Six Years On

Six Years On


Every year I take the day of the anniversary of Leah’s death off work (annual leave). In the early days, I used to save up my holidays and take the whole week off, as I used to be totally incapable of functioning around this time. Thankfully I am now able to focus on my work on the days leading up to Leah’s anniversary, although every day I am of course very aware of what I was doing at this time in 2014.


I decided to take out Leah’s Youth Bible (the one she used most) and have a look through it. As soon as I opened it I noticed that she had cut out her daily devotional  reading for Thursday 31st January 2013, laminated it and tucked it inside the front cover of her Bible. By the end of January 2013, Leah was having weekly blood tests at our GP surgery and had already had her first appointment at the Sperrin Unit; the Haematology/Oncology department at our local hospital. While we were in the Sperrin Unit Waiting Area, waiting to be called into that first appointment, I was devastated when a young nurse bounced up to us and casually asked us if we were waiting on chemotherapy. I was already very uncomfortable with the fact that our fifteen-year-old daughter had to attend an Outpatients appointment at the Haematology/Oncology Unit in the first place, but this suggestion/implication that our teenage daughter, who was so vibrant and full of life, could possibly be ill enough to ever require chemo, was more than I could bear to contemplate. Leah, however, took it all in her stride and chatted away cheerfully to the lovely Clinical Nurse Specialist who subsequently attended to us.

Anyway, I have digressed; the piece that Leah had cut out and laminated is entitled ‘No Accident’ and I thought that I would transcribe it here as it’s very good and I can see why Leah liked it:

 Marianne Williamson said “Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.” Families, friends and life experiences can create fears and limitations that hold us back. We go about life doing the best we can in this messy mixed-up world in which we live, but if we’re not careful we can allow these fears to take over.

We can live by the labels put on us by others: ‘not good enough, not up to the task, never make it, won’t succeed:’ we label ourselves; ‘useless, worthless, a mistake.’ These labels can cause us to live believing we don’t matter, our life is irrelevant and unimportant even unwanted. Nothing could be further from the truth.

God doesn’t make mistakes. You’re not here by accident! You ‘are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He has planned for us long ago.’ (Ephesians 2:10) “I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) 

Don’t live a life of fear, receive God’s confident guaranteed hope for your life; He promises ‘Everything I plan will come to pass…’

Shake off your labels. Take time to think about what you believe about yourself. Are you walking around with negative labels attached to you? Look today at what labels God gives you in Psalm 139:14

Following this, I looked up Psalm 139:14 in Leah’s Bible. As I expected that they would be, these lovely verses were underlined. It gives me great comfort to think about these particular verses being special to Leah. Psalm 139 has long been one of my favourite psalms too.

Leahs Bible Psalm139

Shortly after Leah was diagnosed she told us “God has a plan for my life, we need to see the bigger picture.” Leah did not say this lightly, Leah was fully informed about the seriousness of her illness and the possibility that she might not recover from it. She struggled with many aspects of her illness, such as the loneliness and social isolation of long weeks spent being nursed in isolation, and the horrendous side-effects from her intense chemo treatment, but she sought daily to trust God through it all and she didn’t fear death.

I remember so vividly one of the occasions when Leah was critically ill on a ventilator in ICU and the doctors weren’t sure that she would survive the next 24 hours: I played “Our God is a Great Big God” on her iPad. Leah was too ill to even open her eyes but her face lit up in a big smile and her hands (despite being attached to various monitors) did all the actions (every single one) to this song – because Leah’s God truly is a great, big God.

Batman and Tinkerbell

Batman and Tinkerbell


Yesterday I went to Caiden’s wake in Ballymena.

There he was, lying on his bed, dressed in his Batman suit.

The last time I met Caiden he looked very unwell. Now he looked so perfect. His silky black hair had grown back. His skin was clear like porcelain. His facial expression was so peaceful.

For Caiden there will be no more chemotherapy or radiotherapy, no more graft vs host disease, no more special diets, no more oxygen cannulas, central lines and nasogastric tubes, no more pain.

For Caiden’s mum, dad, sister, Granda, aunts, uncles, extended family & friends, there is grief and heartache. Grief is the pain that goes on hurting.

For those who loved Caiden there will be forever a Caiden shaped hole in their hearts and in their lives.

I woke this morning feeling surprisingly strong. As I prepared to go to work, my daily Bible readings brought me comfort.

However as I drove down the road I noticed two little girls in fancy dress waiting on the school bus. In front of them was a proud Granda taking photographs of them.

That’s when my emotional floodgates opened and my heart just broke afresh.

I thought of Caiden lying so peaceful and so still in his Batman outfit.

I remembered my own little girl, once six years old, innocently climbing the steps of the school bus dressed as Tinkerbell, hair in two plaits, looking as cute as can be.


Leah just loved to dress up, mostly as a princess. When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, her answer as a little girl invariably used to be “a princess”.

I corrected her one day and said “But Leah you have to work at something.” She immediately replied “No mummy, princesses don’t work.” I couldn’t answer that one.


As a teenager one of Leah’s favourite books was one that describes our relationship with God as that of a princess with a king – His Princess Girl Talk with God: Love Letters and Devotions for Young Women by Sheri Rose Shepherd.


Leah used to photocopy her favourite pages from this book and stick them into a notebook in which she recorded verses and sayings that encouraged her. Here’s an excerpt from Leah’s notebook:



Somehow, our little girl was right – she never did grow up to work at paid employment.

At the age of 16 she became a forever princess, worshipping the King of Kings.