I recently discovered this very interesting site called What’s Your Grief?
When I read this post called Sometimes Socks Are Sad I thought about my own ‘sock story’.
Shortly after Leah was diagnosed we received a very generous financial gift from a very dear family friend called Shirley.
Shirley also had blood cancer and had been through a stem cell transplant. She wasn’t financially well off, but she had a very loving heart. She outlived Leah by approximately six months. She is very much missed by all who knew and loved her, but like Leah, she looked forward to the day when she would meet her Lord and Saviour face to face, the one who loved her most of all.
I suggested to Leah that this money be used to purchase items that she would need during her hospital stay in Bristol. Anyone who knows Leah knows that she just loved shopping in Primark.
On one of our trips to Belfast for one of Leah’s many hospital appointments, she and I headed into the centre of Belfast to their massive Primark store. Leah filled our shopping basket with pyjamas, underwear and soft comfy socks.
Bristol has an amazing flagship Primark Store in the former House of Fraser building.
Early on in our time there I was dispatched to this store to buy Leah more of her favourite socks. She called them “popcorn” socks because their texture felt bubbly like popcorn.
During Leah’s time in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit in Bristol, she went to theatre three times to have her Hickman Central Line removed and replaced. Leah was very ill and I always found these times very difficult emotionally.
On each of these occasions Leah had to remove all of her jewelry and wear a hospital gown and cap. The only personal item that she was allowed to wear was her socks. She always wore her ‘popcorn’ socks. The lovely paediatric anaesthetists always commented on her socks and told her how pretty they were.
Even though my heart was breaking, I really appreciated the effort they made to notice the ONE thing about my daughter that represented her individuality. It also represented their efforts to engage with us as fellow human beings.
It was a similar story with Leah’s earrings in the weeks that followed. Chemotherapy hair loss, facial hair growth caused by cyclosporine and hamster cheeks from her steroid therapy, had all changed Leah’s appearance. Yet the hospital staff were always careful to notice and comment positively on her earrings.
Leah had a variety of cute earrings from Claire’s Accessories. I so appreciated the efforts made by the staff to notice that one small way in which Leah could still express her personality – so important, especially for a young person.
Then recently I was in Primark here in town. Without thinking, I wandered down the sock aisle. There I saw them, Leah’s favourite “popcorn” socks, in so many pretty colours.
I held my breath, I fought back the tears. I remembered when Leah was so ill in Bristol, that she couldn’t even swallow her own saliva and I had to assist her with all of her personal care. Every day I put clean socks on her feet. Soft, comfy, colourful socks.
What a privilege it was to be able to care for my daughter and show her my love. I thank God for the health and strength that I experienced throughout Leah’s illness, that I was able to care for her 24/7. Even the chronic migraine that has dogged my existence since childhood, took a backseat during those months.
Someone told me today about a mother who could not cope emotionally when her adult daughter was dying of cancer. Throughout her daughter’s three month hospitalisation that preceeded her death, her mother never once visited her, because she couldn’t deal with the situation emotionally. This person said to me “Vicky, you are blessed, because you are so tuned in to your own emotions, that you were always available to Leah, emotionally and in every other way.”
I agreed with her, I am blessed in that way.
I’m not blessed that my daughter took ill and died.
I’m not blessed that my heart is broken.
I am blessed though, that God created within me, the resources that I needed to care for Leah and show her my love, while she was living.