I hate days like today where my grief overtakes me and I turn into a blubbering wreck. On ‘grey’ days getting out of bed and joining the world is not an option. I recognise that every other week one of ‘these’ days occur and are part and parcel of my way of coping with my loss. I allow myself the time to wallow in my self pity and cry about how sad my life is without you in it. I cry for all the years I’ll never have with you, I cry for all the birthdays that friends have with their children when ours stopped at 9 years. I try to remind myself how lucky I was to have those 9 beautiful years, I try to recall those early memories that are buried deep inside me to no avail because on ‘grey’ days only images of your last days with us manage to break through only memories of the final hours are there. No matter how hard I try I can’t remember your happy, smiling face.
I hate days like today.
Another year that begins without you, my 2nd so far but this year I feel so much more positive than last year.
I’ve come along way on my grief journey, I’ve welcomed a beautiful grandson to our family, the bond between your sister, myself and grandma is glued tightly together forever. I’m appreciating life so much more and concentrating on ‘living in the moment’ everyday matters. I’ve undergone weightloss surgery over Christmas so that I can value the vessel God has given me and respect my body something I’ve never done before. Your little body had so much to cope with and yet I continued to abuse mine. You’ve taught me so much in your short life about appreciating life and the people around me. I know since you and dad have left us people pity me but it is I that pity them, I know the true meaning of God’s love, of loss and of hope. I know you are with me everyday, I know you will always be by my side guiding my every move.
I promise you as this new year approaches that I will continue to say your name as often as I can. I promise to continue to raise awareness and funds for Cystic Fibrosis in your memory. I promise to value myself and commit to making a ‘better me’.
I love and miss you every second of every day my darling but I’m not giving up. I so wish I could have one more cuddle but I know I will have to wait until I see you again. Give granda a big hug from me. Until we meet again Happy New Year In Heaven ❤️💜❤️
This last post has probably been the hardest of all to write, it brings everything back so vividly. It brings me back to those dark days when I just wanted to join her in heaven but I have come so far this last year especially with the help of God, family & friends and my beautiful Órla watching down on me and guiding me to a better life. I refuse to rewind so I’ll finish the post of my last hours with my bubba and put them to rest once again in the very back of my memory in that closed box. I will continue to look forward to the challenges 2016 will bring me.
The time is approximately 1pm on Monday 16th June 2014. Órla appears to have left us, I call the local GP and explain that I think she may have gone (she had been at the house a few days earlier) she says she’s on her way. Next I ring Paul the undertaker who was also on call as I had met & spoken weeks earlier with regarding Órla’s illness and he knew how important it was to me to have her coffin decorated & designed by myself and my other daughter. It was waiting in his premises.
Shortly after there was a knock at the door, it was the doctor she followed me into the front room where Órla was and then asked me to leave. She closed the door and did whatever she had to do to pronounce her dead this was now 1.25pm. Still there was no tears I was on auto pilot I had planned this day over the last few months that I knew what was next on the list.
Next there was my mum & daughter to tell. I rang my brother so he could drive mum up to Newry (over an hour drive) and I decided to leave Zoëy in college until her usual time of 3.30pm I didn’t want to leave Órla but it was important that I was the one who told Zoëy her sister had passed. That conversation is forever etched in both of our minds.
When I got back my mum and brother were at the house shortly followed by Paul with the coffin. It was brought into the kitchen and left on wheels ready for us to decorate (I chose a white cardboard coffin) Paul had completed the necessary paperwork and her cremation was to be 2 days later on the Wednesday morning.
I had weeks earlier told friends there would be no visitors except close family which consisted of my brother, my mother, my eldest daughter and Órla’s dad (my dad had died two months previously and my sister had only just returned to Canada).
I proceeded to wash Órla and put some cream on her body to help with the smell. I didn’t want Órla to be touched by any outsiders so there was to be no embalming. I had ‘read up’ on how to prepare a body in the weeks of planning. I cut both her toe nails and finger nails as she hated me doing it so they were very long. I dressed her in one of her princess nightdresses and put her pink blanket over her. There was no denying the ravishing effects this disease had on her body but when I looked at her body I could see straight away Órla’s soul – her presence had already gone.
