When my first–born son Harry was four years old, I wrote a gift book called Being Mummy.
It was published in 2007 by a small, independent publisher from my home state, and described – in succinct, thoughtful statements set amid exquisite images of real South Australian mothers and their young children – one hundred of the myriad ways that becoming a mother had changed me.
10 weeks ago, my beloved Harry was killed in a freak motorbike accident. He’d just turned 19. He lost control on a straight stretch of gravel road near our home in the Adelaide Hills.
My life, since that bright October day, has been the kind of bizarre, living nightmare that every parent fears. Morphing from heart–stopping, cell–draining shock to a ragged, raw grief that tears out of my throat, to presenting my calm business face and getting on with my life has demanded supreme strength and resilience. It’s been the most difficult journey of my life so far, and I’ve had some tough times.
Every day, at least once, I’ll forget, and then I’ll remember, like the bottom dropping out of my stomach. My heart has died a thousand deaths since Harry’s fatal, last ride. Though I’ve told myself countless times that it isn’t true, it’s not real, Harry didn’t come home that night. At three weeks, it was the longest we’d ever been apart.
He was probably going to sell the bike, I think. He hadn’t ridden for at least five months during our unforgiving winter weather. He’d had a close call about a year ago, and I believe it was his warning, which he didn’t heed.
I realise now, that would have meant selling the bike and never riding again, not just going over the events with me and thinking about how he wouldn’t let it happen, next time.
But we weren’t to know, and hindsight is only a callous voice in my head. Even after Harry and I debriefed about what did happen, and what could have happened, never once did I imagine the worst.
The actual worst – not just being hospitalised with a broken leg or arm or neck, which a year ago seemed bad enough as a possible outcome. Even when the police knocked on my door, I didn’t imagine the worst. The blood may have left my face as I croaked, “It’s not my son is it?”, but in the agonisingly slow seconds after they said, “We have to come inside,” I still didn’t guess. My mind was vacant, my pulse racing as I led them to my kitchen and asked them to sit. Hats in their hands, “No, you need to sit down,” the two police officers insisted.
Even then, I didn’t imagine those next, world–ending words. “I’m sorry to tell you your son has been killed in an accident.”
I never wanted to have kids, until at 34, I had a dream that changed my life. I dreamed of breastfeeding a baby in bed and when I woke, I set about planning how to make it become a reality for me and my husband of 14 years.