I knew Daniels anniversary would be sad. I knew these weeks would be difficult. I have thought about it, and I was prepared. We would be there to support his family and to be of comfort. We would get through.
That was before I called to my friends house and she put a white envelope into my hand. I smiled and thanked her. I knew what it contained. I had seen the drafts a few weeks ago. I was prepared I thought for how I would feel when I received Dans memorial card, but as I put it in the car I wasn’t so sure.
Driving home I glanced across at that white envelope and felt just a little bit sick. I touched it, but decided to leave it where it was, on the passenger seat. As I drove I couldn’t help but see it out of the corner of my eye. My ignoring it only made me think about it more.
Arriving home to my empty house I carried the envelope into the kitchen, where I placed it on the table. I boiled the kettle and returned to look at it, picked it up and turned it over, only to put it back down, this time on the dresser, next to Daniels photo. Maybe a cup of tea would make it easier?
As I sat down with my cuppa I opened it, slowly. Out spilled the contents. A letter from my friend, two small wallet photos, an acknowledgement card and a bookmark.
I knew what to expect. I had seen them a few weeks ago, and shed tears as my friend and I shook our heads at the crazy situation we were sharing. Proofing a memorial card for her handsome, sports mad, cheeky, lovely boy. As I held that bookmark in reality, that train of grief crashed right through me.
On it was eleven photographs of Daniel through the years, a small boy of two, a young smiling boy of four, dressed up for halloween, an older boy celebrating in mud on the football field and a young boy freshly dressed in his secondary school uniform, just weeks before becoming sick. The picture of health and happiness throughout. Seeing him smiling so happily, made it seem even more unbelievable that he was gone.
The final photo at the bottom of the bookmark was one of him smiling just before leaving for his bone marrow transplant. This was a different photo. Many would look at it and see Daniel, the boy who was sick. However that is not what I see. Yes looking back at me I see a boy wearing a baseball cap on a bald head. A boy with a round face due to massive doses of steroids. A boy on chemo. But this boy I remembered well.
For it was this boy who smiled at me last year when I called with small presents, cosy socks, a hat, a slushie, a soft blanket. It was this boy I saw do his best to get through every day. It was this boy I saw fight longer and harder than he was ever expected to. This ‘sick’ Daniel, smiling out at me, was the strongest boy I ever met. As I stared at the bookmark and all the Daniels looking out at me, it was this boy I hurt the most for. It was this boy I couldn’t believe was gone.
There is something about photographs which can transport us back so perfectly in our minds. We can see, hear, and remember occasions vividly by looking at a captured moment in time.
Thankfully even though Daniel lived only a short life, he lived a very full one. He did so much of what he loved doing, and being Dan he somehow managed to ensure he was photographed doing most of it.
Daniel may be gone, but his smiling face and cheeky grin remind all who knew him of a million moments gone by. Moments that will not be forgotten. Moments that will ensure young Daniel continues to live in the hearts and minds of all who knew him well into the future.
Daniel more than just a memory.