The next 24hours were a blur, the Monday evening I sat in the room with my mum and Zoëy and drank until I could no longer feel anything. I remember lying beside Órla and putting her cold thin arms around me, I feel asleep. When I woke I noticed my mum was still in the room sleeping on the sofa so I got up and went to the couch in the kitchen. I was happy mum was with her but I really couldn’t bare to be there anymore.
The next day was spent mostly in the kitchen colouring/designing/sticking her favourite characters on her coffin. All three of us were comforted by this, periodically we would all venture into the front room where Órla’s body was and touch or kiss her. Throughout the day we had removed all trace of her medical equipment and brought fans in to keep her body cool, I had bought roses to help with the smell that occurs while the body decomposes. Although it was bareable at this stage there was a certain corpse smell that could not be disguised.
I didn’t sleep much on Tuesday evening anxiously awaiting for daylight to come and yet dreading what the next few hours held for us as a family. I have questioned several times my desire to have a small peaceful cremation. Did I not think Órla deserved the big celebration of all her friends, my friends and extended family to see her final decent? Of course she did but I knew I just couldn’t cope with it, I didn’t want a gathering of people on my last hours with her body, I didn’t want to worry about how I looked or what I would feed them. Órla hated large gatherings we were her people and I knew if she had the choice that’s what she would have chosen.
I wanted to be the last person to touch her body so before everyone else got up I lifted her body carefully into her coffin, I surrounded her with her favourite toys, her princess pillow and of course her pink blanket. It looked ……. Cosy. Yes it did look cosy and not the austere look of bodies in coffins usually look. I finished by spreading rose petals all around her. I was ready to say goodbye – at least to her human body.
The cremation lasted minutes and I couldn’t wait to get away. We all went to Órla’s favourite restaurant for one final meal there, it ironically had all Órla’s favourites on the menu that day. Vegetable soup, turkey roast potatoes and cabbage & gravy. We ate in silence and then went to my mums house in Dublin. The second I got there I realised I needed to be in my own house and on my own, so her dad drove me home. He and I spent our last night in what was our family home remembering our beautiful baby and the nearly 10 precious years we had with her.
It’s now just 18 months 5 days and nearly 4 hours since I heard my little girls voice, it doesn’t get easier, I think about her every hour of every day but the happy memories are starting to come back. I’m remembering more and more what a cheeky little personality she had, so stubborn and strong minded. I think less and less of those final weeks & hours. I have changed my life to appreciate every day we have with our loved ones and not to waste the time on earth we have been blessed with. Everything I do is in honour of my beautiful Órla Rose, she has made me a better person.
I love you bubba, till we meet again. Love mom🌹
This post was inspired by a blog I read yesterday where a mum describes the final few days with her son before & after he passed to the other side. It made me think a lot about my final hours with Órla Rose, our last few conversations, the last food I shared with her and our last hugs & kisses. I can already tell by the excruciating pain in my heart and the tears flowing down my cheeks that this is going to be a difficult post to write and may take some time but my purpose in starting this blog was firstly as a tribute to my beautiful daughter so that all could share in her short life, secondly to help me grieve & cry and let out my emotions rather than holding everything in and thirdly to show other grieving parents how I’m coping and maybe just maybe they won’t feel so alone on this horrible road.
So I’ll begin by saying that this day was no different from the last few weeks, my little one had end stages of cystic fibrosis her poor lungs were saturated with mucus and infection.
Órla was a late diagnosis, she was diagnosed with autism when she was 4 and so any illness,any bug, any bowel problems were always related back to her autism so it was only when I took her to A+E that they started listening to me ( gps had her on ongoing anti biotics). The tests were done and the results were in and our little baba of 6 years & 10 months old was confirmed as having cf and unfortunately alot of damage was already done.
Fast forward almost 3 years exactly and Órla had not eaten in over 10 days and was on high doses of morphine and an oxygen machine was permantly on in the room (she refused to wear the mask or cannula). Her dad & I had decided to stop forcing treatment 4 months before this as her quality of life was now more important to us and I can honestly say she was her happiest in those final months since she got diagnosed & began treatment.
Her poor little body was just a bag of bones, she refused to wear clothes (one of her autism traits) so we watched how quickly devastating this disease is. I knew we were close to her end, she hardly spoke and was in and out of consciousness a lot of the time. Her consultant came to see us every few days and I had googled how long a child could survive without food (do u know it can take months in some children as their little hearts are so strong).
