Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hard Day Today

It's been a hard day today. I've been cranky, especially with the kids.
I had a few tears today - at the time it wasn't specifically related to Sam, but I think that was what it was all about. No matter what it is - a music clip, something happening in the street, an ad on TV, a toy found in a cupboard - I'll think of Sam.
I'm very conscious of the fact that his birthday is coming up. Perhaps that's it. I've heard that the week leading up to the birthday is harder than the day itself. I hope so...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Strength

If you're going through hell, keep going. ~Winston Churchill

Many people say to me: "you're so strong". But what is the measure of strength? Is it because I don't cry all the time, because I can find it in me to smile? Is it because I can keep going? Is it because I haven't fallen apart?

Perhaps I am strong, or at least look it from the outside. I guess I am able to smile, to keep going. I think I've said before that I was afraid that if I let go, I would fall apart and not be able to recover, to go on. But I'm not sure if that's really the case.

Right from the start I was determined to honour Samuel, to remember him with a smile, to remember the happy things about him. Of course I'm sad, I've lost my son, but I don't think it would do his memory any good to fall apart. How would that honour him? On Essential Baby, one of the forums I visit from time to time, someone said (to someone else who is going through some grief)
"live the life she could not". It's the kind of message that is given a lot, alongside the 'if the situation were reversed, you'd want them to go on' type of message. I really think there's a lot to that type of thinking. If we sit around, depressed about losing someone dear to us, then not only are we hanging on to sad feelings (instead of remembering happy times), but we are wasting our chance to have a good, healthy life. How does it honour someone to waste your life as well?

The other reason I appear 'strong' is for Oliver. He's lost his brother, would it be fair to lose his mother and father too, just because they can't handle the pain? Both of us have a history of depression, so it would probably be easy to fall apart, but I would not do that to Ollie. I will still give him the message that it's OK to grieve, to be sad sometimes, to talk about what's happened (and I will do the same, both in private and with him), but I will also make sure that he is loved and has a good, fun childhood.
Also, what would it do to Oliver's confidence, his self-esteem, to see everyone fall apart because Samuel is gone? Would he think 'I'm not enough for them'? 'I'm not as good as Samuel'?
No, there are good reasons for me to 'stay strong'. I guess you could say I have some leadership potential, and in this case, I'm leading my family out of a dark time. Someone's gotta do it.

Work

Yesterday, I visited work to catch up and say hi to a few people. It was actually very nice to be in there, and I got a great reaction from the kids (and totally interrupted their lunch - sorry colleagues!)

I don't go back for another two weeks yet, but I thought it would be a good idea to start popping in and getting a feel for the place again. I finished work on the 18th of December last year. Samuel died 4 days later, and I haven't been back since. It has made me wonder how other people go in jobs where they can only get three days bereavement leave, or they have to go back after a week or two. I'm very lucky that I had enough personal leave saved, and an understanding doctor, or I may not have been able to have all this time off. And while I'm doing OK here at home now (most days), I don't think I would have done my job well. It's also been good to be here for Anthony and Ollie.

While it was good visiting yesterday, I'm not sure whether I could have done the job well if I had gone back a month ago. At the same time, I'm starting to realise how unproductive I can be!
It's amazing how much of nothing you can do when you don't have to go to work. Don't get me wrong, I have been doing stuff, but there are also mornings where I can literally do nothing and suddenly realise it's lunch time.

Busy Busy

I think I'm one of those people who needs to be busy. I like being productive and making an impact in the world. I like to do something and be able to see the results (unfortunately in teaching the results are not always tangible, but I can generally see the difference I make to kids, even if I don't always see it in their work). I get fidgety and fiddly if I sit still for too long and tend to do several things at once. I think some of that comes from being a woman, and some of it is genetic. I have vivid memories of my grandmother knitting, watching the tennis on TV, listening to the cricket on the radio and having a conversation all at the same time. I've always got 6 or 7 tabs open when I'm on the internet as I can't just wait for one to load, I've got to go back to the other one. I am always the one who sticks their hand up to volunteer for this job or that one, even if I don't really want it and I always have several 'projects' going on at home.

It's funny though, the busier I am, the more productive I seem to be. And if I let myself get into the habit of idleness, I can do it very well too. As I mentioned above, I can be very good at doing nothing, but I get fed up with that pretty quickly. I wasn't even really all that good at the stay-at-home-mother thing. I loved spending time with my kids, but would probably have done more of that (and napping) than the housework etc that I should have been doing. And I would have missed adult company! I need to talk to people, to stimulate my brain, and the likes of Oprah and Dr Phil just ain't gonna do that for me (**please don't misinterpret my meaning, I think stay-at-home parents are fantastic and do a great job, it's just not a job that suits me). Luckily I was in a position to be able to go to uni/work, and Anthony was able to do what he needed to do (be a stay-at-home parent and start his own business).

Back to work?
My first reaction to the thought of going back to work was that I absolutely had to get out of a school (actually, my first reaction was to pack up my two boys and head for the hills, but that was a little unrealistic). I love teaching, and will probably do it (or something very much like it) until I retire, but there were two main reasons I would have found it difficult: the emotional commitment to a class; and the time commitment that teaching demands.
So I started the ball rolling in the Education Department, to see if they could get me an office job. One thing about this grief stuff is that you never know how you're going to feel from one day to the next, and in the week or two after I did that I started to think about how disruptive that would be for me and my family.
I then contacted my boss to see if she could give me a job in a school that doesn't involve teaching a class. The main reason for this is I just didn't think I could give my 'all' to one class. Some teachers are able to detach and just do the job 9-3, but a combination of perfectionism, stubbornness and empathy compels me to bust my gut for each class that I take on. In a support role, where I am teaching more than one class, I can do my little bit of planning and assessing and behaviour management, but it doesn't have to as full on as with a class full of kids. And I wouldn't have 25 kids depending on me. I wasn't sure if I could depend on myself, let alone a group of kids in some very important years of schooling.
Luckily my boss was able to accommodate me, and I will be teaching all classes in the school when I return. After visiting yesterday, I thought that would probably be OK. I'm glad I am not taking on a class, but I am also glad to be going back to school.

It must be so hard for people to return to work quicker than I have. I guess teaching and the demands that it makes on your time and your mental health do make it a difficult job when you're grieving as well (it's a difficult job at the best of times!), but I can't imagine running a McDonalds or waiting tables or sitting at a table pushing papers around would be much easier.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Oh Brother!

While they were very loved, both my kids were 'unplanned'. Samuel was very surprising 5 months into our relationship, and because we were fairly young, fairly broke and fairly new to both the relationship/parenthood thing, we decided not to have another one.
So imagine our surprise 7 years later when I found out I was pregnant. I was almost through my second year of uni, and a baby was probably the last thing on anyone's mind, but there it was.
Anthony took it pretty well, all things considered. We were still broke, but not so young any more! Samuel was fairly indifferent. Unlike Oliver, who becomes a gooey mess at the sight or a baby, Samuel did not have a clucky bone in his body.


