A Million Cupcakes

Just a quick one to share a cause I think needs some more publicity. Two amazing kids that I have taught in the past have created http://www.millioncupcakes.org/ in memory of their grandfather, to try and raise money and awareness for Motor Neurone Disease, (MND) which they can explain on the website far better than I could. (Well done to the parents for such obviously brilliant discussion on a complex illness by the way!)

While the disease is terrible, and the idea, (of selling a million virtual cupcakes) is adorable, something much bigger touched my heart, especially while dealing with my own grief.

I’m sure we all remember the first time we lost someone important to us. I was Oliver’s age (7) and really that first grief was really more a first glance at the idea that people do not live forever, that those we love can be lost, and that there’s nothing we can do about it.

The next time I lost someone I cared about, I was around Ella’s age, (11) and this time I remember missing them so acutely that it hurt all the time. I wrote letters, I kept busy, but again, there is a helplessness about death that makes it seem hopeless, especially for a child.

Even at age 19, when I experienced a real loss for the first time, that sense of confusion and despair was no less prevalent. And it’s still there.

And I think that’s why I feel so attached to this particular cause. Yes, I know the children personally, and if it helps-they are both really lovely kids. But more than that, they are taking their grief for their grandfather, and removing the hopelessness from it. They are creating something wonderful and meaningful out of their loss, and if more people can share this cause, as well as this idea, they could actually change the world before they hit their teens, at an age where when faced with loss, most of us are just battling with getting up for school in the morning.

I’m impressed, and I think if you take the time to visit the website and check out the video, you will be too.

So what are you waiting for? Click the link, learn something, and send a delicious (calorie-free!) cupcake today, for as little as £2. And share share share!

http://www.millioncupcakes.org/

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On Loneliness and Grieving.

Seven summers ago I sat shiva. It changes you. People say I have a strange relationship with death; they’re usually people who thankfully haven’t had any relationship with it at all. But I don’t think that comes from losing a parent. I think I was always aware of the idea that people might not be there the next day. That trust was a hard gift to give when you considered the likelihood of being left alone at any minute without warning.

So when, indeed without warning, a matter of hours after happily hanging up the phone on one of several daily calls to my father, I was summoned almost wordlessly to his already dead body, no chance to say goodbye, I can’t remember feeling shocked. The often quoted feeling of  ‘this cant be happening to me’  never even crossed my mind. It almost made sense, somehow.

Back then, for whatever reason, I chose to focus on the positive in the situation for the most part. I felt grief, I tore my clothes, I cried what must have been buckets of real tears, don’t get me wrong. It was probably the saddest and most difficult period in my life. But I’m not sure I ever complained. I’m not sure I ever shouted and raved about how unfair it was. Anger didn’t come into the equation for me.

Not then anyway.

I’m angry today. With a lot of people. I’m angry that you didn’t phone me, even though I told you in advance what day it is. I’m angry that I had to tell you what day it is in the first place, and that I have to explain (even though you’ll never understand) why it’s important to me. I’m angry that you are allowed the immense privilege of not understanding, and I have to go through this, distancing me from everyone un-scarred and whole in my life.

I’m angry with you too. I can’t understand how you can let this slip your mind. How you can marry someone and have a child together, and never think she might end up in this position. And I’m so frustrated that now I’m here dealing with it, you can’t remember something as important as today and phone me up and see how I am. How can you tell me that this is all harder for you than me, if this day hasn’t even crossed your mind, in a fraction of the way it’s taken camp in my own these last few weeks?

I’m even annoyed at my family. For reaching milestones that he never will, for taking for granted relationships he will never experience, simply for not being his sons, his wife, his nephews, nieces, parents, siblings. Mostly for leaving me the only one who feels this, and giving me no outlet to satisfactorily share it, and in most cases for hardly trying. I can’t pick up the phone and ask for a memory that’s slipped just out of reach, because no one else shares it, or worse still, because the risk of blank faces is just too frighteningly painful. I just have to wait while it fades further out of mind, losing the very puzzle pieces that made up a man’s life. I can’t pop round anywhere to reminisce, because no one shared our relationship.
Ironically, this was the very fact I so eagerly clung to while I sat shiva at 19.

It was only me. I was so proud to alone walk my Dad out of this world with dignity, to do the customs and laws that a family member does according to Jewish law, all on my own. I felt I was really making a difference, really proving that our relationship had always been him and me, and that was no different in his death, no intrusions. It was almost sacred- just the two of us.

But now it’s the one of me.

So I’m angry with You most of all. Not for taking him away from me, that’s too easy, although as I grow up I realise just how cut short his years were, taken at 63. But it’s the way of the world after all, a child losing a parent. But mainly for the way You left me here.
My mother wasn’t his wife, my brothers weren’t his sons. My husband and my son never knew him, I have no uncles or aunts, no grandparents. To make things slightly crueller, there could have been a lifetime companion to share this grief with, miscarried at seven weeks. At one year old, I was destined to be entirely alone in this, and I didn’t even know it.

So I sit here, writing mainly to myself, the only person who has been feeling this day approach with a heavy heart, and the only one who woke up this morning remembering, and wondering what might have been.

