Thinking & Feeling

“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.” Horace Walpole

Monday, 12 February 2018

A poem for Natey

A poem for Natey

Written by my special friend Cecile, who sees and feels things differently, and more deeply, than most others. Thank-you Cecile...

something woke me

in the early hours

just before sunrise

and I fell asleep again

fell into a dream

I saw a small boy running

running and laughing

on the beach

his red curls shone

and I called his name

I called him

I called "Natey!"

but the only sound was his laughter

he ran

he skipped and laughed

and I felt myself melting

melting away into a sadder world

where memories burn as bright

as red shiny curls


Friday, 9 February 2018

What no one tells you when your child dies...

I am writing this because it has been weighing on my mind, and I feel like writing about it may help me to process it, and also I think more importantly I hope it may help someone else in some small way...

There's no doubt that dealing with the death of a child is the very hardest thing a person can ever experience. Nothing compares to the loss and pain you feel. It doesn't matter whether it was an early miscarriage, late miscarriage, still birth, congenital defect or anything else. No matter what the reason, the result is the same  - immeasurable and constant deep deep loss and devastation. You never 'get over it'. You just, in time, learn to live with it.

I lost my first born, a beautiful and perfect little girl, Angelique, nearly 20 years ago now on 23 March 1998. I still think of her all the time even though, born far too early, at only 25 weeks pregnant, she was with us only for the briefest amount of time. You never forget, you never 'heal'. You are forever altered and changed. You, your being and your life take a new course after a child loss. It's a loss of innocence, loss of blind-faith, loss of who you were before....

But then there are the other losses, the ones that happen beyond birth and health issues. The ones where a child dies due to an 'accident'. These, in my mind, carry an additional layer of grief and complex emotions, as these are officially classed as 'preventable deaths'. Nothing quite captures the feeling when you first see that word as part of the classification for your child's death. Preventable. It could have (SHOULD HAVE) been prevented. It was PREVENTABLE!

And when your child (or anyone) dies of a preventable death, that death automatically gets investigated. If you think about it logically of course that makes sense. Any accidental death absolutely should be checked out to understand the circumstances and to ensure there was no negligence, or worse malicious intent, involved. It completely does make sense. I really understand that.

The worst scenario is where not only did your child die of an accidental death, but you were present (and in my case the ONLY person present) and so you are the focus of the investigation...

Even if you know, have accepted, and taken on the mantle of responsibility, guilt and shame for being the one who failed in the primary responsibility of a parent - to keep the child alive. Being  investigated by law enforcement for this and having to contract a lawyer to 'defend' you is possibly the very worst possible situation to be in.

And the problem is NO ONE tells you this is going to happen. No one warns you to be prepared that you are going to be investigated, and that there will be police, detectives, lawyers, inspectors, directors of public prosecutions, magistrates/judges involved. No one tells you just how scary, terrifying, nerve wracking and simply devastating it will all be. That you will be scared you will be found 'guilty' and have to face the 'consequences'... And if so, what exactly are those? Jail?? And then to feel like you deserve to be in jail anyway for failing your child so thoroughly and fundamentally.

I thought dealing with and having to LIVE through and beyond losing our precious perfect and beautiful Natey was the pinnacle of hurt, pain, loss and grief. We set about the impossible, but necessary, task of figuring out how to carry on after his loss and memorial in January last year. Trying to be as open, authentic, intentional and real as we could be through it all. I was compelled to go INTO the experience fully and write down every detail and thought as I relived it, in the hope of being able to process and make sense of what had happened and HOW it could have happened!? (This detailed information and time-line later proved to be crucial. I had no idea how necessary it would be, or that by sharing it publicly I could have inadvertently been exposing myself to liability (either way I am always entirely honest and have never had anything to hide)).

As I result of all that I have been through this year. When I heard of another family tragically losing their dear baby boy to a drowning in December,  I felt like I had to reach out to them and warn them to be prepared that it was not over, there would be more to come. And that it may not happen immediately either, it may wait until you think you are finally 'coping' and then blind-side you....

I wish someone had told me. Warned me. I hope this helps someone in a small way some day.

----

So this is what happened to me/us.

Around 6 months after losing the centre of our solar-system, our son/sun. Andrew planned a trip to Iceland. He had apparently already in his mind planned that he and Natey would go to Iceland when Natey was around 16 or so to do the trek through Thorsmork, in the area of the now infamous volcano Eyjafjallajokull. Andrew had been intending to do this trek in 2010. When literally 2 weeks or less before their planned trip the volcano erupted. So those plans were thwarted, and their trip to Iceland was curtailed to day activities in and around Reykjavik. One of Natey's names and his long-time nick-name in-utero, and as a baby, was 'Thor'. The volcanic eruption of 2010 caused 2 new craters on the side of Eyjafjallajokull called Magni & Modi (the name of Thor's sons). And so this hike became the teenage bonding voyage they were going to do as father and son once Natey was old enough. I hadn't know this until Andrew said he wanted to take this trip now with me, as a cathartic memorial journey. And so we planned the trip and took some of Natey's ashes with us as well as a 'love lock' and photo of him to place in Iceland.

