter, the lid to your coffin, I had to do it, it had to be me, I had to be the last one that would ever see you. The lid closed and I stepped back and I just stood and looked, I wept with every fiber of my being, knowing you were in there but I couldn’t see you, I would never see you again, I slowly stepped backwards out of the room, my eyes not leaving you, my hand found the light switch and with one movement the light was extinguished. I opened the door, still not taking my eyes away from you. I circled out of the door and stood for what felt like a lifetime, and slowly I closed the door, the door to my life. My family didn’t say anything to me, I didn’t say anything to them, I walked out. At that point I knew what giving up felt like, at that point I gave up. There would be no miracle, God would not be undoing this, you would not be waking up. Life had gone to far this time. I got in the back of the car, and I was driven away from you. Never to see you, touch you, feel you, smell you or kiss you ever again.

I sat in your bedroom when I could see the hearse creeping up the road, I could see your name in the most beautiful white flowers, I ran down the stairs and stood at the front door as I saw you being driven past, the hearse dwarfed your tiny little bed. I made my way down to the road and waited for the car to turn around and come back. Mummy had requested a car that mummy and daddy could sit in with you and take your last journey together. I climbed into the hearse and I pressed my hand on your bed, like somehow the harder I pressed I would somehow feel your baby-soft skin again. I did not take my hand off your bed the entire way. It was a slow journey, not too far, but far enough. After we arrived I could see people’s faces, your tiny coffin clearly making a devastating impact on everyone. Your flowers were removed, WILLIAM and GRUMPUS taken into the crematorium, followed by a pillow and a little reindeer, your favourite and two red roses from mummy and daddy. It was time. For the last time. I carried the heaviest thing a mother can ever carry down the longest aisle I have ever had to walk. It was time to say goodbye, but it wasn’t goodbye, not for me, for me it was “Goodnight sweetheart, I love you, see you soon.”

Your last journey xx Your last journey xx

Happy Birthday Daddy

The Untouchable Bond

The Untouchable Bond

Dear Daddy,

Daddy, I missed you as I watched you get up early after not sleeping very well this morning. I saw you opening my curtains, I was right there with you as I always do, resting on your shoulder, hoping that I won’t just be part of your imagination but be right there, be very real. You can’t see me, but I can see you. I saw you pick up your birthday card. I watched you going out when the temperature is barely above freezing. I’m with you in your van. Bumbling along. I wish you could see me. I love going for rides in your van. I watch you dip you little biscuits in your cup of tea and wish so much that I could have one, but you always eat them all. Mummy taught me that it was good to share, save me a biscuit daddy?

You see daddy, the moments we share now are moments that we can only imagine, moments that we dream of, moments we play out in our head. Like you do, you imagine me running around and chasing after you, I imagine that too. Sometimes when you get up to walk in the kitchen, I follow you, just to see where you’re going. There’s no stair gate anymore to keep me out of danger, I follow you, as you get a drink out of the fridge, I can see the dustpan and brush I used to play with. I secretly know now that you bought an extra one so I could play with it, but now it just sits there.

I can feel it daddy, I can feel that something is missing, I know that is me. Our home is not full of laughter and smiles like it used to be. My toys aren’t littered all over the floor, the washing machine isn’t constantly on, and you always leave the house on time. Now you can put you cup down on the table, that makes me sad, and I know it makes you sad, silly little things that you couldn’t do when I was with you. You know I would have put my hand in your drink, you would have laughed, and I thought it was funny so I would do it again. All the little things that have changed since I came to heaven.

Like you miss me, I miss you daddy. There is no-one that chases me round and round the coffee table. There is no-one that follows me up the stairs, teaching me to climb. There is no-one that is as comforting as you to lift me out of my bed in the mornings. There is no-one that has the patience like you, to re-build my train track when I’ve been busy putting it back in its box for the tenth time. There’s no-one that finds it funny when I post all the ball pool balls through the stair gate to make the kitchen into a giant ball pit. There is no-one to teach me how to high-five. There is no-one that is like my daddy, there is no-one that I love more than my daddy, and although I don’t do those things anymore, it isn’t because I don’t want to, it’s because I’m busy following you around. I’m busy learning, I’m busy learning to be just like my daddy, so that when we meet again, you will be proud of me, just as I am of you. So although I’m not there, imagine me climbing on your lap and giving you the biggest cuddle of them all, because that’s what I’ll be doing. Making sure that my arms are wrapped around you on your birthday, just as they will be every day. My daddy, my hero. I love you daddy, happy birthday, see you this evening in your dreams xxx

My Hero, My Dad
If you took the warmth of the sun,
The calm of the sea.
The strength of a mountain,
The magnificence of a tree.
The wisdom of ages,
The power of Eagle’s flight.
The generous soul of nature,
The comforting arm of night.
The joy of a mountain spring,
The faith of an evening breeze.
The patience of eternity,
The depth of a family need.
If you combined all of these qualities,
When there was nothing more to add.
You would finally have your masterpiece complete,
And so, this is who I call….Dad

I love you daddy, love your little pickle xxxxx

Was that you in the hospital?