But I think you'll agree, he was pretty taken with Ollie right from the start:

It can't have been easy for him, poor kid. Here he was just hitting his strides at school, when all of a sudden there's a noisy baby (Oliver was an active baby who did not like to sleep!) and a cranky mum who's always studying. But being the great kid he was, he just kept at it. Most of the time he even had a smile on his face!

When I started working and things became really tough (not a story I'm willing to go into here just yet), Samuel obviously found it hard. His interest in school dipped and he started putting on a bit of weight, but on the whole he was pretty nice to Ollie. Of course he found him annoying, he was nearly 8 years older after all, but he still found the time to play with him.
But their relationship wasn't perfect. Early on, Oliver discovered that if her screamed and cried, Samuel would get in trouble, and he used that very effectively at times. There were of course times that Samuel deserved to get into trouble, but not always. I think there was a good balance. Sometimes it was like this (note the hammer):

But other times it was like this:

And Samuel's one act of vandalism (not bad I reckon, for a pre-teen boy) included his brother:

The "Sam" is him of course, and the "O.M" is for Oliver. He told me about it not long after he did it (which is very much like him too), and he said he put one in for Ollie because he couldn't do it for himself. I think he was in about year 6 at the time. I thought it was very sweet of him to think of Ollie like that, even if he was defacing public property!
(It's funny, I'm very much a rule follower, but I don't really have a problem with this. I guess it would be a problem if everyone did it, but as a form of youth self expression I think it's fairly safe).

As we grew up, my brothers acted like they didn't care,
but I always knew they looked out for me and were there!
~Catherine Pulsifer, Inspirational Words of Wisdom

If only Ollie had been able to see Samuel reach his full potential as a brother. The more 'teen' he became, the less tolerant Sam was of his annoying little brother. When he had friends over, they were very nice, sometimes taking time out to play with him, but they (he) would get sick of it after a while and shut the door. Oliver, not knowing when to give up, would either keep opening it or kicking it, which frustrated Samuel no end. Poor kid, just wanted to do some normal teen things, like locking yourself in a dark room with your friends, some junk food and good, loud music.
But then other times, and particularly when his friends weren't here, Samuel was an awesome big brother. He played board games and hide-and-seek with Ollie, kicked a ball around with him, shared his water bombs and made him laugh all the time. He was like the other parent sometimes, making Ollie lunch or getting him drinks, sometimes scolding him like a parent (to which Anthony and O would always say "you're not his parent!" Confusing I guess!) We always knew that Samuel loved him a lot though. I think Oliver did too.

Oliver frustrated the hell out of Samuel, but I think he would have gone above and beyond for his little brother. It's one of the things that makes me the most sad, knowing that Oliver will never have that close sibling relationships. He does have a half brother, but he is 10 years older, and we don't see him very often. Oliver has only met him 3 or 4 times. Maybe when they're older they might manage to form some kind of relationship. I hope so. It can be pretty lonely as an adult without one, so I hope Oliver can find some good friends and a good partner. I've tossed around the idea of having another baby. There are a few pros (mainly that Oliver will have that sibling), but there are also a lot of cons. Not a decision to be made lightly, that's for sure!


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Religion

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog post are my opinions. If you don't agree with them, that's your right, but I'm exercising my right to express them.

I've never been a 'believer'. I think it's fantastic that faith, in whatever religion, is of great comfort to some people and has helped them through some rough times, but it's not for me. I have felt even more strongly about this since Samuel died. If a God 'chooses' to take my Sam, but populates the world with rapists, murderers and other horrible people, then I don't want any part of them. That's not a 'plan' that I'm happy to participate in.

Advice for comforting the bereaved
In the many messages and cards that we received after Sam died, God got a mention. Now I don't mind "You're in our prayers", or "I'll pray for you"; I guess that gives the sender some comfort too. But personally, I'm not going to take much comfort in "God has taken him home" or "he's in a better place", or "it's all part of God's plan". I don't agree! He WAS home, he WAS in a really good place!
When I send a card to someone, I'm not likely to write things that might upset people, but it seems it's perfectly OK to bring religion into it. This seems unusual in a modern world where there are so many religions, and so many non-believers.
It probably sounds petty, but it was one of the things that upset me the most. Don't get me wrong, I really appreciated everyone sending messages, and as I said, they might like to pray themselves, but spare a thought for the people who already have so much on their minds.
So perhaps if you're sending a message, save the religious statements for those people you that you know share your beliefs: members of your family, people in your parish etc. For everyone else, "You're in our thoughts" is just fine.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Marking the Days

It's two months today since Samuel left us. Sometimes it still doesn't feel real. So much has happened in that two months. Some of it is good (but always tinged with a little bit of sadness), and most days we are smiling more than we are crying. But it's still hard. So many things I want but at the same time don't want.
It's hard seeing teenagers, but all I want to do is spend time with them.
It's hard listening to music, but even harder not doing it.
It's hard looking at photos but I want to surround myself with them.
It's hard sitting around not doing anything, but some days that's all I want to do.

We spent time with some of our family today, and that was nice.

Next Friday is Sam's birthday. We don't know what to do, or what's even the right thing to do. Is there a right thing to do? (I've asked that question before)
So we've invited people to come around. That seems to be a nice way to spend time, and I think Samuel would appreciate it. Some drinks, nice food, a cake...we hope that maybe some of his friends can come and sit in his room or write on the mural or something, but maybe it's too soon for them. I guess we'll see how it turns out.

More later.
xx

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Power of Friendship

Friendship isn't a big thing - it's a million little things. ~Author Unknown

Ok, I know the title is hokey, but I'm sure you get the idea.
I've just spent another lovely few hours in the company of friends.
We have a wonderful family, on both my side and Anthony's side. They have been so wonderful through all of this, and I will talk about them another time. Today I'd like to talk about friends.

For the past few weeks, with the exception of last week, we have been joined by our friends (and sometimes members of our family, who also happen to be friends) each Sunday afternoon. We drink (wine, bourbon, beer, water, coffee, etc), eat cheese and crackers and other lovely things (today our wonderfully gourmet friends brought some lovely trout and caperberries. I'd never tasted them before, but they were goooood!), and we sit and talk and laugh. It's almost become a tradition!

Today, my best friend Sally came over with her son Jack. We started at midday (it was 5 past 12, so it's technically afternoon!) and had a good gossip and a drink. A little while later our good friend Dallas arrived, then our friends Kylie and Gordon and their kids. Not long after that Trevor arrived. Not everyone stays the whole time, but while we're all together we have great conversations and everyone gets along, no matter what the background, or whether or not any of them have met before.

There's something very healing in that. I've always been a people person anyway, and my idea of a good time involves great conversation. It's also very nice to have the company. I think when you're grieving, there could be a real risk in withdrawing into yourself; blocking the world out. And we were probably tempted to for a while too. But there were people that kept calling, kept dropping in and making sure we were OK.