What most people also don't know was that Andrew had also asked me to consider having another baby with/for him. And we were in the midst of that process. Just before the trip I had an IUI/AIH procedure and so when we embarked on the trip we thought I was newly pregnant. The trip was to be a big watershed trip of remembrance, acceptance, loss, grief and allowing ourselves to look forward with new hope to a new start.

As it turned out, on the very morning the hike started, literally 10 minutes before we set off on our 90km multi-day trek, I popped into the loo to the discovery that I was not pregnant at all. My period had come a full 4 days early, and I was entirely unprepared for it. I had nothing with me. I had to 'McGyver' my way through with home-made 'tampons' and 'pads' made from tissues and paper towels for the next few days. I was emotionally devastated. The trek, while truly wonderful, was so emotionally charged with a deep sense of loss and emptiness. In retrospect maybe that was right because it meant our full focus and attention was on Natey, but at the time all I felt was loss and emptiness... while in the most wondrous and beautiful place I had ever been.

Anyway the point is we came back from that trip having processed many deep emotions and after a final few bonding days in Paris. We breathed deeply, looked forward and went back to work.

Day 1 back at work on Monday 24 July 2017 at approximately 14:30. I was in a meeting with my boss when my phone rang. I didn't know the number so took the call quickly. It was Detective XX from Seapoint Police Station. She said I needed to come in to make a statement. I was genuinely confused and had no idea what about. I asked... and she said 'About the death of your son'... I felt a stake go through my heart.

I was confused, but printed off my blog post and went there immediately after work, just 2-3 hours later. I arrived and made myself known and I was told to sit and wait for a more senior detective. When he arrived he started asking questions and telling me I had to make a statement. I told him I was fully willing to do that. I handed him the print-out and told him that was exactly step-for-step what had happened. He started reading it and then handed it back. He mentioned a lawyer. I told him I was happy to make a statement, I had nothing to hide. He told me that the case would go to a prosecutor and depending on who got the case they 'might not like my story' and there 'could be consequences'.

By this stage I was becoming overwhelmed by emotion and I told him 'I was there, I was the only one there. I AM responsible. It happened exactly how I said, and if there are consequences I am taking them. I deserve it.' and I started crying. I started having visions of being locked in jail and letting my other boys down too... It was NOT a good moment. He again started talking about a lawyer. He said he COULD take my statement then and there if that's what I wanted, but it would be legally binding....I stopped and looked at him and said, 'Are you advising me that I need an attorney?'. He said 'Yes'. And then he said I should go for counselling too. I think he was trying to be kind and helpful but by that point I just wanted to get the hell away from him. They told me they'd need to send a team to take photos. Of what!? 'The pool and area'. What!? All the nets, gates and security measures were long gone, it was nearly 7 moths later!??

I left and walked into the now dark winter evening. Crying. Not knowing what to do, feeling like a criminal. I phoned Andrew, telling him I was sorry but I had no idea what to do or who to turn to. I don't have a lawyer. He has contacts and said he'd reach out the the legal firm he deals with for work matters.

I was uncomfortable using an attorney, feeling like that made me look like I was trying to spin my story and defend myself, when that was not the case. The truth is the truth and I was fully willing to tell it.

We met with the attorney. A nice, kind and clearly experienced guy (who charges R5000 per hour!!). He explained how these things work and how it's a structured process and that the benefit of using legal representation is that they know how to navigate the process as smoothly and quickly a possible. They know what kind of information and evidence the prosecutors, magistrates and judges are looking for to be able to make a call and appropriate ruling on the case.

He helped to guide us in terms of what we needed to include in our statements, what 'evidence' was useful. We had photos of all the baby-proofing and pool security measures, floor plans of the house, time and date stamped Whatssapps, SMSs, phone call logs etc. Also the blog post which had the exact sequence of events and timings (which I would NEVER have remembered in such detail at that point had I not taken the time to write it all out so soon). We had character references for us both from our au-pair, and the school principal. There was the post-mortem from the forensic pathology services (the morgue). I think the police constable that was present on the night, and who had stayed in touch with us, gave a statement too.

We submitted everything we had. And then we waited and waited and waited. With this axe hanging over my head, wondering whether I was going to be found 'guilty' and if so what that would mean..?

