34 years ago today I was in the Good Samaritan hospital in Phoenix where you had just been born. We never talked much about your dad, but I want you to know you were born with love and very much wanted. I was convinced I was having a girl and when they told me you were a boy I said ‘it can’t be’ but then I was probably delirious. I was just delighted I had a healthy baby as I was really sick when I was carrying you. You had a nearly perfect agpar score – all the tests they run – and were 7.5 lb and 20“ long. I still have the little card they gave me at the hospital, sometimes it’s hard to look at it but I will treasure it forever, I also have the tiny woollen hat they put on your head, a few precious memories of your birth.
I’m not sure where the name ‘Toby’ came from – we wound up my mum by telling her we were going to call you Spike which would have made you Spike Thorn. The name Toby fitted your perfectly.
We were on our own for 2 weeks until my mum arrived from England but we muddled through, your dad was only 26 but he was a natural – he was so calm whereas I was overwhelmed with the responsibility. At the beginning the urge to protect this tiny helpless baby is overwhelming and goes on forever no matter how old your child is.
I still struggle with the fact that I could not protect you in the end. Everyone says to me ‘I can’t imagine how you cope’, but I don’t want them to. No one, other than another bereaved parent’ can imagine what it is like to lose your child. People think I’m so strong and that I am coping well just because I show up every day with my make up on and don’t look like I’m broken, but of course I am.
The daily reality of living with the loss of a child is that at any given moment there will be a memory, a stab of pain; destructive thoughts. One morning last week I was walking round the field with the dogs like I do every morning and out of the blue I started talking to you and I was telling you how sorry I was that I failed you and that it was all my fault. This was just an ordinary day, nothing that I was aware of prompted this thought – but this is my reality. This is the reality of the life of a parent who has lost a child to suicide.
Saying that I wouldn’t change my life to not have had you in it. I always go back to the Wordsworth quote, something he said in a letter after losing his young son.
I loved the Boy with the utmost love of which my soul is capable, and he is taken from me – yet in the agony of my spirit in surrendering such a treasure I feel a thousand times richer than if I had never possessed it.
I did the best I could and I couldn’t have loved you any more, you were a unique spirit and lived life on you terms, you never followed the crowd. You were introverted, mega intelligent and I do believe that you had a good life, even though it was cut short I gave you the best life I could and I know at the end you had many friends who loved you, I met most of them for the first time at your funeral.
I wonder what they thought of me as I didn’t look like a grieving mum, I delivered your eulogy without crying and even did a little dance at the end when we played the Friends theme song. I can’t explain but I don’t think it had really sunk in that you had gone. I just wanted to celebrate your life and acknowledge the caring, unique, intelligent person that you were.
I like to believe you were just too special for this world and I have to believe you loved me, even though you never scribbled a last note. We shared so many memories of special times, we laughed so much – one thing I can still hear is the sound of your giggles. So much love and so many memories to treasure. I don’t have anyone to talk to about these memories but I do share memories of you often with people. I know it makes them uncomfortable, but I won’t stop doing it.
As usual on your birthday, I wonder what you would be doing now in a parallel universe where you were still here, but I think 23 years was your time. I have found peace and acceptance but part of me that misses you grows a bit bigger each year.
I’ll always love you Toby, happy heavenly birthday x