In the week leading up to Samuel's funeral, there were always lots of people around. It was nice, but in a way, a bit overwhelming. In the week after, there were a few, and then the week after that, almost nobody came around. It was a little scary, a little lonely. When we were here alone, the reality of what had happened was almost too big, too much to bear. Then people started to come around some more. It wasn't a constant, seemingly never ending flow, but it wasn't nobody either.
Before Sam died, we probably weren't the most sociable people. I was always so tired (physically and emotionally) by the end of the week (one of the few downfalls of the teaching profession), and we've never really had the disposable income you need to go out and socialise regularly. I was also pretty happy to spend time with my kids and Anthony. I do love people, but most of the time it seemed easier to see them here. I didn't have to organise babysitting, there's plenty here for kids to do (well, boys anyway). It sounds selfish, but when I couldn't do things here with people, I didn't tend to do it at all, unless it was something really special. When I think of it, I guess that's fairly normal in our busy world.

That's another reason why it's been great that people have come around. The casual nature of the Sunday afternoon thing means that people can drop in for a little while, or for longer. It's been so good to to see people, do some normal things, and not have to go too far from the little comfort zone we've got going on here. And it's not like we don't think about Sam, or talk about him; we do. On our terms. We talk about him, we share memories, we get upset, but we also talk about other things. And laugh.

But just because we're enjoying our Sunday afternoons, it doesn't mean we're never going to leave the house. Last weekend, I went out on both Friday and Saturday night with some of my oldest friends. Mark and Donna live in Melbourne now, and came up for the weekend just to catch up with friends. On Friday night we sat outside King O'Malleys with our other old friends Gerard and Toby (and his partner Swapna) for a very long time drinking beer and talking. I drank WAAAAY too much and ended up with a sore head, but what a great night it was.
On Saturday night, all of us, as well as Anthony, Helena, Geoff, Tan and Kris (who was visiting from the U.S) went to dinner at Chairman and Yip (then move on to some other places), and once again had a lovely evening.

The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart. ~Elisabeth Foley

The great thing about these friends, is that it doesn't matter how much time passes, when we get together it's like we've never been apart. I haven't seen Mark and Donna since my 35th birthday party at the end of 2008. I haven't seen Gerard since October of the same year. But we had a great night. And they have been there for me, supporting me, through this whole time.

I'm not real good at the whole friendship thing. I like people, and I like spending time with people, but my problem has always been that I like knowing lots of different kinds of people. It was a problem at school because at school you're supposed to have your core friends and spend all your time with them. It's a problem now because I don't have the time to devote to maintaining these friendships. Life gets in the way, doesn't it?

So against all the odds, I do have a few fantastic friends, some of them I only see once a week or once a month or once a year or once every 5 years, but they are true friends. And in some ways it's thanks to them that I can see some good left on the world. That I can see we can still have some fun and not feel guilty about it.

So thank you, to the friends who have been there for us. Thanks to Sally and Dallas and Meg, who were so wonderful in the first week, and have continued to be caring supportive friends. Some of the things you did for us were so above and beyond what a friend should have to do, and you did them without question.
Thanks to all our wonderful friends who sent cards and messages and came to Samuel's funeral. If I haven't sent you a card yet, I will. Thanks to Aamund, and Keiko, who helped Dallas and Meg support us. Thanks Keryn and Brian for lending us the camper trailer. Thanks Paul and Mahala for sharing the camper trailer and helping us get it organised. Thanks to Trevor and Adina, who have been here keeping us company and sharing their beautiful Izzy. Thanks to Jodie, who went out of her way many times to feed us, cheer us up, give us things, especially the dragonfly (another story for another day). Thanks Carmen for being so supportive and helping out, even when we haven't seen each other for so long. Thanks Maree for being here for us when you and Jake and your family were grieving as much as we were. Thanks to Lani and Vickie and Kathy who have always been there for a chat and a laugh (and to show me their wedding photos). Thanks to Jane for sending me a card (from India!) and coming to see me. Thanks to Kris for sending flowers from California (no Australian customs, she didn't actually send them from there), and for coming out to dinner last week. Thanks to Phillipa and Jason for being there for us, and for calling to check up on us. Thanks to Kylie and Gordon for feeding us, but also just being there (and for a great afternoon today!) Thanks to Donna and Mark for travelling all the way from Melbourne to Canberra to see us. Thanks to Gerard, Toby, Swapna, Geoff, Helena, Tan and Kris who came out for a fun night in the town. Thanks Deb for your messages, your constant facebook/blog support and for bringing your beautiful Emily over to see me. Thanks Michelle for the lovely 'I love you'/'I'm thinking about you' messages. Thanks Ania for the company and the ice coffees. If I've forgotten you, I'm sorry. And if you're in my family, don't feel left out. I'm trying to work out how to say all the things I want to say to you.

Without you all, I hate to think where we'd be. Thanks.

Sydney

Yesterday, Anthony, Oliver and I drove up to Sydney to see his (sort of) sister and her partner and their new baby. He is very tiny and cuddly and gorgeous and it was a great way to spend a Saturday.
On the way back, we stopped for dinner at Sizzler in Campbelltown (because Canberra doesn't have one any more). Samuel loved Sizzler, even though he'd only been there twice. He liked to get 'one dinner and 5 desserts'. We'd had a good time the last time we went there, so we thought we'd stop there again. Oliver had a good go at the 5 desserts thing, but only managed 4. Well, he is a lot smaller!
Anyway, it reminded me of the last time we'd been to Sydney. We went up there in April 2009, mainly to see the Star Wars exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum. We stayed at a little hotel in Redfern that was about 10 minutes walk from Central Station. The four of us in one room was interesting, but not horrible.
The day we got there, we walked down to Paddington Markets. Sam bought watch and a trendy hat. Little did we know this was the start of some serious 'cool teen' time for Sam. Although, there was a hint when I told him to pose for a photo in Darling Harbour. I think his body language tells the story:

The next day we went to the Powerhouse. I think I was more excited than any of the boys, being that I am an interesting combination of geek, Star Wars fan (only 4-6 of course!) and movie lover. But once we got in there was something to hold everyone's interest. Oliver raced around, had a go on the hover car


then planted himself at the robotics show. Samuel, Anthony and I wandered around, checking out the displays, periodically checking on Oliver and taking cheesy photos:


After we had walked back to the hotel and had a rest (it was a lot of walking, especially for Oliver!), we decided to go to Manly for dinner. Samuel was by then a keen boatsman (that's not a word is it), after our boat trip in Merimbula and spending time with Ryan on his family's boat, so he was very keen for the ferry. The sea was a little rocky, so of course I sat down and tried not to get sick, but the boys stood at the bow going up and down with the boat.
By the time we got to Manly it was raining fairly steadily, but Oliver was happy to tear about the place and Samuel didn't mind as there were shops! He bought some nice jeans from the hemp shop (the ones we cremated him in), a shirt from the Mambo shop, and a beanie from the Rip Curl shop. By then he had decided that Manly was just about his favourite place on earth and he'd be coming back with MORE MONEY!

