We spent Thomas’s first week at home together, enjoying being in a newborn bubble. When we finally ventured out and about with him, there was one place we had to go to first. We had to take him to GreenAcres to visit his big sister in her forever bed.
Thomas’s arrival has brought us so much joy but has also brought sadness because Jessica never got to meet him. She had been so excited when we told her she would be getting a new sibling. She wanted a baby brother and I know she would have adored Thomas just as much as Sophie does. I am grateful that she did have a moment of connecting with him a week before she died. I have a beautiful memory of her lying with her head on my bump and telling me “Mummy, Peanut just kicked me in the head!” She would have been such a wonderful big sister to Thomas, as she was to Sophie.
Sophie insisted on bringing the cushion with Jessica’s photo with us. She put it in the car between her seat and Thomas’s – where Jessica’s seat should have been. It made me feel like I had all three of my children in the car for our first trip out.
GreenAcres is beautiful. It breaks my heart to have to go somewhere like this to sit with my big girl, but as this is now our reality, at least we have a beautiful spot to go to. Jessica’s forever bed is a short walk from the car park, slightly set back from one of the main paths. It feels quiet and secluded – there is just the sound of the birds singing and the wind in the trees.
Sophie likes to help put fresh flowers in Jessica’s vase. We use Jessica’s water bottle that she took to school each day to carry the water for her flowers. I try to bring some of the roses from our garden if I can as Jessica loved these. This time I had a couple of the roses from our garden plus some of the flowers from the bouquets we’d been sent to congratulate us on Thomas’s arrival.
At the moment, there is just a wooden post with Jessica’s name marked on it in permanent marker. We have now drawn up a design for Jessica’s memorial and need to contact a local woodcarver to get it made. All the memorials in the woodland burial ground have to be made of wood and within a certain size. Each plot can have a memorial and a wooden vase for flowers but nothing else in order to try and keep it all as natural as possible.
We had an appointment to register Thomas’s birth so could only stay for a few minutes. It was long enough to chat to Jessica and tell her she had a new brother, to sing her one of the special songs I used to sing to her and to take some photos of the five of us together.
The next day, Sophie received a personalised memory box from Halo, a charity that runs gardening sessions and arts and crafts sessions for bereaved children. We’ve been to a couple of their sessions and Sophie seemed to enjoy them. She loved her memory box and decided to put Jessica’s mermaid doll in it. She also asked if we could go and visit Jessica so she could tell her about getting the memory box. It was the first time that Sophie had asked to visit Jessica.
I think Jessica’s roses might have been eaten by one of the deer that live in the park. Her vase had been knocked over and there were some footprints on Jessica’s grave that looked like deer prints. We refilled her vase with water and put the rest of the flowers back in. This time we had no other plans for the afternoon so could sit on a shady bench overlooking Jessica’s forever bed and just be there with her. Sophie chatted to Jessica for a while before turning her attention to finding sticks, standing on the tree stumps and trying to reach the branches of the trees overhead. Thomas was asleep and settled in Daddy’s arms.
We usually head straight back to the car after visiting Jessica but this time we decided to wander back via the new orchard area. Sophie enjoyed picking and eating some of the blackberries we spotted along the way.
We passed the labyrinth on the way. Sophie and Daddy followed the path to the middle, before taking the easier route back out and simply stepping over the paths.
The swing was decorated ready for a wedding which was taking place in the Woodland Hall. Sophie wanted a quick photo with Daddy and had a few minutes’ swing before we headed back to the car park. We could see the wedding guests assembling near the Woodland Hall. Sophie was a bit disappointed that we couldn’t go and join them!
I’m glad that Sophie seems to enjoy visiting Jessica at GreenAcres. Hubby and I always find our trips there very emotional. There’s always that feeling of such sadness that this is how we now spend time with our big girl, but there’s a sense of peace too sitting there on the bench in such a calm and tranquil spot.