Last Monday was sad day. I was wary of it because although I'm not sad that much any more, it has come upon me in unexpected ways in previous years. As a sharp jab, or a bitter fragment of grief, perhaps of sadness remembered and sorrow about the family that might have been. But this year played out differently, in another totally unexpected way.
The Wednesday before sad day was a really, really happy day, our friend and neighbour gave birth to a gorgeous little girl and I managed to get home early so we could make a quick visit as a family to greet the new arrival - on her birthday as it was. It was great, so happy and joyful. I got to cuddle Bronte and take in some of that precious new baby spirit. Anyway, on the way home Grace asked if we could have a new baby too. She's asked before and we always tell her that I'm too old now (which is true) and that we're happy with our little family as it is. But this time, I had this thought, I really need to tell her that she had a brother, that there was another baby before her. Not because it will make her feel better about being an only child but because it is part of her family story and besides, little Frank's name is on her birth certificate. So after Grace was in bed Gerard and I had a little chat.
So, on Monday night, which was sad day but as it happened had been mostly quite a good day, we were sitting on Grace's bed and I told her the story of our other baby. I started by telling her that mummy has been a bit sad today because she has been remembering that eight years ago she had a baby boy, your brother, but he was born too early and he died. And everyone was very sad. Grace asked questions, how big was he? Very little, I answered and held out my hands to show how little a baby born at just over twenty weeks is. And why did he die? she asked. I find the true answer to that question to be a complicated and very morally difficult story and I think we're a long way from talking about that with her so I said, he was too little to keep living. And he lived for a little while after he was born and then he died. And everyone was very sad. She took that in for a while and then she said, then you had me and I was alive and then you were very happy! To which I replied, oh yes! and we had a big, big cuddle.
It feels right that we should have told her now. She's at a stage where she hovers between empathy for others (comforting me in my sadness) and it being all about her (being excited that she can be the happy ending to the story - she's five, she pretty much demands a happy ending ). A couple of nights later she asked me to tell her the story of your baby that died again and asked pretty much all the same questions. Ending up with her being born alive and everyone being happy. Which is true. We are pretty happy most of the time.
* * * * * * *
On a side note, this time last year the quince was in blossom. Not so this year. Maybe I pruned it too late and too harshly.