We braved the rain a bit, looking for a restaurant and finally found an OK one. By the time we got back on the ferry, it was still raining, windy and very dark. I went straight to the seats, knowing I wouldn't be feeling to goo on this trip, but the boys had a great time, bouncing up an down on the waves and getting soaking wet. They were just about the only ones silly enough to be out there!
Needless to say, the walk back to the hotel (in the rain) was a little soggy. But the smiles on the faces of all three boys was well worth it!
The next day, we went for a HUGE walk through Sydney; from the hotel in Redfern all the way down to the harbour bridge and back.


I was amazed at the boy's stamina, but they didn't complain (much). Samuel found another cool shop in the Queen Victoria Building, this time lollies. This is where he discovered peanut butter M&Ms.

When we were sitting in Sizzler last night (Oliver was at the ice cream bar), Anthony and I talked about how Samuel would have been bored out of his mind, sitting around all day while people cuddled babies and talked (then getting dragged to Ikea). But he wouldn't have complained, he would have just got out his iPod or his phone and pinged away.
Anthone said he would have spent the whole day looking forward to Sizzler. He's probably right.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Celebrating Sam's Life. Part 2

This is the second post about the day we said goodbye to Sam (the first is here). It may be upsetting to some people. But I've gotta do it. I want to remember it. Don't read it if you will get upset.

When we went into the chapel to sit down, I noticed just how many people were there. All the seats were filled, and so was the foyer, and there were also people standing outside the foyer and in the courtyard to the side. I can't explain but it made me feel good to know that Samuel was so well thought of. We'd assumed there would be a few people there, but it was also 4 days after Christmas, so we knew that many people wouldn't be able to come.

Teenagers shouldn't have to go to a funeral
I was really pleased to see so many of Samuel's friends and school mates there. I know it must have been very hard for them, but we had really wanted them there. We deliberately included certain parts of the service to make them feel more comfortable. Right from the start we were so aware of the impact Sam's death would have on them. We were of course devastated, but to a teenager, your friends are your life. To have one suddenly die with no explanation must be such a blow. When you're a teenager you're supposed to be invincible!

As we sat down, 21 Guns by Green Day came on. We hadn't planned it at all, it was pure coincidence. This was a song that Sam loved, and it brought almost everyone to tears before the service had even begun.
John stood up and began his introductions. Then Anthony and I stood up to read the eulogy. I hadn't known until about 1 minute before I stood up that I would actually be able to. But I was surprised that we actually managed to get through it without breaking down.
Then my Dad spoke, giving all the thanks to everyone (I can never repay some people for what they did for me, especially on that day, but I did want to thank them publicly). He spoke very well too (I don't know where we found the strength!)
Then Anthony's brothers got up. James shared his memory of the concert trip, and reminded us of Samuel's love of a good steak, Tim talked about tickling Sam so much that he vomited (well, Sam did try to warn him), Phillip talked about their trip to the zoo where Sam got to feed the tiger and then 'tamed' the llama. There was apparently a llama at the zoo that would never come anywhere near people, but he walked up to Sam and ate out of his hand. Sam got his Dr Dolittle-ishness from Anthony I think. He always loved animals and was very gentle. I'm not really all that surprised about the llama.
Christopher got up and tapped the microphone. "I've always wanted to do that" he said, and everyone cracked up, which was nice. He then read "Do not stand at my grave and weep" (beautifully I might add). He then decided to go off on a bit of a tangent about space travel and such, but because we're all used to that, we were able to head him off without too much trouble (Christopher has autism and occasionally doesn't realise when it's time to stop talking).

Then they played the slideshow. I'd put together a slideshow of photos of Sam (many of them I have put up here). It was set to three songs:
We chose the songs very carefully. We wanted them to be songs that Samuel liked from bands he liked. These three bands were right up there with his favourites (as you know Green Day were his 2nd favourite after The Living End, but we just couldn't find one by them that we thought fit the occasion, and that wouldn't be too loud for some of the 'oldies' in attendance).
One evening - I think it was some time around Christmas, I can't remember - Anthony, Oliver and I went for a drive in the jeep; out the back of Tharwa where Anthony used to take the boys (and me sometimes) driving. We listened to a CD James had made for us, and thought about which songs would go well. The Green Day and Blink 182 songs were on there. I had always found the Foo Fighters one very poignant (I think I'd even like it played at my funeral), and as I've mentioned before, Samuel, Anthony and I (and even Ollie a little) shared a love of the Foo Fighters.
As you can imagine, after the slideshow there wasn't a dry eye in the house, so Lorraine (nanna) did pretty well to get up and talk. She passed on a message from Jonathon (Anthony's son from a previous relationship) and then passed back to John. While they were speaking (John read a message from Jake, Samuel's best friend), the big group of teenagers (Sam's friends and school mates) filed past the coffin and wrote lots of lovely messages on it. It was such a nice moment. A few of our other family and friends came up and wrote messages too.

Then John gave the committal and the coffin was lowered while they played the song 'Time of your life" by Green Day. This song was one of Sam's favourites anyway, and it kind of fit the day. We were also pretty blown away when we found the chords for it (and nothing else) in a folder in Sam's guitar case. I'd heard him playing "Fire Water Burn" by the Bloodhound Gang on the guitar, but not Green Day. I think we made a good choice. Some of the kids were writing "hope you had the time of your life" on the coffin, and they have been on the mural too.

After that we went outside and it was just like before the service. Lots of people, lots of hugs, lots of tears. It was nice but I was tired and shell-shocked and just wanted to stop. So when everyone had sort of filtered off, we went down to the wake. There were a few people there, and I was pleased to see a few of Sam's friends. They were very nice and made my cousin Sarah (who was almost exactly one year older than Sam) feel welcome.

It was only when I got to the wake that I felt myself relax. I had a beer (the first in a week - believe me, I hadn't felt like drinking at all up until then!), chatted to people, at some point had something to eat, and had a few more drinks. We had Sam's music and there was a really good vibe (well, as good as it could be). We shared stories about Sam and drank (and even laughed a little) and I felt a little bit of the tension ebb away.

They say the hardest part is the days leading up to the funeral (the business end, as a dear friend called it). I think they're right. I certainly felt a little better when it was all done. And I was even able to sleep a little that night (just a little).

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Celebrating Sam's Life. Part 1

This post is about the day we said goodbye to Sam. It may be upsetting to some people. But I've gotta do it. I want to remember it. Don't read it if you will get upset.

I woke up early. Well, when I say I woke up, I mean I got up. We weren't really sleeping all that much in the first week. In fact, for the week we had pretty much camped in the lounge room together, pushing the lounges and the ottoman together in a big 'bed'. That's where we lay, not really sleeping, not really awake, just processing and being close to each other.

The Viewing
I don't remember much more of the morning, until 10, when we got ready to go to the viewing. Right from the start I had said that I did not want to see Sam, that I had a picture in my head that I didn't want erased. Mind you, I had seen him lying in that bed anyway, and every time I said that, it was that image that came to my mind, not the one I wanted to remember.
It wasn't until we got to the funeral home that I decided I wanted to look at him. In hindsight, I'm glad I did, but gee it was hard.
He looked great in the bright green Living End t-shirt, and the hemp jeans he had bought in Manly and was so proud of. His hair was clean and curly, like I remembered it, but there was something wrong (well, of course there was, he wasn't alive). He was too cold, too still.
The moment I saw him I broke down. I think it was then that it became a little bit real for me. I cried and cried and cried but couldn't bring myself to touch him. Finally I stroked his hair, said goodbye and put the note I had written for him in his pocket. That was enough for me. I sat in the chapel a little longer, while some of the others came in, then I went out into the waiting room. That was it for me. I didn't want to go back.

