It is exactly 14 days, to the second, that my precious child died.
Today I attended my first serious business meeting in almost three months. I have really neglected my business. Fortunately there was the Christmas recess, so it was not too bad. The series of very important meetings scheduled for the week of the 13th of January was pushed back to the first week in February once I realized that Vic was dying.
I dreaded seeing my (all male) colleagues today. I have known some of them for 25 years and they all knew of Vic’s precarious health.
I sat in my car outside the building and took deep breaths. These guys have never known me to show emotion. I have been stoic throughout Vic’s illness, many operations and setbacks. I was petrified that I would not be able to contain my grief!
Lots of hugs and pats on the back dispersed with the sympathies…a hushed silence followed me into the boardroom. With a couple of minutes to spare before the start of the meeting the guys decided to go smoke.
“It must be a relief for you to not have the responsibility of a sick child any more…” the one said through a cloud of smoke…..
“Yes” said another. “It has been many years”….
I did not have to dignify the insensitive remarks with a response as one of the female directors came out and hugged me. “I have no words for you” she said.
We went into the board room and took our seats. Being our first meeting of the year the normal New Year pleasantries was exchanged. I coped beautifully.
The meeting began and as soon as I started speaking I could hear a quiver in my voice! I was mortified! I shut up as quickly as possible and spent a couple of minutes trying to compose myself without drawing any attention to myself. Breathe in through my abdomen …exhale! Breathe in – exhale… My hands were shaking so I clutched my pen tightly! I put my hands on the boardroom table to steady them.
For years I have NEVER switched off my cell phone in case Vic needed me. If I was away from home (or even when I was home) I would fall asleep in with my phone in my hand. 24/7 my phone was on.
In a way it was liberating switching my phone off when the meeting started.
When I got home this afternoon I sat reading through my old BBM messages from Vic.
“Can I phone you Mommy?”
“Mommy may I have morphine? I am so sore!”
“When will you be home Mommy?”
Tonight the boys went to their dad for dinner. Danie and I popped in at a friend whose daughter-in-law was paralysed in a motorbike accident on the 8th of December. Her three beautiful granddaughters seem a little bewildered. Their mommy is in rehab and their daddy is staying with her 24/7. My friend became a substitute mommy for the girls. I have become a substitute mom to the boys again.
It was strange going to dinner – just the two of us.
Last night I covered schoolbooks… tomorrow morning I will take Jon-Daniel to the orthodontist to have his braces removed. Vic desperately wanted to live for the “event”. I hope she will be there in spirit. Tomorrow afternoon Jared and I will go and make an appointment for our motorbike learner licenses!
I am battling to contain my grief. I am trying to find the time to research “teenage grief”. How do we know how to treat grieving teenage boys? What if we make mistakes? What if we fail Vic and her boys? I fear I am not spending enough time with the boys.
Life is a mess.
I miss you angel child!
Day one I packed up Vic’s clothing I did not like. That is the sexy stuff that showed far too much cleavage. I was forever saying “Vic – Your boobs are showing! Cover yourself!” or “Boob alert – the boys can see….” I know I was stupid but in my mind’s eye I always saw that little girl who needed to be protected from the world and it was difficult to see the adult, sensual young woman…
Day 2 was the “Fat clothes” day. There was not too much of that although Vic was overweight from time to time. The Addison’s cortisone treatment played absolute havoc with her weight.
Day 3 – today, was unbearable. It was the clothes that she liked and wore that had to be packed. As I was folding her little T-Shirts my tears dripped on the cotton. I held her favourite clothing items against my face and tried to smell her on them. I could see exactly how each item fitted her disease ravaged little body. I could hear her say “Don’t I look fat?”
I cried when I packed four drawers of pyjamas. There were dress-like nightgowns for after abdominal operations when nothing could touch her abdomen; three-quarter pants with T-shirts for good days; long pants with T-shirts for when she was cold and of course the stuff she never wore…the sexy stuff. I picked up the silky stuff and I knew that they were worn seldom if ever. We should be able to sell these quite easily in our second-hand Hospice shop…
The boys made up their memory boxes on Monday night. I started with wonderful intentions…I too would have a small memory box. I already have two large cardboard boxes plus my memory box filled with precious memories.
As I wept into Vic’s clothes I decided that there is no rush. I do not have to give the clothes to Hospice immediately. I will keep it all in storage until I am ready to part with it.
Never again will I see my precious Vic wearing any of it.
Every handbag I picked up had been cleaned out properly with the exception of a tube of lipstick. Every single handbag had lipstick in it!
