Two years ago last Wednesday 16th January Josh was riding along the Ho Chi Minh Highway, a couple of days out of Hanoi and on his way south. Then – accident – we are still not precisely clear what happened – but in a second his life was gone.
That was two years ago and still it’s hard to believe the reality of our lives. Each morning is still a trial – one of having face yet again the enormity of the tragedy – to wake and be brought face to face for the umpteenth time that Josh is no more and that our family of five is now so deplete. All made worse in the days leading up to his “anniversary” or his ‘death day’ as we struggle but want to call it.
Just what does this particular day hold that the others don’t? Do we really want to mark it was we would celebrate a ‘birthday’? We know that many bereaved parents really dread the day and hate the idea that the anniversary of their child’s death should in anyway be separated out from all the other terrible days of our lives. Its only a day, one moment in time that often bears no importance to the actual death and who invented time anyway.
But we think they are important. Last Wednesday, on Josh’s ‘deathday’, we met with Joe and Rosa and had lunch at one of his favorite restaurants in Borough Market, near where he used to work at the Ministry of Sound. We remembered Josh, considered how our lives had changed and made plans for our trip to Vietnam later this year. We placed the card his friends from the Ministry had sent at the end of the table and drank a toast to him and to us. This was our own private ritual, important for us to come together on a significant date and to recognize jointly what we all go through everyday individually. We can’t always be together but if there are times when we can make an ordinary day special and shared with love, then surely josh’s birthday and his deathday are those. The ritual is nothing if not the coming together in an act of shared remembering.
But what was also really comforting about the day were the number of emails, cards and text messages we got – (such a relief from all the well intentioned but disturbing ‘happy christmasses’) and we’d like to share some of these simply beautiful heartfelt messages now –
A card from one of Josh’s old school friends –
“Another year is upon us and although the passing days bring closer the realisation of what it means to be me without Josh, they dont make it any easier. This is a difficult day not just because the world lost Josh but because we are all reminded how fast and relentlessly life goes on…..”
and another –
“I think about you often and your life reminds me to live mine the way I want to and not let things hold me back”
From one of Rosa’s friends
“I am always here for you. These last couple of years I cant even begin to imagine how difficult it has really been and I am here for you every step of the way”
From a friend of ours-
“You will soon be waking to another day, another month, another year without Josh.
Have been thinking about you and how much Josh accomplished in his 22 years of life….and how much you have accomplished in his name and memory in the 2 years since he died……..”
From another bereaved parent
“these anniversaries are awful days, we shouldnt have to have them in our diaries, it all just sucks. I will light a candle for Joshua tonight ….”
From a friend whose daughter was born at the same time as Josh
“thinking of you all we will light a candle for josh tonight and leave it burning till morning”
From a neighbour
“Just to tell you that we are thinking of you both as we come up to the second anniversary of Josh’s death. It must be an acutely difficult time for you and all the family. I know you will get support from each other. How to keep going when these things happen so randomly? Its impossible to answer these questions. Just let me know if you want to get out for a walk and a talk anytime.”
These messages have given our family so much strength and really have made a difference. Jane was reminded of the day of Josh’s funeral when she felt her heart would break but realized that she felt safe and held by the love of everyone present.
So much has changed since Josh died. We are changed along with the slow dawning that the pain of losing a child is like no other. Like love, and grief is in the end all about love, it’s a pain that can’t be regulated, medicated, reasoned with or got over. But with the passing of time we are beginning to accept our new lives without Josh, and his absence is easier to live with. But this is a slow slow process and has no timetable. It will be what will be.
So two years on what has shifted? Gradually the fear and anger that is actually a normal part of grief and has at times led people to avoid us, has lessened. And that sense of isolation, which has so much to do with being locked into the moment of Josh life and death while everyone else’s moves on, that too has dissipated and we are touched and thankful to our friends old and new who have found the courage to stay alongside us on our grieving journey.
Jane and Jimmy (January 2013)