Before
The time between the viewing and the funeral is also a blur, but I think I had a nap.
James came to pick us up around 3pm. He drove us there in our car. I was pretty OK until we went round the roundabout into the crematorium. There were heaps of people standing outside the chapel, and I was pretty overwhelmed. James dropped us off around the back and I knew it would take a few minutes to 'get my shit together'. I went down to the toilet and actually hid when I saw someone coming out of there. I don't know who it was, but I wasn't ready.

A few minutes later we walked out to the front of the chapel. I couldn't believe how many people were there! The first person that came up was my mum. She gave me a hug and from then on, I couldn't stop the tears. So many people came up and hugged me, some I knew well, some I didn't. There were people there I hadn't seen in years, and family who had come from Melbourne. My uncle Steve had flown up just for the service. I remember breaking away from someone to hug my uncle Eric, who I'd just spotted behind them (I'm sorry if you were that person). I could hear the music we'd organised playing in the background: The Living End, Offspring, Foo Fighters, Blink 182, Green Day; it seemed weird but also so right.

Sam's Coffin

We'd specifically asked for no flowers, so I was happy to see how they had set up Sam's coffin. Phillip (the funeral director) had been so wonderful; so understanding and willing to accommodate anything we wanted to do. These are the things that were arranged on the coffin:

  • His football: he wasn't a huge footy head (thank god!), but he was pretty active, and had worked hard to develop his fitness and skills over the past couple of years.

  • A little guitar: we bought this for him at a little market in Fremantle. Significant because he was really getting into the guitar in the last couple of years. (As an interesting side-note; Sam had been Googling guitar chords and learning how to play his favourite songs. The first one in his folder in 'Time of your life' by Green Day. You'll see later why this is significant).

  • The Mambo bag. There were two reasons for this: he loved surfwear, especially Rip Curl and Mambo; and the bag appealed to his sense of humour, which we wanted to highlight. He thought the bag was so funny, he bought a t-shirt so he could get it (truth told, he probably did want the shirt too!), and then hung the bag up on his bedroom wall.

  • The hat. I'm not really sure why we included this. Sam was always a good hat wearer. and had a heap of them, but maybe it was just because a couple of my favourite photos of Sam included the hat:

We were very happy with how it looked. There was also a big, framed picture of him too:
More later.
xx

The last good times

I'm planning on writing about Sam's funeral a bit later, so I thought I might do some remembering first.
One thing Anthony and I are both worried about is forgetting. We both have memory issues - some dope smoking back in the day probably hasn't helped - and unless I get it all down, I'm afraid it will disappear forever. At the moment what I most want to hear is Samuel's laugh, because I've forgotten what it sounds like. Unfortunately I probably won't again. We're lucky that we have his voice mail message (five words - "It's Sam, I'll call you back"), and a couple of answering machine messages from his Nanna's phone. So at least I'll never forget what his voice sounds like.

There were two nice occasions in the week leading up to Samuel's death that I'm going to put down. A good way to remember them, or remind myself of them in the future.

My Birthday

On the 16th of December, just 6 days before Sam died, I turned 36. I wasn't all that excited about it, to tell you the truth; I've never really relished the prospect of getting older. But it started the way most of my birthdays do - me up first (I don't really mind, I like the peaceful early morning).
The boys got up, bleary-eyed (Samuel especially was never much good at mornings), and presented me with some CDs and a card:

Samuel was always great with cards. He made them for everyone (well, family anyway). When we were going to a birthday celebration, Samuel would make a nice card.
I've laminated this one for obvious reasons, but I do have a few others. He had done it very discreetly, and got Ollie to sign it. I don't know when, as I was there the whole time (perhaps when I was at work the previous day? Who knows). Anyway, it was very nice.
I went off to work and got a bit spoiled: we had a swimming day with the whole school so I got to go swimming (the day itself was a bit crazy, but better than being stuck in a hot classroom with cranky kids who have had enough of school). A girl in my class even made cupcakes for me and the whole class. What a sweetie!
In the evening, the boys and I went to the Hellenic Club for dinner. Oliver was pretty happy as Santa was sitting in the foyer giving out lolly bags, and he got to play in the games room. Anthony was in and out of there, so it gave Sam and I a good chance to talk. We talked about mobile phones, and he told me about the one he was planning to buy after his birthday (when his current contract ran out and he had some money), music (how we both would have liked to have gone to the Faith No More concert, but were looking forward to Them Crooked Vultures, and a bit about school. The next day they were going to Big Splash for the day.
Samuel ordered flathead, which surprised me, because he usually went for a t-bone at restaurants. He didn't enjoy it very much, it was a bit dry and full of bones (like flathead always is). Samuel had only developed a taste for fish in the last few years, mainly due to his friend Ryan. He had gone fishing with him a few times, and had stayed with Ryan's family at their beach house, and loved going out on the boat with them. Of course, they ate a fair bit of (freshly caught) fish, so he was able to taste it at its best). Now that I think of it, I think that was where he had his first t-bone too!
We were too full for dessert, so we picked up a frozen cheesecake and went home. The boys sang happy birthday and we made pigs of ourselves. All in all, it was a nice evening.

Christmas Drinks
On Saturday the 20th, we went for drinks at Phill (Anthony's brother) and Laura (his partner)'s place. I took the boys over around 7.30pm as Anthony had crashed out on the lounge. There weren't many people there, but a nice atmosphere. Oliver found some other kids to talk to and ended up watching a movie, so Samuel was able to join in with the 'adult' conversation. He hooked into the sweet chilli philly, so much so that I think he felt guilty, and asked me to grab some from the fridge when I went home to pick up Anthony. Of course I got two other text messages from him on the way over there (don't forget my good Apple headphones, don't forget a jumper), he was an accomplished texter (a memory for another day I guess).
We sat around talking, he fiddled with his iPod (one earplug in, one out), and showed me the solitaire game on there. Of course I hijacked the thing until I was able to win the game. He was showing me some of the functions and the album art (he had spent hours the previous weekend downloading heaps of it) and still munching on sweet chilli philly.
A bit later on, James (Anthony's brother) arrived, a little drunk. He was entertaining us with funny stories about a girl he'd been seeing and some of the things that had maybe not gone so well (I remember telling Samuel not to take relationship advice from James, much to his horror). Phill offered James some tequila and he jokingly tried to get Sam to have some. Sam politely declined (might have had something to do with me sitting there saying NO WAY!), but he was such a good, sensible boy, I don't think he would have.
Not long after that, we went home. The boys decided to watch a movie, I think it was 'Zombieland'. I went to sleep hearing Sam (and Anthony) laughing. If I'd known it was going to be the last time I heard that, I would have stayed up...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Just as he left it...