Jon-Daniel has started moving into Vic’s room. It is the 2nd largest bedroom in the house with the nicest bathroom. Yesterday we moved two single beds in and put Vic’s bedroom furniture in storage. Tomorrow we will move the lounge suite into storage. The dining room suite has been sold and delivered today.
All Vic’s earthly possessions have been moved as if she has never existed.
The lounge will become a games room with a pool and table tennis tables. The dining room we will convert into a dedicated study and computer games room. We will furnish the rooms with contemporary furniture.
In my heart I know Vic would approve the changes. She would HATE the fact that her furniture is in storage. I feel like a grave digging weasel but I am complying with her final wishes.
My Vic was a little squirrel! She accumulated STUFF. Vic was a compulsive shopper. In December, knowing that she was in the final stretch of her journey, Vic bought new clothes… Some of it she never got to wear. But it brought her joy buying it.
This weekend I will tackle the other cupboards. The cupboards that contain all tax and warranty related documents going back to 2001…. All neatly filed in plastic sleeves… I will keep the boys school files that she so lovingly kept up to date. Every drawing, school report, newsletter filed per boy by year… When they leave home one day and have kids of their own (that they will moan at for not studying….) I will hand my great-grandchildren their dad’s reports.
There are tons of papers to dispose of! There are boxes of educational toys and games from when the boys were toddlers; thousands of photos and piles of albums; ribbons from her childhood; diaries and journals; love letters from Vaughn, her first love; get better cards, birthday cards and goodness alone knows what else.
In the weeks before her death Vic occasionally said “Oh Mommy, promise me you won’t get angry with me when you clear out my cupboards…” If only she knew how many tears I have shed clearing out her cupboards.
I must confess I have always had a memory box with Vic’s first little outfit ever, her first school uniform, all her report cards, a lock of her baby hair… I will add to this box the lock of Vic’s hair that Esther cut after she had died.
Tuesday morning arrived. It had been a very long weekend. I battled with the eulogy and my broken heart. Everybody kept looking at me to make sure I was okay… Patting my hand and saying: “It is going to be okay!”
It is never going to be okay. Nothing can erase my child’s suffering and death from my mind. In time I suppose I will learn to live with the pain and longing, but it is NOT GOING TO BE FLIPPEN OKAY!!!!! EVER!!!
I have slept in Vic’s bed since her death to “demystify” her room. I also feel close to her. I can smell her in her pillow; I spray her perfume before I go to sleep.
After Vic passed and before the undertakers arrived I lay next to her lifeless little body. I spoke to her non-stop.
“Sweetie, If your soul is hovering in this room I want a clear sign from you that you are still with me…”
I woke early and prepared for the lousiest day of my life. I started chewing “Rescue” tablets. It was the only way I was going to get through the memorial service without making an absolute fool of myself. The boys looked so handsome! Their mom would have been very proud of her boys!
At the church the hearse was parked at the front door. Vic was already inside the church. A huge photo was on an easel and at least a hundred candles were burning around the casket. The flowers were beautiful. Vic would have approved.
I sat in the pew with tears running down my face. I could not believe that my baby girl was lying in that casket! That I would never see her, never hold her again, never hear her voice again. Sitting in church I could not remember her pain and suffering only my own.
The service was beautiful! The minister spoke from his heart and shared his memories of a brave young woman with almost 200 people. He said that not many people are ever prepared for death but Vic was to such an extent that she had planned her entire memorial service. He wiped a tear from his eyes where he spoke of Vic’s journey.
As instructed by Vic we sang “Amazing Grace” and “How great Art Thou”. I managed to sing – not a pretty sound though! My voice was all over! Vic would have giggled and told me that I sound like my mom!
I did the eulogy with the two boys standing on either side of me. At times my voice wavered and at times even I could hear how strong I sounded.
And then it was time to carry the coffin to the hearse for the FINAL part of Vic’s journey. I could hear the boys quietly sobbing as we carried Vic on her final journey. I felt my face contort with grief and tears.
The coffin was so light! I remember thinking “I wonder if Vic is really in the coffin….”
We lay single roses on the coffin. The two boys’ red roses and the rest of us pink…. Kari and Simone (Vic’s nieces) came up and stroked the coffin. They sobbed uncontrollably. I could hear people crying.
The minister said a final prayer, and it was time for Vic to leave.
The undertaker solemnly hugged me and closed the rear door of the hearse. It opened…. He pushed the coffin into position and relocked the locking mechanism. He closed the door again. Once again the door closed and opened!
“Vic is here and she is telling us she is going no where!” I said
People laughed nervously….
The undertaker unlocked the lock and pushed the coffin into position again. The undertaker locked the locking mechanism for the 3rd time. He closed the door. This time it remained closed. Vic had gotten her message through to me…I received my sign.
My precious child is still with me.