I woke up this morning feeling quite cheerful. I think that’s saying something as Ezzie decided 5.15 was an acceptable wake up time. But early mornings and night wake ups don’t upset me as much anymore because I keep thinking that I should have a 4 month old with me and she would definitely be keeping me up more than Ezra is!
It’s funny how a little bit of sunshine can make you feel a little bit more hopeful. A few weeks after Etta’s funeral, the 3 of us headed out to the Canary Islands for a last-minute holiday to get away from everything. I worried that we would feel just as broken-hearted but not at home with our friends and family. But actually there was something very calming about being able to sit with the warmth of the sunshine on our shoulders with none of the everyday stuff to think about. And we loved being able to walk outside without having to put Ezzie in layers and coats and wellies and a hat. I still cried a lot. Etta was all I thought about and yet I also have lovely memories of sitting in the sun with my boys.
A week ago, I got into bed that night and crumbled. “I’m not coping” I cried, as Sam held me tight. He quickly reminded me that I was coping- I was still here showing up for him and Ezzie. But it was a hopeless feeling of despair that stuck in my stomach and surrounded me for a day or two- always on the verge of crying. And as quickly as it arrived, it left and I felt like I could carry on. A little bit of sunshine was creeping through the darkness again.
We had a chat a few nights ago about whether we could ever be 100% happy again after Etta died. Let’s just say we didn’t agree! I said at the time I’ll never be fully happy again because there will always be a part of me that is missing and that I long for. I felt content with that because I already know I can find joy in my life after Etta even if it’s not complete joy. On reflection, I suppose it comes down to whether her life can overshadow her death, rather than the other way round. We chose the poem ‘She is Gone’ by David Harkins for Etta’s funeral with that hope in mind.
You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all she’s left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her and only that she’s gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she’d want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
Don’t get me wrong- I often shed tears and pray that Etta would come back to us. I wish more than anything that on this sunny day she was laying on a blanket in the garden gurgling away while being accosted by her big brother with toys and cuddles. I’ll never be fully happy because she died and yet everything in my life feels more full of joy because she lived. It’s a bit like being capped at 90% happy and 110% happy at the same time. So maybe that is 100% after all 🤷♀️ (Sorry Sam!) Perhaps the reality of grief is that the second line in each of those verses should be ‘and’ instead of ‘or’?
Within the baby loss community, children who are born before the baby who has died are referred to as ‘sunshine’ babies and babies born after as ‘rainbow’ babies- symbolising hope after a storm. Whilst Ezra certainly has been a ray of sunshine in the depths of grief, Etta is my sunshine too. Those that came to her funeral will know that I chose ‘You Are My Sunshine’ as the opening song as the casket was brought in. I played the Jasmine Thompson version to her and sang it to her when she was in her hospital cot while praying ‘please don’t take my sunshine away’. She was taken from us too soon but that doesn’t change the fact that she’s still my sunshine. And my storm. And my rainbow. She’s all of it and more.
I know the storms will come again but today I’ll enjoy turning my face towards the sun.