Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Happy birthday to Ryan

On a more cheerful note than recent posts I would like to wish Ryan, a young man with cerebral palsy, a very happy 21st birthday. Please go to the KIDS blog for some pics and more info.

When Sandy, Ryan's mom, came to deliver the invite to Ryan's birthday party to me she was very upset at being so happy when I was so sad. I just want to say to Sandy that you must not feel guilty at rejoicing while I am so sad. You must be proud of your family's achievements. I am happy for you and you deserve to be able to celebrate this occasion. You have done an excellent job raising Ryan to be the best that he can be and he is a remarkable young man. Well done to all of you.

Monday, April 24, 2006

1 month and counting

It has been exactly 1 month since our Kendra left us. I think I may need a sleeping tablet tonight. A month ago at this time I was sitting in the hospital holding my baby for the last time and wondering how I was going to tell her brother that his little sister was gone. Hard to believe how much one can go through in a month.

Yesterday was not too bad. We did some shopping, cleaned the house, went to the memorial park and had some friends over afterwards. I just want to say thank you to those who joined us at the park and to everyone who came around afterwards, even if only for a while. Your love and support mean a great deal.

We changed our room around last week and took down the cot. It was hard. I still have not packed away all her clothes and other things like medicines and nappies etc. I suppose I should sometime, maybe this weekend. I also have to sort out photos to print and enlarge. Can you believe I don't have any framed pictures of Kendra. I kept meaning to get around to it and never did. One thing I am glad that I did, and only a few weeks before she left us, was have Gathry take some nice black and white photos of Kendra and I. They are not digital but I will try and scan them in, there is one very nice one which I want to frame. I do not actually have many photos of her and I or of her and Gathry, more of her and Branston. Mostly we took pictures of her on her own, especially smiling ones.

Someone said something interesting to me the other day. If you lose a spouse you are a widow or widower. If you lose your parents you are an orphan. What do you call parents who lose a child or children?

I am rambling now. I have to get up early tomorrow so I should try and get some sleep.
I miss her so much.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Happy Birthday Sweet Kendra

Tomorrow, 23 April 2006, would have been Kendra's first birthday. As a matter of fact we are now only 4 hours away from the exact time she was born. How well I remember that Friday night when my waters broke. Gathry was not at home and I got the first signs at about 7pm while watching Fear Factor. I thought I was surely imagining it, I was not packed! It was 5 weeks too early! My replacement at work was only starting in 2 weeks time! But by about 9pm I knew for sure, phoned Gathry to get home quickly, packed a bag and by 2am the next morning Kendra was born. She had to immediately go into high care and since I had a caesarion section I only got to see her the next day when they organised a wheelchair to take me through to her. She looked very good for a baby born at 35 weeks.

The doctor told us that she would need an operation to correct the positioning of her anus but otherwise she was quite healthy. I had problems getting her to feed initially and then 2 days after we took her home we had to take her back to the hospital for a week with jaundice and a blood infection. Once she recovered from that she started sucking well. Then of course we discovered the Jacobsen Syndrome and our lives were changed. In the beginning it was extremely difficult to take in the fact that our child was different and nobody could tell us exactly how different she would be in future. She could have just needed a little bit of extra coaching and been mainstreamed or it may have meant a special school. Now we will never know.

It was an interesting year. We met some interesting people, made some new friends and I think changed our outlook on life quite a bit along the way. Between the operation, the eyepatches, the physio, the eating problems etc, she kept us quite busy. The last month has been quite a challenge and I have not done a post on the blog for quite a few days now as I have really not felt strong enough. There have been some really bad days and as quite a few people said, the worst was after the family had gone home and we tried to settle into some sort of a routine.

Tomorrow is not going to be quite as I had imagined it a month ago. We were going to have a big party, invite everyone, big cake, the usual exciting stuff around a first birthday. Now we will be taking flowers to the memorial park and will try not to think of what might have been. We will just try and think of the joy we had in the past year and how lucky we were to be parents and brother to such a lovely little girl.

Happy birthday my darling.

Durbanville Memorial Park

A number of people have asked us for some info about the memorial park where Kendra was laid to rest. Last time I went there I took some pictures and here are the nicest. The memorial park is a fairly new trend in places to lay your loved ones to rest. It replaces the traditional cemetery where the graves are all placed in a row with big headstones. As the name implies they are trying to create more of a park atmosphere. There are private standalone ash graves like Kendra's, as well as smaller ash graves in circles such as the picture above with all the roses. There is also an area for conventional graves but it is in the grass and no upright headstones are allowed, only plaques sunk into the grass. Only phase 1 has been completed so far. They are busy building a larger chapel (we could not fit all our guests in the existing 1 for Kendra's service, but we did have a large number of people attending), a crematorium and also a coffee shop. I do not know of another park like this in Cape Town, but I may be mistaken. I must say we have also received very good service from them. The phone number for the park is 021 975 5199.

