Shortly after Christmas, Oisin announced to Granny and Granddad one morning, “Can you buy my birthday presents early and put them into two big bags. I promise I won’t open them.”
Oisin would have been 4 years of age today. A month has passed since his death. We put all the parcels that arrived in the days after he died into two big bags. We opened them today, in honour of our butterfly boy. He guides our way on.
Thank you to our friends for sharing in his special day here on the Ballymore Farm. You represented all the beautiful boys and girls who grew up with Oisin and created your own special memories with him. May you all continue to grow and blossom into radiant flowers.
We moved back down to Cork on Wednesday 28 January. Walking through the door to our home in Cork seemed to mark the beginning of a new phase in our grief. This was going to be us from now on. He was never going to be coming back to us. The finality of our new situation hit so hard. Confusing too, because every place we looked, every nook and cranny of our house, Oisin had a memory there waiting for us. The memories flooded us for days after we moved back, against the stark contrast of the present reality of our situation. He is not here any more. This all seems wrong. His presence is so alive. His toys are still all here with his marks on them. His clothes are all here. His bedroom is here. Where is he? Where is our little boy? Why does Cilly look so lost in this suddenly big house?
Those first few days were very dark days. We cried a lot. We wanted to leave the house. We were in disbelief. A few more weeks on and we have learned to appreciate the house, our home, because it holds the memories and our love for him. So too does the surrounding area. As we visit all the places we were last with Oisin, and there are many, it is like we’ve had to grieve our loss and reclaim the place. Life simply keeps on going and we are putting one step in front of the other, treading very slowly and gently through the pain.
I want to mention people at this point. People are incredible. I felt very blessed to have gone through this journey cushioned and held by the community of Ballymore-Eustace and within our loving family. I have come to appreciate the same support and friendship in Cork. As soon as we arrived, people let us know they were available and were willing to help and support us in whatever way we needed. The love of others has been like a delicate, warm blanket. I have felt held through my grief. There is of course a time to be alone and it is important to be in those moments too. Evenings are very sad times for me. But I know support is out there in so many different forms. My professional background has helped me there. We were never offered any professional support or given any list of resources and help. We had to go out there and find it for ourselves. Please, please, please see the help and support page for links we have found useful (children and adults). I will continue to update them as I go along my own journey.
Cillian. He has been incredible. Once he got over a week long tummy bug he picked right up in himself. When I saw Cilly back in Cork, on his own, I was so sad for him. I was so worried for him too. I knew I wanted to return to work at some point (I still love my job as much as ever), but I have been worried about how Cilly will cope. He has spent all of his life glued to Oisin. Oisin’s friends became his friends. Cilly did what Oisin did. Cilly only went on the high slide in the play area if he had his big brother with him. Since Oisin’s death, Cilly has had to find his magnificent self that goes beyond “Cilly and Oisin,” one that is simply “Cilly.” As time has gone on Cilly has shown me that I don’t need to be such a worry bag about him. Since being in Cork, I have witnessed Cilly go through his own transformation and is emerging before us as a fun-loving, bright boy, so eager to engage in life. Like his big bro, he has taken it upon himself to ditch the nappy and put on the big boy pants. He has continued to play with his “own”toys and has little interest in cars. Every morning he goes to his kitchen and shop, he shouts down the microphone of his shop till and he makes a cup of tea for us and washes it up afterwards. He might potter over to his musical instruments and have a bang, clang and shake whilst singing a few lines of a favourite song. Most of all he loves to get involved in all of the daily domestics – putting things in the bin, wiping the table and helping with the cooking. He is his own unique soul, for sure!
In these last few weeks, I have learned a lot about how children process death. We met our mum friends in our usual Thursday meet up at the play centre. All of Oisin and Cilly’s friends came running over to Cilly to give him a big squeeze. They all seem to be very interested in us and I have connected with them in ways I never would have before. Some of the children were upset by our presence at first, a reminder of their friend no longer being there. We know they are all talking about him with their parents and trying to make sense of what has happened. We talk about Oisin with Cilly every day. We think of him as all around us still. At first Cilly thought he might be coming back. Through play and any other opportunity that arises, we try to help him with the idea of Oisin not returning, not being in his body, but being around us as a spirit. He might not be able to see him or hear him, “a bit like steam when it comes out of the kettle. It goes up into the air and all around.” The other day he decided he wanted to send a note to Oisin (you may have noticed some “notes” in Oisin’s coffin. They were from Cilly). So he made his note with some biro pens. He demanded to put a large quantity of stamps on the envelope and we left the note for the angels to collect. I asked him where we should send the note. Unsure of what to answer, I suggested we send it to heaven. None of us know the answer for certain, do we? Our human heads limit us. I simply go with what I feel in my heart. My many unanswered questions will all come to light at my own human end.
You may recall that the whole idea of “butterfly boy” came after we released a butterfly just last spring. The boys put its caterpillar self into a bug catcher that autumn and it shortly went into its chrysalis. We captured on video, the beautiful moment that Oisin and Cilly lifted the lid of the bug catcher and released the butterfly into the gentle breeze of spring. Oisin’s final words to it were, “I like you.” We did the same again last autumn, just before Oisin’s diagnosis. The caterpillar we caught also went into a chrysalis. It emerged last week from its chrysalis. Sadly, it had no wings and did not survive. It reminds us again of how life doesn’t always go the way you hope or plan. We said goodbye to our butterfly and hope it finally got its wings along side Oisin. As for the lambs that were born around the same time that Oisin died, they continue to thrive. Cilly played a big part in their survival, going off with granddad each morning to the barn and giving them both a big bottle of milk (mummy didn’t have enough). He named them Peppa and George. Some lambs were not so lucky, and they have gone to keep Oisin company. Such is the endless cycle of birth and death.
I have decided to keep writing every so often about our life after Oisin (for those who wish to keep reading.) He has so much to teach us all about living. We also plan to distribute the generously donated money to research and other ways that will help others in this situation. We are open to your ideas and suggestions too so please post them up in your comments. We read every one. We would also like to have some kind of memorial for Oisin – like planting a tree or dedicating a park bench to his memory. We would welcome your ideas and suggestions there too.
Love and light to you all,