Before I start to write I’d just like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has sent their love to me and my family this week. I’ve been inundated with messages, comments, cards, emails – the lot, and it just goes to show what a kind and wonderful man my husband was and how many lives he touched.
There is so much I could write about what’s happened this week, but I don’t really know where to start apart from to explain a little bit about how Sam and Florence have reacted to the news. It was one of my main fears, having to tell the children, along with how I would manage to cope while holding them up too. It turns out they’re the ones holding me up through this, as without their hugs, smiles and laughter I don’t think I would have even bothered to leave the house.
I came home on Friday night after Roger passed away, and went to bed knowing I’d have break it to Sam the next day. Florence, at two, is too young to understand and although I have gently told her that daddy isn’t getting better or coming home, she still asks where he is. In fact, the first thing she said to me when I went into her room on Saturday morning was ‘Where daddy gone?’ When I said daddy isn’t here, she just smiled and said ‘daddy hospice’, which I guess was true, and that seemed to be enough for both of us in that moment.
Sam, on the other hand, came into my bedroom on Saturday morning full of smiles, happy that his granny was here when he woke up. ‘I’ve got something to tell you’, I said. ‘About dad’. Deep breaths. ‘What?’ he asked me. ‘Has he died?’ I gave him a hug and said ‘Yes love. He died at the hospice last night, I’m so sorry.’ He looked shocked, hugged me again, and said, ‘Can we get the paddling pool out today?’, before climbing into bed with me and having a bit of a cry. ‘I want daddy,’ he said, making me well up too. I can’t really remember what happened after that, apart from that a few seconds later, he was up and acting like his normal self again. His outward grief, like mine, would come and go this week and tears would fall at the most unlikely of times.
I’ve been so proud of how he’s handled his first week, and I know his dad would have been too. He has taken such good care of me, making things to cheer me up, declaring we would eat certain foods to ‘celebrate dad’, and looking after his little sister just like he always does. Maybe it’s because he’s had more of my focus and attention this week, but there have been fewer fallouts, more cuddles and I’ve been shocked at how openly he’s spoken about his sadness at losing his dad.
One of the most beautiful things I have ever seen was a memory tree he decided he was going to make on Sunday, to remember his dad. We were pottering in the garden with my parents, doing jobs I hadn’t thought about for months like cutting down some tall bushes, when a few big branches fell to the grass and gave him an idea. Picking one up, he said, ‘I’m going to get all these branches together, make a memory tree and hang messages from it.’.
‘Oh, ok,’ I said, pleased but taken aback, as memory trees aren’t something I knew he was aware of and I wondered whether he had come up with the idea himself or someone had mentioned it to him. It turned out it was an idea planted in his head by his counsellor from the Butterflies project, who he has just started to see as someone to talk to (and make lots of really cool stuff with) over the past few weeks.
Sam being Sam and very single-mindedly creative, he set to work on his tree, cutting the branches to just the right size and arranging them in a vase. He then took my stash of gift tags and paper luggage tags and set about writing his words, thoughts and feelings about his dad. They’re heartbreaking and so cute, ranging from ‘I am sorry’ to ‘good times’, ‘happy’, ‘fun’, ‘I love you’ to ‘he is great’, ‘dude’ (or dode), and ‘I will miss you’. One of my favourites has a picture of his dad with open arms and a heart, and another – in a nod to Adventure Time, the cartoon they both laughed at, just says Fin and Jake.
He later asked us all to write a tag, so Florence scribbled a little drawing on hers and he wrote her name on it, and I made one that said ‘We will always love you x x x’ on one side, and our names and a heart on the other.
Sam was so proud of his tree, and I was so proud of him for doing it. The joy he had in doing something for his dad was clear, and he has shown everyone who has come to the house his masterpiece.
He even put it on the living room floor, grabbed Flo by the hand and they danced round it, chanting ‘dance around the memory tree!’ in a very sweet and funny, yet slightly Wicker Man pagan, kind of way.
However I thought our children would react, I could never have predicted this. The only worry I had about it was what happened when the tree died? The branches were already wilting on Monday, and now it’s Friday and they are looking pretty sorry for themselves.
I went down to the florist’s earlier and managed to buy some dried cherry blossom branches which were being used as a tree in the window, but which the lovely florist assured me were on the verge of being changed over anyway. I’ve wedged them in a metal pot, with brown paper around the base of the branches, in an attempt to keep them in place. I’m waiting for Sam to get home to see whether he wants to change the tags over to the everlasting tree or not. It’s such a magical idea, I’m really hoping he will. I know if Rog were looking at us now, he’d love the effort Sam put into this little project – and his smile would be bigger and prouder than ever.