And no, they did not pay me to advertise for them, but we felt that if we can help anyone out there with some advice then we would like to do that. When we were at the hospital, we were asked which funeral home we would like to use. Now what kind of a question is that for parents who have just lost their baby? Obviously we do not keep the names of funeral parlours handy! So they gave us the number of Avbob in Bellville. It was either there or in Maitland. So we thought that the one in Bellville would be nicer. Well, we were sadly mistaken. Firstly, if they had told us that the one in Bellville did not have a crematorium then we would probably have chosen the one in Maitland since she had to be sent there from Bellville anyway. Secondly, the one in Bellville was in a really crappy part of town. Going there was a horrible experience and I feel that if we had not received good advice from friends about deciding what we wanted up front, then they may have railroaded us into buying things we did not actually want. I think that the hospital did have some other options but they gave us the cheapest ones, and we were in no state to think clearly and they said they had to phone them to fetch her that evening.

I know it is not a nice thing to think about when you and your loved ones are alive and well, but I am thinking that it might be worth looking into these things beforehand in order to lessen the trauma if, heaven forbid, any of your family should pass away. Also it is quite expensive. We went for some slightly less expensive options and also had a lot of help from friends, from advice to catering to printing, so it could have cost us a lot more than it actually did.

Anyway this is all just my 2 cents worth but hopefully it will help someone out there.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

To all parents

This poem was sent to me by Aunt Muriel. I cannot say for sure that it makes me feel any better at this moment, but it is very touching and sums up what a lot of people have been saying.

"I'll lend you for a little time a child of mine" He said
"For you to love the while she lives, and mourn for when she's dead.
It may be 6 or 7 years, or twenty-two or three,
But will you till I call her back, take care of her for Me:
She'll bring her charm to gladden you, and should her stay be brief,
You'll have her lovely memories as solace for your grief.

I cannot promise she will stay, since all from earth return.
But there are lessons taught down there, I want this child to learn.
I've looked the wide world over in my search for teachers true.
And from the throngs that crowd life's lanes, I have selected you.
Now will you give her all your love nor think the labour vain.
Nor hate Me when I come to call, to take her back again."

I fancied that I heard them say: "Dear Lord, Thy will be done.
For all the joy Thy child shall bring, the risk of grief we'll run.
We'll shelter her with tenderness, we'll love her while we may.
And for the happiness we've known, forever grateful stay:
But should the angels call for her much sooner than we planned,
We'll brave the bitter grief that comes and try to understand."

A verse by Edgar Guest (I used poetic license to change the gender of the child in the original verse).

We are trying very hard to understand and feel that she was not sent for her to learn from us but for us to learn from her. She made an impact on many people's lives, the most recent being a good friend of mine who (for reasons we will not go into here) was having problems coming to terms with and accepting her pregnancy. At the memorial service she says she had a total change of heart and feels completely different about her baby girl now.

Kendra has given so much to so many people and yet she never said a word. She had a lovely laugh, which usually led to a bout of hiccups, and hardly ever cried. She just charmed everyone she came into contact with.

And all of this leads me to a question put to me in a comment to a previous post.
I'm having trouble with infertility - what do you think - better to have loved and lost or not to have experienced it at all. Sometimes I think of the pain a mother must go through when losing a child, and then can't help to think, maybe better not to have loved at all.
I hope you don't mind me making your comment public, I just feel like maybe many others have thought the same way and are thinking of giving up on their quest for a child. This is only my opinion and I am speaking as one who has loved and lost. I cannot say that I can understand the pain that you are going through in your battle with infertility. I never had that problem so I can only speak about how I feel about what I am going through at the moment. Even now, when I am at my saddest and my chest physically aches from the heartache, I would do it all again.

