It’s a running joke between us that most of what we do ends up slightly wonky. We go to bustling tourist spots in the off-season and just generally nothing turns out like you want it to.
For us this is a reasonably healthy approach. It helps shield against the inevitable disappointment that plagues perfectionists and often provides a richer memory than something that we to plan. In those cases the main sense is more disbelief.
The point being that as with how we talk about our grief, the way I which we grieve and remember is often policed by others and their expectations. After telling someone we want to celebrate our boys birthday with their rainbow sibling the response was “well, you shouldn’t be shoving the boys down their throat” a curiously odd and upsetting thing to say.
There can also be a sense that any act of remembrance is sober and marked with quiet dignity. How people choose to remember their loved ones is hugely personal and already emotionally charged. Worrying about things being perfect can add unnecessary pressure and misery.
For our boys’ first birthday we went to Brighton with our freshly baked rainbow daughter. It was as cold, constantly raining and mostly shut. We bumbled our way across the beach with a buggy and spent six hours in the Sea Life centre looking at all manners of fish and terrifying eldritch crab beasts. In the bottom of the pram we had a packet of those balloon lanterns they keep trying to ban.
The plan was to light the lanterns on the beach and let them drift elegantly and serenely into the sky and across the sea in a beautiful tribute to our lost boys.
What happened was, well, us. The beach in our mind was not made of stones and would allow us to glide smoothly leaving little buggy tracks in its wake. Stones don’t quite work like that so it was a matter of carrying the buggy to the edge of the water.
Then it started to hiss down leading to a frantic race to light the lanterns and send them flying before they were reduced to mush. One ripped meaning we had one chance to get it right.
By sheer fluke it did light. Now a mad panic to try and get the thing to float with all the dignity you can muster whilst chasing a small glowing orb without looking insane.
And float it did, up, up into the air and over the sea whilst we fumbled with numb fingers to take a photo of what was now a dot.
Not to worry though as a gust of wind caught our lantern and blew it back towards us. We watched with a mix of quiet horror and embarrassment as it floated over Brighton’s hotels and then slowly dropped to what we could only hope wasn’t a big dry pile of tinder. (We had notified the Coastguard of our plans because we are responsible souls). Then I picked up the pram, carried it across the stones and we went in search of bright lights.
And that’s how we celebrated our boys’ first birthday. Had we been obsessed with it being right and perfect this sort of thing would have left us saddened and disappointed. Happily for us it was in keeping with our traditions and made us smile instead and we got to play on the 2p machines on the pier too!
They may not have had a chance to live but we make sure they are remembered on their birthday and it’s experiences like this that allow them to remain part of the family story.