Today would have been my Daddy’s 70th birthday. Not old, not really, but seven long years gone. My life is truly so changed since he knew it, that I wonder if he would recognise me at all. And yet the people in my life now, have moved on from even the memory of ‘him and me’ to the point where they can’t remember the importance of today even when I’ve told them directly, let alone out of care of me. It’s not their fault, why should they? It’s only me who is stuck in both times. Missing and living simultaneously. Both getting on with life, and coping with death.

Still, I cant help but wonder whether the burden would be lighter to bear if there were anyone else to share the load.

Snug as a Bug in a Rug

Not sure if it’s going to help the night-time issues… but R recieved the best present ever from us yesterday. A duvet and a pillow! I figured I sure wouldn’t want to be in my bed without mine, so who says he feels any differently? Making his cot a more comfortable/fun place to be in couldn’t hurt anyway.

I took the pic before I left him in bed, feeling very fuzzy and emotional at the idea of my little boy all tucked in for the first time. Of course by the time I checked on him a couple hours later, he had discarded them both entirely, and was curled up in a ball in his own baby-made duvet free spot. He did sleep all night though, so who am I to complain?

Now to find some boy friendly Peppa Pig sheets… He will never want to get out!

The Generation Game

If my baby were an adult, this week I would call him callous. If he were a grown up, aware of how tired both this parents are from an emotionally and physically exhausting week, I would probably be furious at him for his behaviour towards us.

Our family have suffered a great loss in the last few days, and I’m feeling drained, contemplative, emotional, and in need of some serious me-time. My son however, is just as he always is. Eager to be entertained, wide awake (as we all would be if we were allowed 15 hours sleep a day), somewhat whingy, and constantly in need of our full attention. What is usually part of the job, and at worst, moderately frustrating, has this week become almost impossible.

I got home on Tuesday morning at about 6am. My son woke up with his usual vigour at around 7. I sleepwalked into his room, muttered the morning prayer of Modeh Ani to him, with none of my usual halfhearted bounce, (half is good for me-I am the opposite of a morning person.) and lifted him out of his cot. He grinned at me, and started pressing my nose, the cue for a cheery rendition of “The wheels on the bus.”

Washed out. Devastated. Exhausted. Lost. A few of the words that described how I felt at that moment, having only hours before watched a man I loved leave this world. How could I play with my baby, smile and sing and laugh with him, when I cant even explain to him yet, “Ima doesnt feel too good today” or “A sad thing has happened.” For R, the world was exactly the same place it was when I said goodnight twelve hours previously. For me, everything had changed, and I was overcome with a desire to put him down on the floor, leave him the open box of cheerios, and climb back under my waiting duvet.

And then I had a moment of utmost clarity. I was holding in my arms, a baby. My baby. Entirely innocent, and thank God, entirely without hurt or pain over this or any other incident in the world. (Lack of breadsticks exempting.) That’s the way of the world, and that’s the way it should be. As heartbroken as I am, he doesnt even know how to feel that emotion, let alone recognise it in my own eyes. And I’m so glad. He has plenty of time to learn how to sympathise with other people’s pain, and discover the right platitudes to say. For now, he is completely and totally selfish, and nothing could be better for him.

And perhaps for me too. Coming home, and seeing my son, playing with him, being forced to smile and laugh, only reinforces the nature of our lives. As we say goodbye to the older generation, we step into the shoes of the middle. This week, I truly feel like I’ve grown in countless ways, but not least out of being a child, in a very real way. Taking on responsibilities that may have rightly been my own late fathers, accepting that life is finite and precious in a way I’ve never embraced before, and stepping up into a more adult and mature role in our family. All of these things have changed me.

Looking at my baby boy, who has years and years to explore the ways of the world and struggle with the beauty and hardship of all these emotions, I know that he is truly blessed in his self-centredness, and that there is enough time in the future where he will no doubt be deprived of that without me taking it away from him now, in his babyhood.

And so I kissed his tiny forehead, gave him an extra little squeeze, and began at his favourite part, the middle of the song. “The horn on the bus goes.. beep beep beep!”

After all, why should he have to wait?

 

Do you remember?

Waking up each morning, with purpose in your smile,
Feeling that hand picked for you, was every twist and trial.
Knowing that you’d taken time, out of your own routine-
To grow and change and learn it all, while you were still a teen.

To move with friends out of our youth, and into being grown,
To contemplate and sometimes change, which seeds had then been sown.
Standing in the sunlight, just talking, me and Him,
I’d never been so open, simply letting prayer in.

Hours of our days went by, we’d argue, talk, debate,
Discuss the meanings of our lives, the love, despair and hate.
That feeling when it came together, we knew our world was true,
I miss those bursts of energy, do you miss them too?

The passion and the zeal to learn, the way we had to grow,
It sometimes seems a distant me, a life from long ago.
Now, going through the motions, I long to be inspired
But life gets in the way somehow, and I just end up tired.

In some ways I have so much more than ‘six years ago me’ had,
A home, marriage, my baby boy, so much to make me glad.
But still sometimes I glance behind, and hope I’ve not forgot,
The girl I knew back then who felt, so strongly, at Orot.