You've all seen those heart-wrenching movies and TV shows where a child has died. The parent takes the detective/reporter/old friend up to the bedroom and says "it's just as he/she left it". The room is usually tastefully decorate, immaculately tidy and clean.

They obviously didn't have a son like Samuel.

Samuel was...well....a pig. Actually, that's a little harsh, he had become a little more tidy as the years went on, but...no, he was a pig. I think I will establish this fact beyond a shadow of a doubt in the course of this text.
Nature or Nurture?
It's probably not his fault. I'm a pig too. And so is Anthony. (I guess Oliver is probably doomed too!) Those of you who have visited us will know that all too well. I'm just not good at housework! I'm a little bit lazy, a little bit too easily distracted, but mostly, I can just think of better things to do with my time! I figure that people come to see me, not my house. That said, there are times when I get sick of it all and clean up. After all, we do have to be hygienic, don't we?

But a pig? Really?

Ok, I know it's harsh, and they say that you shouldn't speak ill of the dead, but I am a firm believer in honesty, and I don't think it's healthy to hide Samuel's less awesome points just because he's no longer with us.
Let me give you the most disgusting example. One day, a couple of years ago, I got sick of the mess in Sam's room and went in there to help him clean up. I dusted and sorted and wiped, and it was actually quite fun in there; listening to music, chatting, making things clean (I do actually like that sometimes). Then I looked behind a desk and found a small plastic bin half filled with some type of liquid. When I asked Samuel what it was, he told me it was VOMIT! Eeeeerghhhh!
Needless to say, I felt like doing some of that myself! On top of that, he told me it was several weeks old.
Convinced?

Not long after that his Nanna started coming around and helping him clean up each Monday afternoon. I wonder if the two events are connected??

But what's this got to do with anything?
After a few months of Nanna's regular help, Sam was getting a little better at cleaning, and keeping it clean. But in the last year or so she had stopped coming. It was still generally tidy, but had more of a sheen of dust and mess than usual.
So when he died, Sam's room was neither immaculate or especially clean. We left it for a while, not wanting to face the memories/feelings that came up while in there. About two weeks after he died, we had to clean out a bedside drawer that was full of lollies and ants, but apart from that, we left it.

But there does come a time
Today Anthony and I decided to sort out Samuel's room. I wanted to create a place where we could sit and think about Sam, and remember him. But I didn't like doing that in his room as it was: dusty, untidy and with rubbish overflowing in the bin.
We didn't throw anything away, or really move too much of it. But we thoroughly dusted and vacuumed, and put everything in a place that it could be seen easily. It's much nicer now, welcoming. It's a really nice spot to sit in. Now it does look like the rooms in the movies.
Everything I'd read said not to make any big decisions until at least a year after someone close has died. So we're going to leave it like that for a while, and in a year or so we'll decide what else to do.




Sam's room today (whoops - forgot to take the 'before' photo - you probably didn't want to see it anyway).

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Wow!

My email's been playing up lately, and I haven't been able to access all of them.
So when I finally got it sorted out today I had a heap of unread messages.

Among the messages was a lovely email from Chris Cheney. For those of you who don't know, Chris is the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist for Australian band, The Living End.
As I have said before, The Living End was Samuel's favourite band. He had all their albums and DVDs, and knew a lot about them. I was hoping to take him to see them live one day. I've seen them a couple of times and they put on a great show.

Anyway, a while back, I sent an email to the management of The Living End, as well as Green Day and Foo Fighters. This is what I wrote:

It would have been nice to get a response of any kind, but realistically these are big stars.

So imagine my surprise to find an email from Chris. I'm not going to share it just yet, but it was lovely, personal and heartfelt.

So thank you Chris Cheney, I've always liked your band, but I now have lots of respect for you as a great person as well.

How can we help?

This is a question we have been asked a lot. That, and "I don't know what do to/say", have been the words we have heard over and over again.
At first it was really difficult for me to respond. I didn't know what the hell to do either! And there's really nothing you can say either. It happened, it hurts like hell, we're so numb that we don't even register half of what's going on, there's nothing anyone can say.
Having said that, it was nice to know people were around. We received at least 100 cards, and just knowing that people 'had us in their thoughts' was strangely comforting.

What did help
We were overwhelmed by the support we received from people (as was mentioned in this Canberra Times article). It has always been hard for me to ask for help (even harder for Anthony I think), so I never knew the answer to 'what can I do?'.
Some people took matters into their own hands, and these were the things we found most helpful:
  • Meals: a couple of people made, bought or organised meals for us. Cooking was the last thing I wanted to do, and it was important to keep eating nutritious (or comforting) foods. A couple of friends also made us cakes and slices, which were handy to have around, as there were always people dropping in.
  • Groceries: Anthony's brothers were the best at this. They would come over with a bag of groceries (simple things to cook like pasta or stuff to feed the people that were visiting), or were happy to pop out for milk or toilet paper or anything we had run out of.
  • Chores: Now many of you know I'm not the world's best housekeeper, so not only did I have to deal with the embarrassment of having people come into my dirty, messy house, but I also had to deal with them cleaning bits of it. But it was helpful to have someone do the dishes or fold the washing. I was even less inclined to do it than normal.
  • Entertaining Oliver: Some of our friends and family took Oliver for outings. This was great for him because he got some "normal time", but also good for us because we had some time for talking/grieving without having to 'put on a brave face' for him.
  • Messages: People kept leaving little messages for me on Facebook, or sending emails. These were great as I didn't have to talk to anyone if I didn't want to, but I didn't feel isolated.
Another thing that has really helped is company. In the first two weeks there were so many people coming in and out of the house it was almost overwhelming. Then it really dropped off. But just as we were starting to feel lonely, someone would call or come over and have a coffee or a drink with us. I hope it continues!
But what do we talk about??
I have a feeling (and it may be paranoia) that a few people avoided (or are still avoiding) us because they just don't know what to talk about. That's OK, I understand it would be difficult, and I'm not offended or particularly upset about it). The answer to that is everything. It was great to hear about things other than what was going on at our place, but it was also great to talk about Sam and what was happening too. The thing with that is, I guess, that we were able to guide the conversation around those topics. I don't mind answering questions or talking about Sam. In fact I'd rather that than sit with someone who looks uncomfortable and obviously wants to ask a question. So it was nice to sit with people and have real conversations that covered everything, including memories of Sam and stuff about his death, but also including other topics.

The sticky subject of money

We received financial support (in the form of donations) from lots of people. This was perhaps the hardest part for me, but also the most helpful.
Few of us plan for funeral expenses, but saving for your child's funeral is not something that ever crosses your mind. We're not broke, but we do have a fairly low income comparatively, and this expense was overwhelming.
When the funeral director suggested we ask for donations to cover expenses, I was a little worried. I am a proud person, and as I have already mentioned, I don't like asking for help. An appeal so public seemed horrific!
But he assured us that many people do it, and the people I have spoken to since say that it was actually a good way for them to feel like they were helping us. And it did really help to not have to worry about money when we had much bigger issues facing us.