Her dad & I were not living together and I had a feeling that she could go at any time so I asked him to come stay at the house and take time off work. Saturday & Sunday passed and there was not much change. We took it in turns to sit with her as she watched television and then I slept on the couch at night. She was always sleepy but if you turned the tv off she would tell me to turn it back on.
She wanted me to stroke her legs as she loved massages but she said to “do it gently” as her legs were sore, I had noticed they were very swollen which I know is a sign the heart is struggling. She hadn’t been to the toilet in a few days and she went to get up to go but fell before she reached the door so I lifted her and it was at that moment I realised just how frail my daughter was, it was like lifting her as a baby. I knew time was running out so I carried her back to her bed and sat beside her holding her hand. She asked me to get her iPad but she only sat it beside her. A few hours into the night and she said she was hungry and wanted some cereal (again I now know this is not unusual in the final hours), she took a few bites then sat back to watch cartoons. I must have dosed off because she told me I was snoring and to stop it.
It was very difficult to watch her as she could not get comfortable and kept moving, her face was skeletal as was the rest of her little body I barely recognised her as my Órla. She tossed & turned another few hours and then it was Monday morning, time for my eldest daughter Zoëy to go to college. I explained to Órla that her dad would sit with her and I would be as quick as I could. She said she wanted to come with us but I said she wasn’t well enough but she didn’t want me to go so I got my ex to drop Zoëy instead.
Zoëy said goodbye to her sister and that she would see her later, little did we know that was the last time she was to see her alive. Zoëy found out the day before she was pregnant so she got to tell Órla she was going to be an aunty. Her response was “so what” but she had asked me later on what the baby would look like so I know she was taking it in.
The next two hours continued to be restless so I decided to give her some of the calming medication I had been given for her in the hope that she could get a few hours sleep. She took half of it but spilled the rest but it seemed to help and she held out her hands to me, I asked her what she wanted as my autistic daughter didn’t usually like hugs so she said “a hug of course” and I got one of the longest hugs I ever got from her so long that I said lets get you settled for a little sleep now. She seemed to drift off and I thought it was the ideal time for me to get a few hours sleep before the next night. I asked her dad to read her a story and not to leave her even for a second as she seemed so frail and I went out to the kitchen to call my mum and ask her to come over to help that evening.
Some time later I’m not sure how long but I think it was only minutes he came out of the room and said he thought she had gone, he’d heard a noise that he thought was her last breath. I ran in and went to feel her pulse but there was nothing. Her dad then started whaling out loud and I got really annoyed and told him to stop in case she could hear him and she was just sleeping, I also noticed he’d turned off the oxygen machine and I yelled at him again to turn it on what if she was still with us. Silly now I know but I was so angry with myself & him for choosing that time to leave the room so I wasn’t there when she needed me right at the end. I have since resigned myself that her big hug was her goodbye to me and that maybe she felt I couldn’t cope with hearing her last breath.
One small little word that has one huge impact on my life.
So how am I doing on this journey?
Most people would say I’m doing really great, I’m out socialising again, drinking and laughing. I celebrated what would have been Órla’s 11th birthday (oh my god for a moment there I forgot what birthday it was how could I forget?) with dancing and music and relatively few (seen) tears. I’m sharing pictures of me on Facebook doing lots of exciting things …. Going on my first cruise, going to Kerry with two friends, nights out in Belfast, countless meals out or charity nights. For someone who spent the last 3+ years caring for a terminally ill child I’m out more than I ever was. My nails have never looked so manicured, my skin has never had so much cream put on it, I’ve even started wearing make up again on my nights out. Yep to most people I’m doing pretty amazing.
To my friends I’m still struggling and fighting hard to keep on top of things. I’m desperate to keep Órla’s memory alive and raising as much cash as I can to help find a cure for Cystic Fibrosis. I mention Órla as much as I can but in casual conversations whilst still being interested in their children and their lives. I cry sometimes a few tears and sometimes they see my struggles but then I push back the memories and close the door on my emotions again. They pity me, they can’t imagine the pain but because they love me they will continue being there for me, continue inviting me out and being by my side. I love these people.
To my close family my mum and my daughter they know I am broken, they see me struggling with grief every day, they know and understand how much effort it is for me to get out of bed in the mornings, how showering & brushing my teeth are no longer important rituals to me. They support me & cry with me on a regular basis they honestly feel my pain as much as it possible to. Their constantly checking to see if I’ve taken my meds or eaten that day. They know what grief has done to me, but they still have hope that I’m coping that I’m moving forward.
