Do you know the important things in life? Do you find yourself stressing about the everyday? Do you go to bed with regrets?
Since young Daniel died I am changed forever. However that is not all bad. When we lose someone close to us we grieve, but sad as it is, it can actually have a positive outcome on our lives.
Over twenty five years ago I lost my Dad. It crushed me for many years and if I am honest I still miss him most days. He didn’t live to walk me up the aisle, or to welcome my four children into the world. I have missed a lifetime of hugs and his gentle counsel.
However his death has brought a lot of positives into my life.
My Dad died in his early fifties of Motor Neurone disease. I watched him slowly lose his ability to walk, move and talk. I watched him die a difficult death. However, hand in hand with his dying, I watched him live. Even in the depths of his illness, as I have written of so often, he continued to contribute enormously to my life. He taught me lessons every day, and when we lost him I learned the ultimate lesson, ‘Never, ever take life for granted. Your future is not guaranteed. Live every day’.
As the years have passed I have very much tried to remember this. When I had young, demanding, non sleeping children I tried to remember how lucky I was to have my children and my health. In the dark days after my child abuse case went public, very very public, I dug deep, feeling my dad close to me, and I got through it. I have never believed that a long life was my right, and have lived most days happy in the knowledge that if this were to be my last day I have hugely enjoyed it.
Smug in my thinking I had life sussed, I was rocked to my core when Daniel got leukemia. This was not something I had ever imagined, and even though it was not my child, it was my great friends child. Time ticked by during his treatment, with so many ups and downs, that we felt we were at sea, in a storm with no firm footing. Then out of the blue another friends child, young Ben aged 6, became ill and within two weeks, despite every sort of intervention, his family had to say a desperately sad goodbye. Three weeks later we welcomed Daniel home for two special days, before he too moved on to a new adventure.
Since then the life I thought I had sorted, the life I thought I had prioritised correctly, has changed enormously. I listen to friends speak of their stresses and I think, ‘if that’s your biggest worry aren’t you lucky’. I see my children stress about exams, homework and where life will send them, and I think ‘chill out, as long as you’re happy’. I see people fall out and I think, ‘Life is too short’.
My children are beginning to feel the side effects of my new thinking, and they can’t quite ‘get’ it. Last Thursday night my eldest returned unexpectedly from college and asked, tongue in cheek, could she take my youngest, aged 12, out of school early the next day, to go to the cinema to watch ‘the nativity 3’. Without hesitation I agreed. My third child, aged 17, heard about the arrangement and was not one bit pleased. As she began to let me know how unfair that was, I announced, much to her surprise, that she too could skip the afternoon to join them.
And so it was that three sisters headed off a few weeks before Christmas, to enjoy an afternoon together. I lied in the notes I sent to the school, and I felt not one jot of guilt. For since Daniel died I have begun to realise exactly what it is that is important in life. Would my girls have remembered all they learned that afternoon in school, or will they always remember, leaving school early and driving off together for an afternoon at the cinema?
Yes, losing my Dad, and missing young Daniel have changed me forever. But it is not all for the worse!