I’ve pondered long and hard over whether to write this one. Because it’s not my story. It’s not my tragedy. But it is affecting my family and it’s making me think and that’s why I’ve decided to write it.
Absent-mindedly scrolling through twitter as I do, I came across a news story. I froze. A 12 year old girl had died. A 12 year old girl from my son’s school. He’d told me that a girl in his class was very ill in hospital, that ‘some of the girls were crying’. I called him to ask her name. Although I already knew.
We both read the story on screen. Me with tears pouring down my face. Him repeating ‘That’s very sad, that’s very, very sad’ and asking me how it could have happened. How could it have happened? How could I answer that?
Reading about any child’s death (or any parent’s, or indeed pretty much anyone’s) is heartbreaking and makes me cry. A child in my own son’s class is almost impossible to comprehend.
My son is a boy of few words. A lot of the time he is silent. It’s either that or talking about crazy MI6 spy plots or ways to make money. Or complaining about his brother and sister or having a go at them. This girl wasn’t his friend. He had barely even spoken to her, but her death has, understandably, affected him.
He wanted to look at the flowers outside school over half-term. We don’t buy the local paper, but he brought it home from Grandma’s house and wouldn’t let it go into the recycling bin.
He came home from school on the first day after half term and reported that their tutor, the deputy head, all of the girls and some of the boys were crying. He didn’t cry, but crying isn’t his style. He was one of the few who didn’t cry when he left primary school.
There was a memorial assembly for her, with A LOT more crying. He told me about the music. About her mum and dad being there. He called them by their first names not ‘her mum and dad’.
This is the boy who hardly speaks, but this stuff is all in his head and he is sharing it with me. At night I hear him sharing even more with his brother. More detail about the music, the crying, what people said.
It’s made me realise there is a lot more going on in his head than I sometimes give him credit for, that just because he doesn’t speak much it doesn’t mean he doesn’t think or doesn’t care.
But it’s also made me think about life and death. How that little girl was there and then she was gone. A happy, healthy girl, with a family and friends who loved her. The descriptions in the paper make her sound like exactly the girl you would want for your own daughter (actually, they make her sound a lot like my daughter). A beautiful girl who was hard-working, well behaved, well loved and talented. A girl with everything to live for.
What if that was my boy, or my girl? When my son talks about his ridiculous spy plots or his far-fetched money-making schemes, I need to try to not get irritated by him. Maybe that girl had irritated her mum and dad too. Because most kids do, after all. I know that he only has to fall and cut his leg and my irritation is gone in a flash. Totally forgotten. All I can think about is how much I love him and how I want to make him better.
For that family and others like them there is no making things better. But their sad story has made me realise my son cares more than he lets on – and that I need to remember how much I care about him. Because life can be cut cruelly short.
In memory of my son’s classmate. We made a donation to the children’s hospital in his name.
I took the decision not to name the girl in this post because I haven’t asked her parents’ permission to post and also to protect my own son’s identity.