Tug of war in the park
It was a sunny morning, a welcome change from the previous three days of rain. Maeve looked up at me with her I'm-too-cute-to-say-no-to smile and asked, "park, mumma car, pic?" — her words for: 'Can we go to the park (the one too far to walk to) and have a picnic?' It was a girls day — my son was at kinder — it was a perfect idea.
So we got in the car with lunch, pram and tricycle in tow, and headed to the local river for a walk, a play in the playground and a picnic lunch. It was a cool morning but the sun was warm. A gentle breeze rustled in the trees above as Maeve led us ever so leisurely along the path on her tricycle. She took her time to watch two ducks crossing the river. She stopped to pet every dog that walked by. She shouted "hi bor-dee!" to each bird that flew past. All the while Clodagh jabbered away in the pram.
In so many ways it was a beautifully perfect morning with my girls. Except then it hit me like a punch in the stomach - one of my girls wasn't there. This is the knocks-the-breath-out-of-you-sinking-in-quicksand grief that hits when you least expect it. This is the emotional tug of war that lives within my every moment — the joy for what I have versus the endless heartache of what I've lost. This is the life of a bereaved parent.
This is the emotional tug of war that lives within my every moment — the joy for what I have versus the endless heartache of what I've lost. This is the life of a bereaved parent.
These moments usually catch me off guard. Sometimes they are brought about by the very real absence of Nora and other times they are triggered by something I see or hear.
Further up the path was a lady walking towards us. I felt my heart quicken but it took my head a few seconds to catch up with what my subconscious had already become aware of. This lady walking towards me was pushing a double pram with two bassinets — she had twins. The positive self-talk kicked in as I told myself to keep walking; to look away; to just breathe. I could feel that all too familiar sadness engulf me as visions of 'what ifs' and 'could have beens' flooded my mind with envy. It was all I could do to resist the overwhelming urge to tell her that I had twins too. Thankfully my mess of emotions was interrupted by Maeve's excited discovery of a Spoonville community by the side of the path. I fought back my tears and distracted myself with Maeve's excitement as grief and joy once again played a game of tug of war in my heart.
At the playground Clodagh captured the attention of a grandmother there with her granddaughter. "She's so tiny to be walking," she remarks. That's my Clodagh - she's tiny but mighty. "She's so fair. Is she yours?" I laugh and nod. Clodagh's very fair skin and light blue eyes next to my dark features puzzles even me. I point out Maeve on the slide and she comments on her blonde hair and tanned skin. Then she asks the big question: "Do you just have the two then?" And once again grief takes another tug.
That's the thing about grief — I've discovered it's always with you, never too far from the surface. It doesn't matter how much joy you have in your life ( and I do have an abundance of it) the grief is always there. It's always there because the love is always there.
So I take a deep breath and answer the question the only way that feels right. I have four children but one of my girls passed away. I can see the lady instantly regrets asking the question — she's worried she's upset me. But you see the thing is even though talking about Nora might make me sad, it's a beautiful kind of sadness. It's a sadness full of love and pride and also joy.
As we make our way back to the car, Maeve spots a butterfly. We pause and watch it hover in the grass.
I love you baby girl, I whisper as it flutters away. And just like that joy tugs back.