The 2014 Calendar

The 2014 Calendar

In October 2013 when Leah and I were packing to leave Bristol, one of the families that we had become close to gifted us a 2014 calendar containing beautiful colour pictures of Bristol. During our fourteen weeks there, I had fallen in love with Bristol – well, as much of it as I had seen anyway. I really appreciated this thoughtful gift, as well as their friendship.

Bristol Calendar

A place of honour was found on the walls of our new home for this picturesque calendar. However, January 2014, the first month in that calendar, sadly brought with it the death of our beautiful daughter Leah.

Leah in a hat 2012

We never discovered what beautiful scenes of Bristol were displayed alongside the other months, because to this day that calendar remains open on January 2014, still hanging on our wall, frozen in time.

January 2014

To my knowledge this was not a conscious decision on anybody’s part, nor do I recall us ever discussing this as a family. It just is. Other calendars get turned over monthly and removed at the end of the year. When the time is right this calendar will come down too, just not yet.

Next month I will fly to Bristol with the one who hasn’t returned there since donating his bone marrow in the hope of saving his sister’s life.

Leahs study area
Leah’s study area

We are going there for the University  Open Day as he has expressed an interest in studying there next year. I’m quite familiar with the university quarter of Bristol: Sam’s House where Leah and I stayed when she wasn’t in hospital is adjacent to some of the university buildings. While Leah was busy studying for her GCSE’s at the study area that she had set up in our bedroom, I used to occupy myself with going for walks around the local area.

Although my children are grieving, their lives are going on and moving forward and that is just how it should be. Leah would never have wanted it any other way. Our eldest moved to live and work in England last week. We miss her but I’m just so proud of her. The day that she left N. Ireland I received lots of supportive messages from friends, which I really appreciated. One of the most encouraging messages that I received was this one:

Well done that, in spite of all your family have been through, you have raised a girl with an adventurous, independent spirit which you are nurturing. There will always be a part of her that will never leave home. Bon voyage.

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The Memory Box

The Memory Box

 

Our eldest daughter Rachel left and Leah middle with their daddy, December 2012.
Our eldest daughter Rachel on the left and Leah in the middle with their daddy, December 2011

Before Leah left home in N. Ireland to go to Bristol Children’s Hospital for her bone marrow transplant, she gave personalised gifts to some of the people closest to her.

For her daddy she made a memory box.

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For Christmas 2011 she had gifted him a “Daddy and daughter day out” promise.

Then they spent this day together by first going to church at the Vineyard in Coleraine.

Afterwards they had a picnic in the beautiful seaside resort of Portstewart in the Summer of 2012.

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On the Monday night of the 14th July 2013 I took Leah and her boyfriend Nic and her cousin Deborah to the Youth Night at the Portstewart Convention.

When this had ended Leah informed me that they were walking down to the harbour. I was chatting to friends – nothing new there – and when I finally went looking for Leah, Nic and Deborah, they were nowhere to be found!

I tried all of their mobile phones and nobody answered. It was late at night and pitch dark. My daughter had a life threatening illness and I was supposed to be a responsible parent – I started to feel very anxious.

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After what seemed like way too long, they reappeared around the coastal path, with Leah brandishing a jam jar full of sand.

She’d insisted on walking a considerable distance in the dark, until they reached the exact beach where she and her daddy had walked together the previous year.

There she filled up the jar that she had brought with her and that I had known nothing about. This jar was labelled and put into the Memory Box.

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The remainder of the box contained other bits and pieces that she had bought for her daddy.

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Leah left the memory box for Horace when we departed on Sunday 21st July ’13 with a note for him to not open it until he and Simon returned from Bristol on the Wednesday.

Horace was accompanying Simon to and from Bristol to have his bone marrow harvested and frozen until Leah would be ready to receive it.

Leah made a card for Simon and left a gift for him too.

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The bar of whole nut chocolate now sits on my husband’s dressing table, still in it’s wrapper – too sacred to be eaten.

How precious each of these items, so lovingly chosen, now seem.