When he was born, he was his mumma’s little chubby piece of boyish perfection. She loved every roll, every dimple. He was everything she had dreamed of, and everything she hadn’t known to dream of. He fed and slept, fed and cuddled, fed and learned to smile. And they were happy.
He had colic and reflux, like many babies. He teethed, and got coughs and colds, and bumped his knees. When he cried, his mumma held him in her arms and warmed the hurt away with her love. And soon he stopped crying, and was happy again.
When he was a toddler, his sister was born. Like her brother, she was her mumma’s dream come true. The two of them grew and did all the normal things. When they laughed, their mumma basked in the sound. When they cried, her arms circled them until the hurt was gone.
Another baby sister came. Perfection, again.
What a lucky family they were.
Whenever something scary, or new, or strange happened, the mumma and the daddy wrapped their love around the three babies to keep them safe. And they were happy.
Then one day, someone so very bad came along he literally took their breath away.
He also took away Grandpa.
The whole world changed. Days blurred. Police came and went. There were visitors, and journalists, and people, all of them asking “why?”
The mumma and the daddy stood in the centre of the maelstrom, stunned. And did the only thing they knew how to do – they hugged their babies.
And those babies – oh my. Their grief was bigger than they were. It made them do things like throw temper tantrums, and stop eating, and say things like, “I hope I die in my sleep so I can go to heaven and be with Grandpa.”
The mumma and the daddy heard this and it broke them in two. But they kept on keeping on, feeding their babies and tucking them in at night, and most importantly, enfolding them with love.
And the only way the mumma and the daddy were able to keep on keeping on was because they too, were encircled in love. They were wrapped in ever-widening circles of arms from friends and the community, and even people they’d never met. People who sent messages and food and flowers and hugs, all of them simply sending love. And all of it helped put strength into the arms of the mumma and daddy.
Life without Grandpa is different. There’s a shadow where there used to be light. But his belly laugh resonates in his grandchildren. And his kindness shines from their eyes. Without Grandpa’s selfless act, the family would be without their Grandma too. No one can ever repay that.
There is not a minute in the day when we do not think of Grandpa, and the act that took him from us. It is something we have to learn to live with. Our family will never be free of that hurt. But we are so very lucky to have each other, and so many caring people around us. It is my hope that instead of living in the shadows of grief, perhaps one day we might be able to help another family through their trauma, as we are being helped through ours.
But it is in honour of Grandpa that we will continue to strive to be happy. That we will keep each other safe, just as he did. That we will hug each other and kiss goodnight, and laugh loud and often. And remember just how lucky we are.