The last of the firsts06 March 2011
It's been a year since we stepped into any parent's worst nightmare. A rare Saturday off that was meant to be spent with my family exploring our beautiful city turned into our own horror story as I found Jude dead in his cot. So unexpected, out of the blue. So final.
How could a little boy who played around as he ate his dinner and laughed with us the night before be dead? How could we have been talking just the night before about how happy and utterly content we were? And how could we have slept right through his silent death? Surely some kind of motherly instinct kicks in when your child dies in the room next door?
I sometimes think that maybe if I'd never walked down the passage to his room that we could pretend that our little world was still perfect and intact. But as I stepped into Jude's room that morning, we were hurled into a different existence. Heart-pumping adrenalin. Phone calls. Police cars outside. An incompetent policeman. Statements. A detective. A team of orange-suited paramedics stepping over his covered body in the lounge. Friends standing by silently, unbelieving. The irony of waiting for a photographer to arrive. A trauma counsellor sitting with me who said 'Breathe. Just breathe. Don't forget to breathe. All you have to do is breathe.' And it took so much effort just to do that.
Four hours after waking up on our 'normal' day, I watched in disbelief as my son was stuffed into a bodybag and taken to an orange and silver pathology van. I wondered numbly how I would ever survive - to be honest I didn't really want to survive. Everyday the week after Jude's death I swam in the cold Cape Town sea, silently willing the cold Atlantic water to sweep me very very far away.
And here we are now at the last of the firsts, constantly thinking back to this time last year. What if I'd gone grocery shopping somewhere else or not gone to gym on Tuesday? What if I hadn't given him fish for lunch on Friday? What if we'd checked up on him in the middle of the night? Will he still be with us? What if we'd bought a different house in a different suburb? Would this unknown thing that took him out have been lurking around there?
I know that the anticipation is often worse than the actual event and often when you're not anticipating something it knocks the wind out and you and takes you by surprise. But this anticipated first is hard - mimicking the end of summer heat, intensely suffocating, pressing down. Breathe. Just breathe. I know that better days always come after the hard ones. Everything passes.
We've survived one measly little year without our beautiful boy. The thought of the rest of our lives without him sometimes seems so unbearable, like a very dark engulfing space of nothingness. And yet we still have so much to live for. Of course, little Mikaela brings us so much joy already - and it's possible for joy to reside alongside grief and I'm so grateful for that. In amidst it all I know it can always be worse.
I was one of those probably-irritating people who told childless friends that I felt so complete and fulfilled and that life only really really began for me once I'd had Jude and I wondered why we had even waited to have kids it was so awesome. So equallly, I guess the death of a child means that a part of us will never be whole again. And we learn to live with that, with our invisible amputation - but some days a bit more limping than usual is inevitable.
Oh I miss you my Noodle-noo.