We finally got word recently on 26 January (so nearly 13 months after the event) that the magistrate had ruled on the case and deemed it to be 'an accident' and that no one was to be held responsible or 'culpable' and that there was no finding of any 'negligence'.

Of course it is a relief that in the eyes of the law I am not 'guilty'. But I can't say it makes me feel any better about anything. In a sense it is good that it is finally 'over', but it doesn't change anything, and it's not over. It will never be over, As I said, you never 'get over' the loss of a child.

But as least now we can go back to our grief and mourning and memories of Natey himself and not have the legal axe hanging over us.

----

No one warns you in an 'unnatural death' that your grief will be complicated, compounded and extended by the legalities of it, and that you'll have to literally 'pay the price'. I wish I had been warned. I hope this helps to fore-arm someone else. (Although I wish more that no one else has to endure the heartache of losing a child, and especially to drowning. It is such a senseless waste of precious little lives.)


Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Natey's Yahrzeit Memorial

Firstly a disclaimer: I am not Jewish, so I am by no means an expert on anything relating to Judaism. But Andrew and his family are, and Natey was too...

Well technically Natey hadn't had his official conversion yet, which was required due to the fact that I am not Jewish - and yes very strictly in Judaism if the mother is not Jewish the child cannot be - which would have required a sort of water-baptism etc. But he did have a Bris on the 8th day, he attended a Jewish school, we sat Shiva with a Rabbi and observed the basic Jewish customs when he died (although again, he was cremated, which is not traditionally allowed in Judaism). So let's say, like Andrew, he was going to be 'culturally Jewish' if not fully compliant.

Anyway, the point is having been exposed to Judaism through Andrew and Natey now, I have seen and learned a fair amount about it and I have found that the customs and strong sense of community of it are pretty special and meaningful.

One of the traditions of Judaism is the Yahrzeit.

What is the Yahrzeit?*
The word ‘Yahrzeit’ is Yiddish and is translated to mean “time of year" and taken to mean the anniversary of a death. In Judaism, there is a focus on carrying on the memory of those before us from generation to generation. Based on Jewish law, the Yahrzeit is the day one year following the death of a loved one as calculated in accordance with the Hebrew calendar. This remembrance is performed annually by reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish and burning a Yahrzeit candle for 24 hours. Traditionally, the observance begins on the anniversary of the Hebrew date of death and the candle is lit at sunset. 

The Yahrzeit candle reminds people of the fragility of life and encourages them to embrace their life and that of their loved ones. A candle is often believed to be a symbol of the soul. This is one of the core reasons that candles are such an integral part of the Jewish religion.

Traditionally, mourners keep the candle lit for the entire 25 hours from sundown on the eve of the yahrzeit to sunset on the day of the yahrzeit and allow it to burn itself out. 

When the Yahrzeit candle is lit, the intent and focus for individuals is to take time out of the day to remember, honour and celebrate the life of the loved one. Traditionally, you will find that the Mourner’s Kaddish is recited on the Yahrzeit. It is customary and suggested that family and friends use this time to share stories and reflect upon the person who has passed and the legacy he or she has left behind.

As mentioned the official Yahrzeit is calculated according to the Hebrew calendar, which differs from the Gregorian calendar we use in daily life.

We will be using Natey's normal calendar date (30 December) as a day of memory for him, but will also be mindful and light a Yahrzeit candle for him on his Hebrew anniversary, which for those of you in the know is on Tevet 1.

This means that today, 19 December 2017 is Natey's Yahrzeit.
And coincidentally Natey died pretty much spot on at Sunset so the time of lighting the candle - which is at sunset - coincides almost perfectly.

Sunset today is at 19:56.

Sunset on 30 December is at 20:00.

