Grieving the loss of a child doesn’t end after a year, two years or even after eight years. Leah’s absence is everywhere I turn. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss her presence in the life of our family. I will continue to be a mum of four, even though one of the four is no longer on this earth.
Although I miss Leah every day, some days are harder than others: her birthday, her anniversary, my birthday, Christmas, Mother’s Day, family weddings, special family events and get-togethers. It matters to me that Leah continues to be included in our family events. Our youngest turned 18 last year. As part of her birthday celebrations, she and I went together to get our first tattoos – we each got one in memory of Leah.
Today is my 60th birthday. As part of my birthday celebrations, I had my hair dyed purple to raise much-needed funds for the (NI) Children’s Hospice.
On the 16th of January 2014, Leah died in peace and dignity at the (NI) Children’s Hospice, surrounded by love. Leah can’t be here today to celebrate my birthday but I know that she would totally approve of how I’m celebrating it; Leah loved children and she had a heart of compassion, especially for children and young people who face additional challenges in life.
Thankfully, due to the incredible generosity of so many people, I have exceeded the target that I initially set for my fundraising appeal. However, if anyone hasn’t already contributed and has the financial means to do so, the fundraising appeal is still open at JustGiving.
After 60 years of living I can say with certainty what matters most to me in life: relationships. My greatest joy comes from spending time with those I love ~ God, family, friends. Thankfully 2022 has been very kind to me so far with regards to this.
At work yesterday I encountered somebody who looked vaguely familiar. I looked at her for a minute, then I asked “Do we know each other – have we met before?”
She thought for a minute, then she replied by asking “Are you Leah’s mum?” I smiled and said “Yes I am.” There was no trace of embarrassment on her part and no tears or display of emotion on mine. We didn’t even go on to discuss Leah, we identified a situation (non illness related) in which our paths had crossed before, then we talked about other work related matters.
However, for me it was a very special moment and my heart was warmed. This woman gave me that opportunity – so rare nowadays – to say out loud “Yes, I’m Leah’s mum”, and it meant so much.
When I phone the High School for some reason, or go to Parent Teacher meetings, I regularly introduce myself as “Miriam’s mum“; at the Grammar School I introduce myself as “Simon’s mum” and when I happen across former school friends of my eldest, I become “Rachel’s mum“. Sadly I rarely have opportunities to identify myself as “Leah’s mum” anymore.
Nine months after Leah died, shortly after I had returned to work in the Health Service, I was being introduced to a work colleague whom I hadn’t met before. The colleague who was introducing me momentarily forgot my name and inadvertently introduced me with the words “This is Leah’s mummy.” The person I was being introduced to immediately showed recognition and greeted me warmly. Of course, I then gave her my name as well. There was no evidence of awkwardness on anyone’s part and for me it was another very special moment.
Even though Leah is no longer on this earth, I will always be her mummy.