Then there’s God (and Órla), now they really know how I am. They know my every thought, they know the long nights of uncontrollable sobbing of not being able to catch a breath, they know how dark my thoughts can be and how close to the edge I get. They know how shattered my heart is and how it will never ever heal again. They hear my pleas to help keep me strong and keep me fighting to get through this. Their with me when I go through the details of those last days. They know how my life has changed forever and will never smile and feel joy like I have in the past, or at least they know it’s how I feel these days.
Today I am struggling with my emotions, if I’m honest I’ve been feeling like this quite a bit lately. I feel that I’m losing control.
Since losing Órla I feel I have no purpose anymore. I spent all of her 9+ years fighting for her. Fighting to get a diagnosis of her autism, fighting to get her statemented for school so she would get extra help. This then turned to fighting to get a diagnosis of why she kept getting ill all the time and why the anti biotics never seemed to work. After receiving a diagnosis of cystic fibrosis it was fighting to keep her healthy and when things started to go downhill it was fighting to keep her quality of life as happy as I could. Now all the fighting is over and my babies gone, I don’t want to fight anymore I just want to give up.
At first during the first few weeks and months I couldn’t bare to leave the front room where I bought the bed in which Órla spent her last days. I didn’t want to open the curtains or socialise with anyone including my other grown-up daughter and my mother who had been living with me since my dad passed two mere months before Órla joined him. I continued going to see my councillor who I had been seeing since the year before. I cried and cried till there was no more tears left. Slowly I got rid of the bed stained by Órla’s death and moved upstairs to her bedroom. Week by week I got through all the firsts, her 10th birthday less than 3 months after she died spent away from home in a spa hotel with mum and my remaining daughter, the first Halloween (her favourite holiday) again spent away from home in some hotel with mum. The first Christmas spent far away in Canada with my sister, the first Easter spent at home with no one to do an Easter egg hunt for and finally the first anniversary of my child’s passing a day spent trying to forget what had happened the year before with the help of alcohol.
Now here I am approaching what would have been Órla’s 11th birthday but is now her 2nd birthday spent in heaven and I feel more lost today than I did all those months ago when she first left me.
Everything has changed so much, my dads gone, my daughters gone, my other daughter has a beautiful son, I now live half my time in Newry with them and the other half in Dublin with my mum. I’m torn between two worlds one where my dad & Órla live and the other divided between houses. My relationship with my husband had been bad for a long time due to violence and cheating and I only stayed with him for Órla’s sake, with her gone I was free to break lose and I haven’t spoken to him in over a year. So much in my life has changed.
The reality of my life is hitting me hard. Alcohol and depression are closely becoming my best friends. I’m forcing myself to get out and about to mix with old and new friends and some days I can feel ok and go to bed and sleep well but then suddenly the next moment I’m right back down to where I was in those first dark days. Today is one of those days.
Miss you Órla, miss you daddy life will never be the same.
I can’t quite believe In 5 days it will be a year since you’ve left me, my world has been turned upside down and inside out and yet I’m still standing. Most people would be angry at the world, at God, for letting this happen to you. It’s so unfair that your life was so short and filled with so much confusion and pain but in my hour of need I’ve turned to God. Now it’s not that I didn’t believe before, my parents brought me up as a good catholic but going to mass every week was not something I did once I left my parents house. I still believed but not like I do today.
When you got sick I started talking more and more to God, asking for strength & hope and then when your pain was so bad I begged God to take you home to him. These days I ask for guidance in my life, I ask for peace within myself, I ask for help to keep my mental state at a healthy balance even if it is with the help of man made drugs (there were some tricky times at the start) I try to look at the positives I’ve had in my life and not just the negatives. I’m grateful for the 9 years I had with you and look forward to when we meet again.
I thank god everyday for the gift of living, the gift of making new friendships and having new experiences. I’m grateful to have my family so close and I’m thankful that I’m finally able to bond with my new grandson without feeling guilty of loving and missing you less.
That’s not to say I’m happy because I can categorically say that I will never truly be happy again without you by my side. My heart will be forever broken but I am learning to deal with the ache of missing you, I’m getting used to controlling the uncontrollable sobbing, my body is accepting the physical pain I feel every time I remember your not here as a new normal.
