15th September 1997 I had a telephone call tonight from my friend Diana, she lives in Aldershot – my home town – and I haven’t seen her since her 40th birthday party in July. We have been best friends since we were kids at school 27 years ago. We have shared a lot of laughter and tears over the years, and have a lot in common. Our marriages and divorces, our jobs, old school friends, not passing our driving tests until we were both 34, our birthday’s one day apart, but most of all our children…….except we didn’t have that in common. Diana’s children all survived, but she was there for me every time one of mine didn’t make it. We always talk endlessly about our children.
Tonight was different, she didn’t mention my children – any of them. She rang to tell me that she was going to be a Grandmother. She had mixed emotions about it, looking forward to the arrival of the baby but not sure how she felt about being a Granny. She is still getting used to being 40. Her son Michael is a year older than my Steven. A year younger than my Kevin would have been if things had been different.
Kevin would have been twenty one in two days time. I have been wondering all year if I would have been a Grandmother by now, or would I be looking forward, like Diana with mixed emotions if things had been different.
I remember how I felt on Kevin’s fifth and eighteenth birthdays. I desperately wanted to go to Liverpool to the cemetery and be with him. But I didn’t go. I just couldn’t face it. Then I felt guilty for letting him down, as if I had abandoned him. It has been worse since losing Rebecca six years ago because I live quite near to the hospital where I had her. I go to the memorial service every year and light a candle for her, and although I always light a candle for Kevin as well, (and my other babies), somehow it doesn’t feel as if I am giving him the same attention that I give to Rebecca and I feel guilty again.
I was absolutely determined that nothing was going to stop me from going this year. But…… here I am two days before his 21st birthday wondering what to do. I had friends who were coming with me and now they can’t, and I don’t want to face that long journey alone and back again. All those hundreds of miles and I will not even be allowed to put flowers on the place where his ashes are buried. (Crematorium rules – it ruins the grass).
People keep telling me that I can go to any church and light a candle and take flowers, but it still doesn’t feel right. Anyway, what do they know. I only ever went back once, on his first birthday and that is when I was told that no flowers were to be laid unless they were in the chapel. I remember thinking at the time that it would have been so much nicer if I had been allowed to put them where I wanted. They could have moved them after I had gone, I would never have known.
My family always phone on his birthday, but after all this time I don’t think they realise how much it still hurts. How much I still miss him and all he may have been. I grieve for those children that he will never have, and I will never hold. I am delighted for Diana and her family, and I will also look forward to the birth of her Grandchild, and I will forgive them this once for forgetting that I too may have been the one making that call tonight if things had turned out differently.
2nd November 1997
I didn’t go to Liverpool in September, but this week I had to go there for a meeting. On the first morning there as we drive towards Liverpool I realised we were driving past St Helen’s Cemetery and I just went cold. The following morning before we left to come home I went into the cemetery for the first time in 20 years. My friends offered to come with me but I asked them to wait in the car and said I would be alright……. except I wasn’t at all. I starting running across the car park towards the chapel because it was raining and all of a sudden it hit me….. I felt as if I was running in slow motion and twenty years just disappeared. It was as if I was walking back up the steps on the day of Kevin’s funeral and I just stood there sobbing. I felt that raw emotion again and then guilt set in because I hadn’t been back for so long. The more I tried to stop crying the more I cried.
I wanted to go into the chapel but it was locked. I asked around for a supervisor or member of staff, only to be told that the chapel is only open Monday to Friday, 9.00 – 5.30. p.m. you cannot go in there at weekends. How stupid, the whole cemetery was packed with people. I found the building where the books of remembrance are kept – a horrible little round building, badly in need of decoration and very shabby. The books are locked up and only open on today’s date. Because no one is working, the case cannot be unlocked and I could not turn the page. I find it hard to believe that cemeteries cannot employ weekend staff, surely more people visit at weekends than during the week. I went to the area where I knew Kevin’s ashes had been put and sat down and cried again. When I went twenty years ago you were not allowed to put flowers on the grass….. now the grass was covered in bunches of flowers and pot plants. At least they have made some improvement. I really don’t know how long I was there and I wanted to go but I wanted to stay. I was so grateful when my friend Lyn came to find me and put her arms around me and held me while I cried for my first born son. It was an incredibly painful journey and maybe it won’t be so bad the next time, but yes it does still hurt after all this time. You do learn to live with it and you do learn to ignore the remarks that people so easily throw around about time being a great healer, and all the other crass comments about how it wasn’t meant to be etc. etc.
I am grateful to have two healthy sons but I will always grieve for Kevin and Rebecca and my other children who are not here, and think about what might have been if things had been different.
Twenty one years since you were born,
And it seems like yesterday
But 12 short hours was all I had
Before you were taken away
I fell in love with you instantly,
Never dreaming you wouldn’t stay
I loved you then and missed you too
All those years ago and still today
For Kevin on his 21st birthday (17.9.76) and Rebecca on her 7th birthday (4.2.91) with all my love always and forever till I can hold you again