As I imagine what you would be doing today sweetheart. I ponder not just what you would be doing today, but tomorrow, and in your future, a future that has been snatched away. I try to explain to people that I will never know what you would have been like when you were a young child, a teenager, or when you were a man.

I knew only the baby and toddler that I was blessed with for 382 days. I will never get to hear you say ‘mummy I love you’, ‘mummy can I have a biscuit’, ‘mummy please can I stay up 5 minutes longer’. All the conversations I dreamt of having, the conversations I had already played out in my head. I couldn’t wait for the ‘why?’ conversations. Don’t touch that, why? Please sit still, why? Please put your shoes and socks on, why? Vegetables are good for you, why? And so the conversation’s would go round in one very long, repetitive circle, but I couldn’t wait. The anticipation of your first day at school and taking the first photo of you in your school uniform. I couldn’t wait to sit up into the small hours making an outfit for your first Nativity play, to watch you from the audience in your big shepherd debut or maybe even Joseph. I often wondered whether you would enjoy sports, would you prefer to get muddy playing football, or would you prefer to sit and spend your hours playing the guitar or reading a book. Can you remember our little conversations in the car as we would drive past the rugby club, I would say to you, that’ll be mummy in a few years, standing in the freezing cold in the rain on the sideline, cheering you on. I imagined myself having to collect you down the road from the cinema, because I would embarrass you on your first date with your first girlfriend if I picked you up right outside. I couldn’t wait to see you blossom.

When I came to collect you from nursery I would sneak in the front door, without you noticing me. I would watch you, watch you interacting with the other children. Watch you give your toy to the curly-haired girl next to you, babbling something as you did it. To be a witness to you becoming your own little person filled me with so much pride. I just wanted to shout to everyone, ‘that’s my little boy’. This was one of many times in a day that I would pay a penny for your thoughts. The nursery told me that you would sit and observe the other children playing patiently, and when you were ready you would crawl over and join in. Pick up the toys and ‘talk’ to the other kiddies. Then when you were finished you would put your toy down, crawl away and resume your watching. I marveled at your innocence, your intelligence, I was overwhelmed that you were mine. Overwhelmed that I was the lucky mummy collecting you from nursery. The most fortunate person to have had you all to myself for 9 months to then feel the exhilaration  of what giving birth to you felt like, to give you life, to feed you, to watch you fall asleep in my arms, knowing that I was living the dream. I would pinch myself daily, thinking it was a dream, the most magical dream. I always thought you were too good to be true.

Every day I look for signs that you are here, signs that you are letting me know that you’re okay, signs that you’re comforting me to let me know ‘it’s’ okay; but the truth is sweetheart, I don’t. ‘It’s’ not okay, none of it is, it never will be. I don’t hear, see or feel signs, perhaps because I won’t allow myself to be receptive to them, maybe they are there but I don’t interpret them. I have an enormous sense that acknowledging signs is accepting that you are gone, accepting that the only way we will be together in this life is the feeling I get from seeing a falling feather, hearing a song on the radio or a rainbow when I’m crying on the way to work.

There is only one time in the 262 days you have been gone, that I felt you with me. I had just been admitted to hospital, your daddy had gone home, he wasn’t allowed onto the wards. I was waiting in the communal area, I wasn’t allowed to go in to my room because the nurses had to check my things first. I was totally alone, loneliness had come knocking a long time ago. As I sat and waited I had never felt so afraid, afraid of this place, afraid of the way I was feeling and afraid of life without you. As I sat there, as clear as anything I heard someone say ‘It’s okay mummy, it’s okay.’ It was so clear, I spun around to see who said it, but there was no-one there, only the little old lady talking to herself in front of me. Was that you? Was that you letting your mummy know that you were watching over me? I like to believe it was.

I spend every day living life perpetually on the edge. Hanging over, feeling the rush of energy surging through my body, the wind taking my breath away, the desire so strong to let go and fall, tumbling through the air, I can feel the relief as I sit here and write this. Why don’t I let go? The weakest of links hold me in place as I seek to find answers for you. I must see that through. For now I am holding on with my fingertips, teetering on the edge, my voice the only outlet I have, my love totally consumed by grief. In the meantime I am without meaning, I am without you, signs or no signs. I am homesick.