It's been a rough winter. Starting with the death of a friend's beloved daughter, whilst I was on holiday in Florida with another mutual friend. Since then, death has stalked our children, claiming child after child after child, one beloved child dying even on the morning of another child's funeral. Impossible. Three in a fortnight, two funerals in a week, and then, as a change of pace, taking an adult; a part of my childhood. Seizures, coughs and colds, overwhelming massive infections. Slow deaths, sudden deaths, at home and in hospital and at the hospice. Good deaths and hard deaths. But relentless, remorseless deaths and dying.
It's not good. My phone rings, it is a friend who usually texts, and I am convinced she is ringing to tell me about another child gone. She isn't.
I see a beautiful photographic display, donated to the hospice "with thanks for all the care received" - and I assume it is in memory of the child mentioned, that his battle has finally been lost. It isn't.
Mog fits. 30 minutes of tonic clinic seizure activity - that's 30 minutes of uncontrollable jerking and twitching, face contorted, breath distorted, not responding to the emergency medicines, and I am convinced that this time she won't stop, that her pounding heart will wear itself out before the seizure stops. And yet the twitching slows, her heart calms, her breathing eases, and the cocktail of diazepam and paraldehyde wins out. This time.
The Little Princess needs another major op. Mog could have the same op. except that we have decided it wouldn't be in her best interests. Different children, different underlying problems, different projected outcomes. It is the right decision for both of them. And yet - it feels as though I am condemning one and saving the other. Condemning one to a potentially shorter life by not operating, whilst giving the other a chance at a longer less painful life. And, conversely, condemning one to a long and complicated surgery, a slow and painful recovery, with a certain permanent loss of independence, whilst giving the other as long as possible staying bendy and supple and snuggly and hopefully pain free. I can't win.
Yesterday I had to break the news of Goldie's death to someone who hadn't heard. Five years, and whilst I think the whole world should know by now, and whilst most of the world thinks I should be over it by now, there are still people who don't know. Someone who used to play with Goldie, make cakes with her and read stories, who came to show Goldie her new baby. Goldie liked babies. OK, she liked wearing them as a glove (thumb in the mouth, finger in each eye and each nostril), but she did enjoy them. And the strange squeaking sounds they made.
And now I'm standing with friends who are living with the same loss, and there are too many of us. Too many mothers who aren't getting little thumbprint and scribble cards today, too many families with empty spaces where there shod be a most beloved child.
And mostly, it does get easier. That first searing pain and shock is over. I am used to the impossible, that my daughter is dead. But this winter has been crushing. I hope she's having fun. She was the oldest, and I can see her grabbing B and asking what took her so long; years of sitting side by side watching the smallest Sunday school children singing praise and now joining in properly themselves, always facing the Son, not turned to one side and abandoned by adults needing to herd a dozen three year olds. I can see her welcoming Mog's classmates, delighted to have support from the percussion department (there are tambourines in Heaven, right?). I wonder if she will meet Jophie, whether the two of them will know how much time his mother and I have spent chatting when no one living more locally was awake?
Timings have been perfect. God is, beyond any shadow of a doubt, very firmly in charge here. I don't understand the whys of it all, but I can God's loving hand in it all. New bodies, perfect and whole. No more pain, no more suffering. Tens of thousands of years to sing His praise. Set against that, this time without my Goldie, this time watching so many others joining her, is so short. But oh, it hurts. And oh, I am scared that I will lose the others too. And more of their friends.
And all I can do is cling closer, and know that my Father knows exactly how I feel, because He too has suffered this loss. And that never once, through any of this, have I ever stood alone.