These past 11 months have been truly wonderful. The joy you get from holding that little body and seeing the love and trust in those eyes, from being able to make her laugh, from the smile that appears on her face when she sees you looking at her. These are things that cannot be matched. And I have been blessed with that twice (my son is now 7 years old). And even though it was taken away from me so early the second time around, it is better to have loved and lost than to have missed out on that love. I'm sorry, I hope I have not made you feel bad about your situation, I just don't want you to give up hope. Having children is hard work, make no mistake, but it is definitely worth it. Good luck and please keep blogging, I would like to read more.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


A few people have asked if we have any charities to which we would like money to be donated instead of sending flowers. At the time we could not really think of any. But there is a lady in my support group who has established a trust to raise money for a centre for children with disabilities. If anyone would like to donate money to this worthy cause then go to the KIDS blog. You can maybe put Kendra and your name in the beneficiary space so that she knows where it comes from. Unfortunately this can only be done locally (in SA), I am not sure how to go about it if anyone from another country wanted to donate money, maybe someone can help me out there.

We are also thinking of establishing a Kendra Meiring trust fund to be used for helping special needs families in various ways, not conflicting with Sheila's trust but to address different things. It will obviously take time to get this established which is why we cannot give you details just yet.

Other babies

I have held exactly 3 other babies since Kendra. It was not as hard as I thought it might be, perhaps because they were very unlike her.

First was darling Connor who is 2 years old but is also a 'Holland' baby like Kendra. He has Mytochondrial disorder which leaves him very much like a newborn. But he has a wonderful smile, a real little charmer. Holding him was very different to holding Kendra as he is much bigger but less advanced ito gross motor skills.

Then on Saturday I held little Stephanie, a 4 week old baby. She is obviously much smaller than Kendra and still very much a 'new' baby. Not so difficult.

Then yesterday I held little Peter, a 19 month old boy. First thing he did when I took him was put his arms around me, his head on my shoulder and give me some lovies. Almost like he could sense I needed it. He has never done that to me before. That gave me a bit of a moment and it was so lovely to just cuddle him for a bit. But it was still not like holding Kendra therefore was not as painful as I thought it might be. If I held Kendra like that I would probably have been bitten for my troubles!

Of course it doesn't matter how many babies I hold, none of them will ever be like Kendra. Some people might say I shouldn't try and hold my friend's babies as I am opening myself up to pain. Some might say it could be therapeutic. I don't know. I just don't want my friends to feel uncomfortable having their babies around me. Yes, sometimes it hurts a lot when they unwittingly make comments about being kept up all night or the like. But I also don't want them to start having to think twice about what they say to me in case it hurts. These are things I have to go through sooner or later.

Friday, April 07, 2006

How long....

How long will it be before I can go to sleep without crying?
Before I stop imagining that I can hear her waking up?
Before a door slams and I don't want to get up to check if it woke her?
Before I can close blinds and curtains in our bedroom noisily again?
Before we open the bathroom door at night and don't close it quickly again in case the light wakes her up?
Before the emptiness in our hearts and arms goes away?
Before the sadness becomes bearable?
How long?

Saturday, April 01, 2006


Flowers which we have received laid out at home for this picture.

Picture of Kendra in chapel.

Kendra's memorial service was beautiful. We were amazed by the number of people who attended. We estimated that there was more than 120 people there. We just want to say a big thank you to everyone who attended and to those who were unable to attend but whose thoughts were with us. The minister gave a lovely sermon and a friend sang 2 songs - The Rose and Candle in the wind - for us. We asked Janine to read our eulogy and she did a very good job. Neither of us would have been able to. Gathry's mother said a few words - thank you Mom, what you said meant a lot. Kendra's godmother also said a few words, thank you Yvonne. Then the family took Kendra's ashes and some of her favourite toys down to the ash grave and said our last goodbyes. Everyone else joined us and the minister said a prayer. Kendra's nanny then sang a final lullaby, which was very touching. Then everyone came and paid their respects to the family.

Words cannot express what it meant to have all the people from various walks of our lives there. I know that for some who have also experienced losses themselves in the past few years, it was extremely difficult and I really appreciate that you were able to be there. As you can see from the picture above, we have received an awesome amount of flowers. That picture does not even have everything as some were left at the memorial park and some which arrived early had already wilted. I also want to thank everyone who helped in any way. You all know who you are, it would be impossible to list everyone. You all have a special place in our hearts.

The service, as beautiful as it was, was obviously very difficult for us all. People have said that I was brave for not crying much but I think I was in a bit of a daze. I was just not able to cry. I think if I had started then that would have been the end of me. I hope I managed to speak to everyone there, if I did not get to you then I apologise. I have been keeping myself very busy with the family since then just to keep my mind occupied. Now that organising the service is out of the way, there will be more time to think and reflect on what we have lost. As many people have said to me that they don't know what to say to us, so it is difficult to express in mere words how we are feeling. Our little angel is gone. I know she is in a happier place and is still with us in spirit but there is a big hole in all of our hearts which will never go away.

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