To my rainbow, on the eve of your brother’s birthday

To my rainbow, on the eve of your brother’s birthday

Leo John,

Tomorrow is going to be a tough day. Actually, it is just one in a series of tough days, tough weeks in fact, which we face each year.

I’m sorry that when you woke this morning, your excited babbles and waving arms were met with a solemn, slow embrace. Over breakfast, I saw you searching my face with those Disney blues; tilting your head with that beaming smile, wiling me to flash one back. Later, I tried to keep my attention with you and Hairy Maclary, but my mind kept wandering back to that sweltering July day when I clung to Daddy in Room 15, terrified of what the next few hours would bring.

I know that you don’t understand any of this just yet. To you, this day and tomorrow are just like any other. You cannot comprehend a time before now: days not spent singing rhymes and reading stories; a home not littered with your building blocks; my heart full of anyone but you.

But, my darling, there was such a time.

There was a life before you, and a baby too.

As you grow, you will know more of Findlay. You will understand when I tell you all about who he is: the excitement and promise I carried with him inside of me; the shock and devastation of his loss; the impact his little life has had on us and our small corner of the world. I can explain that just as my love for you shall never falter, whether you are by my side or off on adventures, my love for Findlay too is unwavering. I love him and I miss him each and every day; for as much as I am your Mummy, and I always will be, I am Findlay’s Mummy too. He is your big brother, yet he will forever be a baby. You will know him, but the two of you shall never meet.

And that, my love, is why my heart is aching today. Why when you press your face to my cheek you taste hot, salty tears. Why my Gruffalo voice is less bellowy, and the horsey-ride less bumpy. Why at nap time, I lay you down beside me and nuzzle my face into your neck, clasping your tiny hand in mine a little tighter than usual.

I feel sure that you will come to understand this; that you will embrace the fact that you have a brother who lives in the stars; a brother who was loved and wanted so very much, but who was too poorly to come home; a brother who died. Because this is your reality as much as it is mine and Daddy’s, you will never know anything different. There may be people outside of our family who find this uncomfortable, they might be surprised when you talk about Findlay, they might shuffle their feet or awkwardly look away, but that is entirely their issue. It is not yours, it is not mine, it is not his.

And just as if Findlay had lived, there is enough space in my heart for you both. My love and grief for him takes away nothing from you. You are both my boys, and I love you with every fibre of my being. But, my little lion, I’m afraid no amount of love for you can stop me from feeling sad tomorrow.

Tomorrow is not how second birthdays ought to be. There will be no mountain of shiny wrapped boxes, no frantic rush to prepare for a house full of toddlers, no party games. The doorbell won’t be buzzing all day, streams of visitors coming in to shower the birthday boy with kisses. There will be no excited shrieks about a trip to the dinosaur park, no pleas for chocolate at breakfast, no fancy dress. But it is Findlay’s day, and we will mark it as best we can.  Maybe next year you will find your own way to wish your brother a happy birthday; perhaps drawing him a picture, or helping to bake him a cake.

I hope that you will join Mummy and Daddy in honouring and celebrating Findlay. I hope that you will speak his name, proudly and often, as we do. I hope that you will love him as fiercely and wholeheartedly as if he were here to share your toy box, or your room.

Perhaps you will miss him, the playmate you have lost. Your confidante; your sparring partner; your best friend. Would he have been the sensible one: warding you against reckless antics, coercing you out of harebrained schemes? Or would he have been the ringleader: the chief constructor of mayhem, the defiant rule breaker, and you his mischievous sidekick?

One thing you may never understand, the thing which no one can ever explain to either of us, is why. We know what took Findlay from us – your brother had a broken heart; but not why. Why him? Why us? These are questions we can never answer.

But by knowing Findlay, you will learn that not all babies get to come home. You will learn that people die; that losing those we love is hard and painful and makes us sad, but that doesn’t mean we should pretend it doesn’t happen, or not talk about it. Because it’s okay to feel sad. It is a sign of our love that we miss them. Grief is love with nowhere to go; and that’s not something we should be afraid of.

I hope that this knowledge will make you be kind and compassionate to the pain and suffering of others; that it encourages you to talk openly about grief and heartache; and to recognise that there are lots of families like ours with someone missing. Who knows where that compassion and understanding may lead you, but I hope it will help to make the world a gentler place.

And so tomorrow will come, as every year; and we will survive it, along with all tough days, as we do everything. Together, as a family – Findlay’s family.

All my love, forever and always,

Mummy xxx