I “do” words for a living, but these are among the hardest I’ve ever had to write. No words can even begin to explain what losing Jane has meant to us all. It has affected every aspect of our lives – the way we look at ourselves, each other and even strangers we pass in the street.
I knew Jane for a large chunk of her life.
I knew her as a wee girl, who we took on camping trips, boat trips, holidays and the other normal outings of family life (including, much to her dismay, the weekly supermarket shop).
I knew her as a teenager – quiet, shy, and always drawing or painting in the lounge of our flat in Trinity, with her (hundreds of) Beanie Babies carefully placed around the bay window of the room. Those Beanie Babies are now in two big trunks up our attic, which Isla insists on checking out every time the attic hatch is down, complicit in the knowledge that these are “precious” toys and not for mixing with the toe-rags downstairs … although the odd one sometimes mysteriously “escapes”.
And I knew Jane latterly, as a young woman, blossoming and with everything to live for, before the chance to engage on the adventures of life was cruelly taken away from her.
As a step-mum, it’s not always easy to find your place in many situations. This has been the hardest of all of those. Not knowing where to turn, my focus throughout has been on my own daughter, Isla, Jane’s sister, who was just 4 when Jane was killed. How she could ever begin to understand such a terrible act was beyond me (and how we could explain it to her, without terrifying her or causing untold damage, more than troubled us, until she began asking direct questions which we had no choice but to answer).
As is often the case, the resilience of childhood never ceases to amaze. Isla happily recalls her big sister helping her to colour in pictures … on occasions too numerous to mention. Jane had infinite patience, both with Isla and her artwork. I now see in Isla, the same painstaking care taken with drawings which Jane used to take when she was drawing or painting in our lounge many years ago. Over the past few days, Isla has been drawing Graeme and Craig a picture for the Journey. It has been a secret in our house, to be done only when Daddy is out, but soon all will be revealed … watch this space for the latest craze in blogging -“artblog”…
When Isla feels the need, she asks me or Graeme to read her a book which was given to us by PETAL, called “Badger’s Parting Gifts” (which, to be honest, I struggle to read at times). It tells the tale of an old badger, who taught his friends many things, and they discovered they were all grateful for knowing those things when he died. It’s a children’s book – a simple book – which puts grief in a place, alongside happiness and appreciation of life.
Life is not simple. It’s difficult and trying and extremely hard to understand at times. But the message from Badger’s Parting Gifts stands true. We must appreciate what we have, what we’ve had and what we’ve learned from those who are now not with us.
My favourite part of the book is this: “As the last of the snow melted, so did the animals’ sadness. Whenever Badger’s name was mentioned, someone remembered another story that made them all smile.”
I have a simple hope – that Journey for Jane (and the tales which will undoubtedly flow from it) will help make us all smile when we hear Jane’s name. This trip is the wonderful adventure which Jane never got to take, and which Graeme and Craig are going to take for her. And there is no doubt that they will take her with them in their hearts.