We’ve been feeling a bit hard done by, these last couple of weeks. Not because we’re on an island-hopping tour of Greece – the photos of which are making our Facebook friends extremely jealous – but because every day that we make some memories, we are reminded, with every giggle, every “go on then, we’ll do it” speedboat trip, and every mouthful of “fuck it, let’s have it anyway” steak, that it’s probably our last family holiday together. My husband – their daddy – is dying.
Then, this morning, I logged onto my Facebook, with the best intermittent wifi signal I could get, and saw the picture which has stopped the world in its tracks.
Here was a little boy, washed up on the shore. His dream of a better life was over.
It could have been the same beach we’d just been playing on. The same water that my baby boys were splashing in – riding speedboats on, for fun – eating steaks beside, for fun – was the very same water that took someone else’s baby boy away from them for ever. No steaks, no speedboats. Just a journey through temperatures and waters that we Brits consider heavenly, when for others they are sent from hell.
My boys have nicknames. One is Bounce, because he loved to be bounced around on my knee when he was a baby. He giggled and laughed and giggled again, until he was almost sick with joy. The other is Banana, because he once wore a yellow babygro (probably not his choice – he was only a week old) which made him look JUST like a banana, and the poor child has been lumbered with this unfortunate monicker ever since.
As a family, we have a vomit-inducing “team” name, which, to be fair, was tongue-in-cheek to begin with, to encourage the boys to be part of the team that got Daddy better, and, naff as it is, it’s pretty much stuck. Let’s just call ourselves Team Fannypops, for now. That isn’t what it is, but the real thing is just as bad.
This little boy must have had a nickname of his own. All loved children have nicknames. What was it, and why? Did he giggle fit to bust as a baby? Did he have an hilarious outfit as a baby that he couldn’t object to wearing because he was too small to speak? Did his smile melt his father’s heart? Did his mother see his faults and love him all the more because of them? Could he kick a football like a boss, or soak up new words and phrases like a sponge? Could he memorise books or faces or facts?
Did his parents treat their journey as a game, and give their family a fun team name, just to make the petrifying journey more bearable for the child who knew no better?
When we were checking the forecast for the week ahead and celebrating the rising temperatures, were they dying of thirst and heat exhaustion? When we complained that there weren’t enough towels in the hotel bathroom, did they have something to protect themselves from the spray of the sea? Did the choppy seas which slightly marred our game of throw and catch on the beach contribute to their boat being thrown too far to one side? While our pool was a degree or two colder than we’d have liked, was the sea bitingly cold when they were thrown overboard?
If – no, when – my husband dies in the next few months, he will have a choice. He will be warm, comfortable, and surrounded by the people he loves. He will choose where he dies, what will happen to his belongings, and can plan for his younger children’s future. This early departure is not what any of us wanted – least of all him – but we all understand that it could always be worse, and are grateful for the fact that it isn’t.
These people have no choice. When the open sea, a wing and a prayer, are a better choice than staying still, then they must be leaving their home in hell.
All humans have a story. Only by hearing theirs will we finally remember that they are humans too.
Love Fanny x