Talk about timing! But, then I guess, there never is a
good decent convenient right time for these type of things to happen. That’s because these things aren’t right! They shouldn’t happen! Six days. Six days before your 9th birthday. This particular week of June was set to be our family’s busiest with Father’s Day, then your Mummy and Daddy’s Wedding Anniversary on Wednesday 21st; you were supposed to be bell-boating with the school the same day and then performing in the Key Stage 2 show in the evening. On Saturday 24th June it would be Nanny and Granddad’s Golden Wedding Anniversary and we had secretly planned for them to renew their wedding vows…you were going to play a piece on the cornet. This all led up to your birthday on Sunday 25th June. I remember your Mummy telling me how organised she was going to have to be this week with so much in the diary. Fate, life, destiny…whatever you believe in (or not) was laughing at us…after Father’s Day, none of it happened.
Birthdays are often easy to remember and I have a good memory of your 8th birthday party last year. You celebrated with your friends at Imagination Street and you ran around the place with boundless energy. Jacob and Greta came and afterwards we joined you back at your house, where you excitedly opened your presents which you had received from your friends. As I sit here typing, I can picture you sitting on the living room floor, surrounded by presents. I’ve even found a photo!
Your main gift from Mummy and Daddy was a bike and you were absolutely thrilled with it.
I still can’t get my head around the fact, that this year you had to spend your birthday in hospital as a result of a major stroke. That’s what the the doctors have called it. A. Major. Stroke. I’m so sorry that your birthday didn’t turn out as it was planned. I’m so sorry that you didn’t spend it at home, wake up in your own bed and run down the stairs in anticipation, as you excitedly awaited your presents. I’m so sorry that you weren’t able to rip through the wrapping paper on your own, with your usual vigour. I’m so sorry that you couldn’t blow out your own birthday candles. I’m so sorry that some of the presents you asked for are no longer useful or appropriate because at the moment you can’t play with them. I’m so sorry that your 9th birthday will be remembered for the wrong reasons.
When we celebrated your birthday in hospital it was just under a week since your stroke and we were still in shock. We are now. I don’t suppose you’re familiar with the ‘Timehop’ app yet, which notifies people of photos they may have posted on social media in years gone by. This app can remind you of the good times, but last Sunday when photos appeared on your Mummy’s phone, they served as a painful reminder of previous years when you were well and we lived without the knowledge that this was going to happen. Ignorance is absolutely, without a doubt, bliss, when it comes to these types of situations. Mummy couldn’t help but wish that we could go back in time to a happier and carefree birthday. We were all wishing the same thing.
(Here you are with Ella, on your 2nd birthday in 2010)
(Celebrating your 3rd birthday in 2011 with Jack and Ella)
Wishing didn’t get us very far, so all we could do was make the most of it and do our best to give you a happy birthday. If I’m honest, I have mixed emotions about referring to it as a ‘happy’ birthday because this was the polar opposite to how all the adults in your family were feeling. The stroke had (and still has) left us dumbfounded and worried beyond measure. However, my sweetheart, it was your birthday and despite everything that you had to endure that week, you were still clearly excited about your day. After everything that had happened, you deserved a ‘happy’ day. So we fought back those feelings of hurt, anguish and despair and put a smile on our faces for you. It was the least we could do because, my darling Evie, you weren’t crying about being in hospital. You weren’t crying that your birthday had been ruined. You weren’t crying because this stroke had robbed you of a big party. You took it in your stride and seemed to accept the situation. Instead, you had a smile on your face and so we followed suit. Ella, Jack and Ava were nervous about what to expect seeing you in hospital, but once they had settled around you, they were eager for you to open your presents. As always, Ava was there to give you a hand with the unwrapping! Nothing changes there!
As your birthday was a Sunday, I would suspect that you would have spent the morning enjoying your new gifts under ‘normal’ circumstances. This year, you spent the morning with the physiotherapists as they tried to stimulate movement in your right side. I know that you can’t truly express yourself as the words you wish to say become jumbled and then other words come out instead. But having physio on your birthday didn’t upset you and you did your best to co-operate.
The nurses and doctors have been wonderful at the hospital. Some of the doctors have been coming in to see you on their days off. The nurses have shown such kindness in their care for you. Nanny calls them, ‘Earth Angels’ and they really are. The nurses saw you in the morning and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to you, before giving you a card and present.
Now, it wouldn’t be a birthday in our family without cake! Mummy often bakes you all a birthday cake, but for obvious reasons wasn’t able to this year. Due to Nanny’s own recovery, she is unable to eat shop-bought cakes so the responsibility of a birthday cake was down to me. When we visited you on Thursday, I asked you how you would like your cake to be decorated. Mummy gave you lots of options to which you could reply ‘yes’ or ‘no’. A princess cake? Spiderman? Superman? You were trying to say something, but it was difficult to decipher. Daddy leaned in and listened attentively. ‘Surprise’. You were trying to tell us that you would like a surprise. When I told Nanny about this later, she felt uplifted because she had spoken to you about your cake in the morning and she had suggested that its decoration could be a surprise. The fact that you had remembered and were trying to say, ‘surprise’ was a positive sign.
Well, sweetheart, I thought about this for a while and spoke to Ella about what you might like. I eventually decided on a design. I thought I’d keep it simple.
It was simple. It had meaning. Your name was written in green, as that’s your favourite colour. The rainbow was to symbolise you – our rainbow girl. It also represented ‘hope’. The shooting star was a wish; a wish for you to get better. I hope I met your expectations for a ‘surprise’ cake. It was difficult for you to tell me what you thought, but your facial expression told me that you were pleased. We all sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to you and you tried to join in! Your Daddy lovingly mixed up some of your cake with ice cream, so that you could have a taste. We all know how much you like cake and puddings in general! There was no way you were going to miss out on your own birthday cake!
We enjoyed several hours with you and all the while, you were out of bed, supported in a wheelchair. At first, it was hard to see you sitting in one, but Ella, Jack and Ava all surrounded you and they almost seemed to ignore it. At one point Ella, Ava, Jacob and Greta went to the outside play area. If you could, you would have joined them. Jacob and you would have been racing each other to see who could get there first. You’re fast and so, you would have beaten him hands down. He would probably have had a strop about it all. But that isn’t what happened. There was no race. There was no strop. That’s what I struggle with. I mourn the moments that should have been, that should be. Jack stayed with you and tried to play a game with you. I think it was Ludo. Jack has been very quiet since the day he saw you collapse. He might not say much but he definitely misses you, his big sister. Your Mummy has often said that you two are like twins. There is a connection between you and as he sat by your side, helping you to play, I could see it. One of the most touching moments I witnessed that afternoon was of you, putting your arm around your little sister, Ava when she was upset. You were comforting her. After everything you’ve been through, you were showing compassion and being the one to soothe someone else’s sadness. That is so typical of you. Everyone is special on their birthday. But you, my beautiful Evie, you are special everyday. You always have been because you have this inner quality that cannot be taught. It cannot be learned. I’ve told the world how bubbly and spirited you are. But you’re also sensitive and empathetic to those around you. Even now.
It’s hard to ascertain how much you understand about what is going on, but you are coping with all of it very well. Your family have felt like a darkness has engulfed them and the heartbreak is irrepressible. But I truly hope, that although it wasn’t planned to be like that, supposed to be like that, you found enjoyment in the day.
There won’t be any ‘timehop’ photos of this year on your birthday, but I desperately hope and pray that next year will be different.
Happy 9th Birthday princess.
Lots and lots of love,