I hope you are happy in your new home and that your not teasing granda too much. I hope you have lots of new friends to play with because that was something that you struggled with here on earth, you deserve lots of friends.
Thank you for the signs you have been sending me, I’m sorry I keep asking but I need to know your ok without me. You always seem to know when I need them most. I know your watching over us all and keeping us safe.
I miss you so much Órla porla but I know your in your paradise.
You will always be ‘mamma’s little bubba and my number one’ (Cece knows the rules) xxx
Another first for our family without órla, I try to carry on the day as normal preparing the turkey & ham, oh how órla loved her turkey and roast potatoes. I go to mass and see all the pretty children dressed in their smart clothes and the odd Easter bonnet. I’m trying to concentrate on the true meaning of Easter, of Christ suffering on the cross for our sins, of his resurrection on the third day but all I seem to be able to focus on is the little girl sitting across from me in her mother’s arms. She offers me a shy smile then cuddles into her mummy for reassurance and security and it dawns on me that I will never cuddle órla in my arms again, never being able to offer her that comfort and security that every child deserves.
I’m aware of the complete irony of that statement as I’m sitting here in God’s house and worrying about my child feeling insecure when I know deep down that she is free from pain and any other physical emotions that are negative. Of course she misses me but she is with our Lord, our saviour how could she ever feel unsafe or insecure again with God’s arms wrapped around her.
Maybe its my selfishness that I won’t get to cuddle my baby girl again that I can’t give the comfort I so desperately need to give again. I have to accept that this Easter there will be no Easter egg hunt, there will be no Easter egg buying and there will be no Easter hugs from my ÓrlaRose. This is my new world. This is the world I have no choice but to accept from now on.
Happy Easter my brave & beautiful girl. Mummy misses you so much. Xxx
Rainbow child : A child that is born following the death of a child
In the real world, a beautiful and bright rainbow follows a storm and gives hope of things getting better. The rainbow is more appreciated having just experienced the storm in comparison.
I’d never heard the term ‘rainbow child’ or ‘rainbow baby’ before I became a bereaved mother, but since reading the many blogs & articles about losing a child I’ve become very familiar with it.
Leigh is my ‘rainbow’ child. I found out two days before Órla died that my eldest daughter was to become a mother for the first time. I was so happy to be able to tell Órla she was going to be an aunty. Her response to this fabulous news? ‘Yeah whatever’ now most would think this was because she was so ill and frail but those of us who knew her well know that this was a typical response from Órla when it was something that didn’t really interest her. I know she thought about the baby because later that evening she said she wondered what the baby would look like.
A day and a half later my baby was gone, never to see or hold her niece/ nephew in her arms, never to hear her name ‘Aunty Órla’ being called. I desperately searched the web to read about the afterlife and to see if it was possible for órla’s soul to know and see the baby’s soul before it was born. After all as a true believer we didn’t ‘just die’ it’s only our physical self that dies. I saw that in Órla’s body, it was just a shell, I knew Órla wasn’t there anymore. So where was the baby’s soul?
A lot of people believe that a baby’s soul doesn’t enter the physical body until the moment of birth, that the soul stays near to the mother. I liked this idea, I liked the thought that my dad and Órla got to know and love Leigh’s soul before we did. They say children see spirits well Leigh definitely does from day one he looked past my shoulder and now at 5 weeks old he smiles (yes actually smiles) and get very excited looking over my shoulder. When I hold him he very rarely focuses on my face like he does with his mum and other people but concentrates on a spot over my shoulder. I like to believe this is Órla’s spirit bobbing around and teasing him just like she would have done if she were here in physical form.
My ‘rainbow’ grandchild has brightened my life without a doubt but it also comes with memories of when Órla was a baby, how Órla slept/took her bottle/did what at what age. I know we’re supposed to remember the happier times and not the illness but the happier times with Órla are tinged with ‘what if we’d known’ ‘what if I’d said’ ‘ what if she were born here’ ( Órla was born with cystic fibrosis but it wasn’t detected until she was 6 when the damage had already been done). Seeing my daughter become the beautiful mother I knew she’d be reminds me everyday that my baby’s not here anymore that I no longer have dreams of what she will look like when she’s a teenager or what kind of adult she will become. My dreams are now filled with seeing her again in heaven, holding her once more hearing her call me mom.
So yes Leigh is my ‘rainbow’ grandchild but Órla will always be my rainbow.