So thank you again to all those people that helped us in any way. I am still writing thank you cards (I know some people have said 'it's not necessary' but it's important for me to do it), and hope that I don't forget anyone.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I can't think of a title for this one

Healing?
Because Samuel died suddenly, unexpectedly, there were a lot of things left undone. And because it was the first week of the school holidays; the week before Christmas, there were a lot of things that involved Samuel.

So instead of having a little bit of time to think about how we would deal with these issues as they came up, there were several to deal with, one on top of the other. And we had to decide - quickly - whether to go ahead or not.

Christmas
Christmas Day was just three short days after we lost Sam. The natural instinct was to curl up in a ball and shut out the world, but we had Oliver to think about. To a six year old, Christmas is everything, the biggest event of their year. We couldn't take that away from him, he'd just lost his brother.
So we decided we'd try to keep it as 'normal' as we possibly could. As many of my friends already know, I'm not a big fan of Christmas at the best of times. So needless to say, I found it very difficult to muster any enthusiasm for the day.
But we did it anyway. As I mentioned in another post, Oliver was over-the-top in his enthusiasm, and seemed to enjoy himself. My wonderful parents brought the whole lunch shebang with them, and we had a few visitors throughout the day, so we stumbled through and it was OK.

New Year's Eve
Normally the week between Christmas and New Year is fairly quiet. Unfortunately we had to hold a funeral in that time. (Some time I would love to share my memories and thoughts about that day, but not today).
Our New Year celebrations in the last few years have been a bit quiet. We had a party a few years ago that no one turned up to (yes I know, lesson learned) and since then have just spent it at home with a good friend or two. In the last couple of years, Samuel had invited a friend or two over, which was nice: too young to drink, but old enough to have good, clean, independent fun.
This year, we decided to revisit a New Year celebration from a long time ago. One that was accompanied by good memories.
When I was pregnant with Sam, Anthony and I went with Sally down to the river. We had a lovely evening talking and watching the storms (I can't remember much else - it was 14 years ago and the intervening years have been quite eventful).
So on New Year's Eve 2009, we packed Oliver and the dogs up in the car and went down there again. Sally and Jack came with us, and we got our feet wet. I won't say it was lots of fun. But it was nice.

Merimbula
Last year, we had a great holiday at a very nice resort park in beautiful Merimbula. The boys and I camped there for a week, and Anthony joined us for a couple of nights (he had just started a new job and couldn't get the time off).
Sam and Ollie on the beach at Merimbula in January 2009

We liked it so much we booked again. It was paid for before summer even started, we were that keen! Samuel loved it there (we had stayed in Merimbula a few other times before that trip). He was a real water baby, and loved the beach.
So when mid January rolled around this year, we had to make the decision: go and have the holiday or cancel it and stay here?
Well we did go. We talked about the pros and cons, and decided that:
  1. Sam would not approve of us not going;
  2. If we didn't go on this one, we probably wouldn't go the next time;
  3. It would be good to get away.
We also decided that we wanted something a bit more comfortable than a tent (and easier to pack up if it all got too much). Luckily we have some wonderful people in our lives, and my parent's neighbours Brian and Keryn (who I've known since I was 12) loaned us their camper trailer. This was a big deal as those things are NOT cheap!
But it did make a difference, we were very comfortable. I think we probably would have left early if we were in a tent. We loved it so much, we are planning on buying one (just gotta save the $18000-odd bucks we need!)

It was hard, especially in the evenings where there wasn't much to do except sit and talk or reflect. There were a few tears (actually there were a lot), but it was also a good chance for us to talk about the good memories we had of Sam. Not having 'regular life' going on around us, not having the TV or the Playstation going all the time, not worrying about work or the weeds in the garden or the pets, just sitting, talking under the beautiful starlit sky.

During the days we kept busy.

We spent a lot of time at the beach or in the pool, and just did things together. We must have collected about a million seashells, as you can see in Oliver's bulging shirt:It would have been better if Sam was there too, but it was still nice. A good way to bring out the smiles...


 Them Crooked Vultures
Another thing that I was looking forward to was going to a concert with Sam. It was going to be his first, but James pipped me to the post when he took Sam to Green Day. Not that I mind, in fact I'm very grateful that he did.
As many of you know, I'm a big Foo Fighters fan, more particularly Dave Grohl, who I think is a very talented musician (and very nice looking too). I also have loved Led Zeppelin for a long time, but was a little young when they toured Australia (actually, I think their last tour was 1972, so I wasn't actually born yet, but I have heard rumours that they are reforming and will tour again!)

As I have talked about before, Samuel and I share a musical bond, and thankfully he liked both of these bands as well. So when I heard that Dave Grohl, John Paul Jones (bass player from Led Zeppelin) and Josh Homme (singer/songwriter most famous for his band Queens of the Stone Age) were forming a band, I was excited.
Anthony, who has been my faithful companion at many concerts and festivals over the years, was not interested in seeing Them Crooked Vultures, but it was too great an opportunity to pass up, so I decided to buy tickets. This was before this band had even released one song mind you; I was basing my judgement on the talents of the other three bands. Samuel said "I'll go, mum", and I thought: what a great idea! So I bought him a ticket.
In the mean time, they released an album, and we both liked it (thankfully) and we were looking forward to going.

So as the gig approached I had to decide (again) whether it would be better to go or stay behind. In the end I decided once again that Samuel would be pretty peeved if I didn't, so I asked James to join me.

We had a good trip together. There are 12 years between James and I, which he never fails to highlight. "It'll be like going to concert with my mum" was one lovely comment. But we did have a good time, and I think I had convinced him by the end of the night that I was cooler than he thought. Mind you, when I was happy to wait 1.5 hours to catch a glimpse of Dave and the others at the stage door, in the hope that I would get to say hi, maybe tell him about Sam (only to have them jump straight into a waiting car and take off without so much as a "Hi"), he may have suspected I have a creepy side. (Wait until I tell you about the emails I wrote to Sam's favourite musicians - I suggest you reserve judgement on my sanity until then, dear reader!)

But it was a great gig. I haven't been to a small gig for a while, and managed a great spot at the front (and off to the side) where I could see Dave play the drums and hear the awesome music too.
There were a couple of teary moments: when the support act finished and the lights came up, I saw all the excited people and thought about how much Sam would have enjoyed the experience. I cried a bit then (James was in the toilet and came back saying "I can't leave you alone for a minute", but was very nice and gave me a hug), and then during Sam's favourite songs "Scumbag Blues" and "Bandoliers" (well they were getting the most playtime on his iPod), I shed tears.

I had made us special t-shirts, with a picture of Sam on the front. I felt very proud wearing it. I had hoped that I would be able to get it signed, but have to make do with a patch I bought. The shirt will be coming with me to every concert now. I'd hoped to take my camera in to document the night, but 'The Band" wouldn't allow cameras. Cameras on phones ok, but not cameras. Oh well.


