May is my birthday month. This year is a big birthday year for me as I turned forty. My birthday celebrations were spread out over a week, starting with a joint birthday party with my twin sister and her best friend and finishing with a birthday barbecue to celebrate with some of my friends who live locally.
The Me and Mine project is all about capturing those moments as a family. My birthday party saw a very special moment for me with regards to my family. My four brothers and four sisters were all at my party – the first time that the nine of us had all been together since my dad’s funeral at the end of 2009. How lovely it was to have all of us together again.
Of course, my milestone birthday was also a very bittersweet one without Jessica. I put her picture up on the wall near our table at the party – I had to have my little girl there too. She would have loved it – being able to dress up, getting to see her cousins and I can imagine her and Sophie up on the dance floor together. Sophie certainly enjoyed herself – especially joining in with the dance moves for “YMCA” and Thomas was happy being passed around for cuddles.
May also saw the last of the first anniversaries in our grief journey – the anniversary of Jessica’s funeral. The day itself was a busy one – we did a coffee morning to raise money for Little Hearts Matter; I did a flower arrangement at church in memory of Jessica; we visited Jessica’s forever bed; and then we went to a party to celebrate our friends’ tenth wedding anniversary. There were sad moments – particularly standing at Jessica’s forever bed exactly one year on from when we laid her to rest there – but the distraction helped us get through the day. It was the day before that was the harder one – the anniversary of the last time we saw Jessica.
Time feels relentless sometimes. No matter how much we’d love to be able to turn back the clock or even freeze the moments, it marches on regardless and each day takes us further away from our life with Jessica. It’s never easy to have to keep living each day without our beautiful big girl but as we keep reminding ourselves, we carry her with us as best we can.
Sophie has enjoyed quite a few birthday parties this month. I love the fact that every time she writes a birthday card out, she always signs it from “Sophie, Jessica and Thomas”. She told me the other day “when I am six, Jessica will be eight; when I am seven, Jessica will be nine…” and continued up to when she will be ten, Jessica will be twelve. I love how natural it is for her to talk about Jessica as though Jessica is still here. Jessica is still the big sister she looks up to and adores; still her hero. She even dressed up as Jessica for her school Superheroes Day – wearing Jessica’s T-shirt and cape with a heart stitched on them and going to school as “SuperSister”.
Family life for us is so different to how we once hoped it would be. Life as a bereaved family is now our normal. It’s a normal that we still find ourselves rebelling against, wishing so much that it could have been different. Jessica’s loss is felt in everything we do. There is always that wondering: what would it have been like if she was here with us? What would she be like now? What would it have been like to have been outnumbered? We can only imagine how things might have been. One year on, we’re still learning how to live with that. I suspect we’ll always feel like we’re just learning to live with it.