Thursday, July 12, 2012

Alice (James Grade 3 class mate)

On the 12th January, 2012 late into the evening we received the twitter message that everyone was dreading, Alice had lost her battle with Leukemia.  This beautiful family had lost their 8 year old daughter and 3 siblings had lost their sister.  Today marked the six month anniversary and our school had everyone wear something pink or green to celebrate Alice's life and her favourite colours.

I took these photos back in September last year when Alice was home from hospital and her family and relatives (and trust me there are many of them) had put on a wonderful 8th birthday party for her with a fabulous table decorated with sweet treats and very girly colours.  I'm not sure who was responsible for the table set up and I can't even remember what it looked like now, but I do know that I remember it was wonderful and it all looked so lovely.

Alice was diagnosed with Leukemia on the 5th September, 2011 and passed away on the 12th January, 2012.  These photos were taken 2 weeks after she started treatment and after a very big day of birthday celebrations so by 4pm she was pretty exhausted.  I especially love the photo of her yawning as I think it's so cute.  I was really pleased I captured the photos of Alice talking while they were listening as they are just so natural and real life.  I loved that I was able to capture those memories for this lovely family.

Six months on, our life is the same and we have our family routines.  Six months on for this family and I'm sure they wish they could turn back time.  When my own brother was killed at 17, Cher's song "If I Could Turn Back Time" was the number one hit and it was getting a lot of air time. I used to love watching the video clip and sing to this song whenever it was on the radio.  After my brother died I couldn't bear to hear that song because I longed to "turn back time" and it just wasn't possible.  Hearing this song after my brother died those words had a very different meaning to me.

Right now I think to myself how on earth do Libby and Tim and the kids get through each day as I couldn't bear it if it happened to my family now.  Even having lost my only brother (I have 3 other sisters) I don't think it compares to losing your own child.  It always comes back to one thing, and that is, they didn't get a choice in the matter.  This has happened and nothing can change it.  One day you are living your normal life and the next day your world gets turned upside down in the most tragic way. 

My family and I felt that it was better to have my brother with us for 17 years than not at all so that we weren't going through the pain of losing him however, it doesn't make you feel any better because you want them here forever.  When I think about it, I feel lucky that Paul was here for 17 years so in some ways I feel guilty (probably not the right word, but more grateful) that I was able to spend twice as many years with him than Libby and Tim because Alice was only here for 8 years.

I have no idea why these things happen, and why we all can't live until we are old and grey.  I do know that for Tim, Libby and the kids 6 months ago would seem like yesterday.  They would long for their life before they got the diagnosis but no matter how hard you might wish for it, absolutely nothing in the world can change things.  This is life and there are certain things that are out of our hands that we have no control over.   We like to believe we are in charge of our lives and for the most part we really are, however we can't control everything and in these circumstances I truly wish we could.   My heart goes out to them not only today, but every day they are waking up to such unbearable pain.  Every time I attend a Grade 3 function when Libby would be there for Alice I would be there for James I think of her as she is not in attendance.  Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult things in the world no matter what age the person is.  A bad day, kids fighting, traffic, a messy house all seem insignificant when peoples lives are changed forever.

I am so glad I was able to provide some family memories for them as they are simply "priceless" to this family.  I'm also really pleased that I encouraged Libby to join in with a "photo a day" last year and she captured more "everyday life" photos of the kids just lying around watching TV.  The girls playing master chef and dishing up (oops... plating up) french toast.  One of the first things she said to me after they received the diagnosis was that she truly valued all those "everyday photos" of their family she had been taking the past 8 months.

There is another little story to Libby's Project 365 that I'm sure she won't mind me sharing and that is whenever she forgot to take a photo during the day (being a busy mother of 4 I'm surprised she had time for anything as I'm flat out with just 2 kids) however, she started out by taking a photo of one of the kids in bed asleep if she forgot to take a picture.  As it turned out, there might have been a few days where this busy mother of 4 forgot to take her daily picture until the kids were asleep.  It then became Libby and Tim's little joke that whenever they would see the daily photo and it was of one of the kids asleep they both would knew that it meant that Libby had forgotten to take the photo of the day.  All these little stories that get attached to Project 365 make up wonderful memories and family stories to be told.

For now Alice is in heaven with my brother Paul and I'm sure he is taking good care of her.  Also my very good friend and flatmate Lance whom I shared a house with many many years ago is in heaven too.  He passed away from Leukemia at 27 years of age some twelve weeks after he was diagnosed.  He realized his dream of becoming a cop the year earlier, so if there is any trouble to be sorted out in heaven Lance is the guy. He was a really funny happy guy and always made me smile so she is in good company.

The grieving process is hard, long and very painful and I'm very sad that this family has had to start that journey as my family did on the 25th November, 1989.   You go through shock, anger, tears, sadness and then back to the beginning and start that all over again. Every song you listened to on the radio during that period of time immediately takes you back there again.  If for some reason you catch yourself laughing, you feel guilty because you are sad and it seems disrespectful to laugh.  There are so many emotions that go with losing someone and working through them all takes time and lots and lots of it.  There is no magic formula, no quick fixes, just lots of chocolate and lots of tissues and lots of hugs from family and friends.  I have been honoured to take these precious memories of Alice for her family and since they were celebrating Alice's life at school today I wanted to share these photos today.  Libby, Tim, Emma, Ged and Mr Personality himself, William; you are in our thoughts and I know the place you are in. Sending big hugs to you all. Love Kathy, James and Sienna xxxx

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