And maybe the hardest one?
The day Sam died, he and my mum and I were going to go and see "Masterpieces From Paris", an exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia. I had always wanted to see 'Starry Night' up close (it, and the other, more famous 'Starry Night' painting are among my favourite Van Goghs), and was pretty excited about it being in Canberra. I was surprised when Sam wanted to come.
Well we didn't go that day, and for a long time I didn't know if I could. But mum and I went yesterday, and I'm glad I did. It was hard (and they always are), but I'm glad.

It's funny, we've said that for all of these events: it was hard but I'm glad I did. I guess that's what the healing is all about.

Miss You

I'm missing Sam a lot today (and yes, there are tears).
So many things I wanted to do with him, talk to him about, see him achieve.
Love you, my beautiful boy.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Oliver


A lot of people have been asking me how Oliver is going. The truth is, I don't really know. He seems to be coping really well, but then will come out with a comment that makes me think it's playing on his mind.

For example, this morning Oliver woke up bright and cheerful as usual. We were talking about what I was going to put in his lunch and then out of the blue he said:
"How did Samuel fit in the box?"
I assumed he was talking about the coffin and explained that the coffin was the right size and Samuel fit perfectly. I reminded him that he had seen Samuel in the coffin. He then went back to talking about lunch.

He does this a lot. Last night when we were talking about going out on our bikes he asked, "how did Samuel stop breathing?". Of course I don't know the answer to this either, and that's what I told him. Once again he went back to the other subject.

Now if it was me asking thee types of questions out of the blue, it would be because it was constantly playing on my mind. But is it the same for a six year old? The few books and articles I read about children and grieving have said that it is fairly normal for kids to do this, especially kids Oliver's age, as they try to make sense of things. And I don't have a problem with the questions, I just wondered if it was because it's all he thinks about. I don't think so. Kids do tend to just blurt out what' on their mind, don't they. That's not such a bad thing I reckon.

Watch out for changes
When I went and saw the counsellor a few weeks back, she said that kids are pretty resilient and bounce back quickly. As a teacher, I can understand that. I've seen kids go through some pretty horrible things and come out the other side OK. But I've also seen kids fall apart or go off the rails, so it was a big concern for me. She also said to watch out for dramatic shifts in behaviour and that he might not even react to it until he reached 13. Wow.

Oliver has been amazing really, when you think about it. He was upset the first day, I think both as a reaction to the people around him as well as the initial impact of the situation. In the days that followed it was like he was overcompensating for the unhappiness around him.
On Christmas Day (which was three days after Sam died, so everyone was still pretty raw), he was going over the top with enthusiasm. Each present (we had tried very hard to do a 'normal' Christmas for him) was opened slowly and carefully and he raved about them, like he was trying to be happy for everyone.

For about a month, every time Oliver saw Anthony (or me) cry he would rush over and give us a hug. One day he must have heard Anthony crying outside because he raced out there to find him to give him the hug. It was so sweet to watch. He's kind of eased off a bit now, but if he's not doing anything and notices someone crying, he'll go and hug them. I've only seen him cry once. Last week, I think it was the night of his first day back at school, we thought he was asleep but then heard him crying. When I asked him what was wrong he said "Sam". Of course that set both Anthony and I off.

But, he's back at school and so far he's been OK. The school has been wonderful - so supportive and caring. They are really looking after him, and from what I can see so far, Oliver is responding with a good effort.

We'll see how he goes.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Thank you for the music

Not that Samuel would touch Abba with the proverbial barge pole...
No, Samuel had pretty good taste in music. It's a weird thing for a parent to be proud of, but there it is. And it's the subject of today's post.


Sam and I had a lot of things in common. But the thing that we shared the most was a love of music.

Sam started life like any other 'normal' little kid. He loved the Wiggles (I still remember taking him to see them when he was about 3. It was in this little hall in Queanbeyan and it cost about $8), Hi-5 (in their original form) and dancing at discos. They used to have this awesome kid's disco on every Sunday afternoon at the Lanyon Valley Club and he loved it! He'd be up there on the dance floor, having a great time, winning prizes, you know, disco stuff. I know, I know, you're saying "that's not the Sam I know", but I swear it's true. Once he hit about 5 he somehow got the message that this kind of behaviour was terribly uncool, and that was the end of it, but it was nice to see while it lasted.

But there were still some daggy moments
Mind you, this coolness epiphany was not final. At various times throughout his early years, Samuel developed a taste for: The BeeGees (particularly their 1997 hit 'Alone'), Hanson (yes, Mmmm Bop) and even **Cringe** the Hampton and the Hampsters.

Again dad, again!
When he was quite small, Sam developed a passion for the opening credits of "The Drew Carey Show". For a while he was content with seeing it each week, but after a while he'd ask for it specifically. So one week we taped it. Possibly a mistake, from then on he would often watch it over and over again. I think the tape (yes my young y and z genners, video tape) wore out before he did!




But things did improve!

Those of you who know me know that I am a big fan of music. Generally the louder the better. Anthony is pretty much the same. From very early on we used to play our music quite loud, especially on housework mornings or at parties. For a while we were a bit worried, as Samuel would often say 'it's too loud'. This coupled with his love for the above-mentioned daggies was - as you can imagine - cause for some concern.
We started to see signs of a more positive change when Samuel was about 4. About the time that The Offspring released 'Conspiracy of One', Samuel he decided he liked them. I was pretty happy, because I had a few of their albums. Thus began Samuel's education (under my expert tutelage of course!)

A little bit later, I played Samuel a Public Enemy song (the only one I had at the time) He really liked them and bought a couple of their albums. This time he was teaching me. When he was about 7 he really got into Outkast (before Andre 3000 decided there was more money to be had in the acting game), and a little bit later, the Black Eyed Peas (around the time they released Monkey Business). Again, I was a little concerned, as he didn't seem all that interested in 'my music' at that time. But I needn't have worried.

I found this song on iTunes...
When Sam started year 6, I gave him my old computer. I had left all my music on there, but didn't really think he'd get into it. For a while he didn't, his friends were a big influence then, particularly in year six, and he got into bands like Fall Out Boy.
The first band he discovered in my old iTunes was The Living End. They have been his favourite band pretty much since then. I will talk about them another time.
After that, he'd come up to me every few days and say "I've found this song/band on iTunes that I really like", and we'd talk about the music. He'd tell me which songs he liked, I'd suggest more to listen to. They were some great conversations, and one of the things I'll miss the most (Woah, here come some tears).

The favourites?

By the time Sam died, he had a firm list of favourite bands. Led Zeppelin, Foo Fighters (those of you who are aware of my -slightly unhealthy- Dave Grohl obsession will know how proud that one made me!), Faith No More, Ben Folds and Powderfinger were ones he shared with me (among others), but there were also ones he went out and found on his own: Green Day (his other favourite), Metallica, Tenacious D, Rage Against the Machine, Wolfmother and Korn.

And a proud moment for me?
Samuel came home from school one day and told me his music teacher had said he had great taste in music. He said when she asked why he thought that was, he had said 'it's because of my mum'.

Sam at the Green Day Concert. A story for another day.