It’s my daughter’s 24th birthday. Even though she’s not physically here any more.
Today is my oldest daughter’s birthday. Except that she is no longer the oldest because she was killed nearly four years ago.
It still doesn’t seem real, but on we go, marking all the family birthdays and events and, of course Christmases. And, having been the eldest, everyone else will at one point or another go through some of the things she went through first. They may go through them differently, but always at the back of my mind, and mostly at the front, are the memories of when she did it first. Going to university, the art GCSE [daughter one had to catch up on the whole syllabus in just weeks], trips abroad on her own, being in a band, playing guitar, learning how to fit contact lenses…
One of the worst things about losing a child is seeing the impact every day on your other children and the all-engulfing sense of what and who they have lost. Even watching The Crown I found unbearable – the episode with Princess Margaret. Unbearable things thrust themselves upon you every day, especially in the lead-up to Christmas, it seems.
I was reading back through my family blogs this week as we have a birthday party planned for daughter one. I wanted to read one out, but I found it hard to find one that is just about her. I start talking about her and then the others come in in one form or another. Maybe that is just the nature of having four children, but it makes me feel that I didn’t focus enough sustained individual attention on her. So my plan is to write a book just about her next year. Because she was amazing and I adored her in every way [and told her regularly].
Every year for her birthday we organise a party, but this year it is proving difficult. Lots of people are dropping out for one reason or another. There may be more of daughter two and three’s friends there than daughter one’s at this rate. I know people have busy lives and it is unreasonable to expect people to turn up year after year, especially just before Christmas. I know that rationally, but each text message that someone is not coming has made me feel nearer to going under.
I feel I am failing daughter one somehow, that she will be saying somewhere ‘you see, mum, I am a side chick’, though she was definitely never a side chick in our family. The party is part of my way of continuing to be her mum, of not letting her go, because that would be impossible. I set the date months ago and even members of the family are suddenly finding they are double booked. I guess it was to be expected and, in fact, it was one of the things I was dreading. One of her friends said to me just after she died: “You won’t forget her, will you?” That person has double booked. How would I ever forget her?
Maybe this year is harder than others because another member of the family has recently died and my partner has been in Spain at the funeral this week. All the years are bad, though, and the longer it is the more days have gone by since I last saw her [1,406]. How could it get better? Somehow, you have to dredge some form of staying power up from deep inside you and keep going. For the others and for her. To celebrate her. Because every piece of glass that you tread on walking through fields of memories is a reminder of the love. Happy birthday, my Nin.