#DoingItForNatey  #LiveLongDays
---------

Natey's official Yahrzeit dates:
YAHRZEIT
NATANIEL CANTER
PASSED AWAY 30 DECEMBER 2016
01 TEVET 5777
Tevet 1, 5777,"Friday, 30 December 2016"
Tevet 1, 5778,"Tuesday, 19 December 2017"
Tevet 1, 5779,"Sunday, 9 December 2018"
Tevet 1, 5780,"Sunday, 29 December 2019"
Tevet 1, 5781,"Wednesday, 16 December 2020"
Tevet 1, 5782,"Sunday, 5 December 2021"
Tevet 1, 5783,"Sunday, 25 December 2022"
Tevet 1, 5784,"Wednesday, 13 December 2023"
Tevet 1, 5785,"Wednesday, 1 January 2025"
Tevet 1, 5786,"Sunday, 21 December 2025"
Tevet 1, 5787,"Friday, 11 December 2026"
Tevet 1, 5788,"Friday, 31 December 2027"
Tevet 1, 5789,"Tuesday, 19 December 2028"
Tevet 1, 5790,"Friday, 7 December 2029"
Tevet 1, 5791,"Friday, 27 December 2030"
Tevet 1, 5792,"Tuesday, 16 December 2031"
Tevet 1, 5793,"Friday, 3 December 2032"
Tevet 1, 5794,"Friday, 23 December 2033"
Tevet 1, 5795,"Wednesday, 13 December 2034"
Tevet 1, 5796,"Tuesday, 1 January 2036"
Tevet 1, 5797,"Friday, 19 December 2036"
Tevet 1, 5798,"Wednesday, 9 December 2037"
Tevet 1, 5799,"Tuesday, 28 December 2038"
Tevet 1, 5800,"Sunday, 18 December 2039"
Tevet 1, 5801,"Wednesday, 5 December 2040"
Tevet 1, 5802,"Tuesday, 24 December 2041"
Tevet 1, 5803,"Sunday, 14 December 2042"
Tevet 1, 5804,"Friday, 1 January 2044"
Tevet 1, 5805,"Wednesday, 21 December 2044"
Tevet 1, 5806,"Sunday, 10 December 2045"
Tevet 1, 5807,"Sunday, 30 December 2046"

* Info from: https://www.shiva.com/learning-center/commemorate/yahrzeit/

Friday, 24 November 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

At first I didn’t want to celebrate thanksgiving this year. It felt like I have nothing to be thankful for… but then the more I thought about it, the more I realised I do indeed have a LOT to be thankful for.

Despite the worst possible start this year, which has by far been the very hardest of my life, I am thankful for:

Cynthia continuing to fly the Cape Town Thanksgiving banner high. And organising the whole thing on her own, and doing a superb job of it too. This year all I had to do was rock up. Rather than the large extended (40-60 people) Thanksgiving dinner we'd been hosting, this year was a smaller more intimate group of about 16 of us. It was perfect.

Andrew. Whose love care and commitment to me has remained constant, despite no obligation to do so. He proves himself to be a consistently good and really decent person in all and everything he does. His continued acceptance of and care for me has been truly humbling. He is the true embodiment of a mensch as they’d say in Yiddish.

My boys Quinn & Griffin: Who despite many hardships, curve-balls and tragedies in their lives, and especially this year, remain positive, enthusiastic and strong, and so supportive of and gentle with me. Looking after me when I can't (but should be) the one looking after them.

To all the amazing people who have surrounded us with love, care, support, generosity and connection throughout this year. I don’t think we could have done it without you all, holding us up, when it felt like we couldn’t.

And this new life growing inside me: Who I hope will grow and thrive and that we will be adequate parents to.


And for Natey. Who was here for far too short a time and left us far too soon, but who lit up all of our lives and brought so much joy, love and happiness to us all.

#DoingItForNatey 
#LiveLongDays 
#ThereIsAlwaysSomethingToBeThankfulFor

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Thank you, again for your generous donations

Dear friends & family

The Red Cross Children's Hospital in Cape Town has advised us that all of your contributions in the name of Nathaniel L T Canter have allowed them to purchase two "Saturating Machines" (to quickly & easily measure the blood oxygen levels of children) for their Cardiac Unit. In our engagements with the hospital they suggested that these machines were what was desperately needed.

Thank you all for your generous gifts that have provided this legacy for Natey.

It's been almost 10 months since the death of our little Nathaniel, we've marked each passing month with sadness… and notably August 29th – what would have been his 3rd birthday.  We've ridden the "waves" during the year… we've stayed close to each other… we've sought to make "new memories" with various travels… and we've re-engaged with our lives, mostly successfully (although perhaps lacking some spark at times).  We keep Natey in sight (through photos, screen savers, mementos and such) and in mind every day: Not a day passes without a twinge of sadness, a (literal) groan of regret, a stab of loss, and sometimes a (physical) pain in our hearts. 

But we carry on: Because there is little choice, and because life has to be lived.  And we are okay.

Thank you all again for the love, support and your donations for Natey,

Love
Andrew & Jane


Wednesday, 18 October 2017

What bothers me about #MeToo

What bothers me about #MeToo...

I can not bring myself to post a #MeToo status. Not because I have never been subjected to some inappropriate attention. I have seen a flasher when I was 13 (I merely looked away and crossed the road), had some innuendo from colleagues (hell, I have dished a lot of it out myself), I have even had a manager playfully ask me to sit on his lap in my early 20s (er, no thanks dude!). But I have never felt like a victim and I have never felt like I have been exposed to anything I could not handle, or that I was in full rights and power to control. Sure, some guys have been inappropriate at times, and I am not even going to try to justify it with the 'boys will be boys' saying.

But I feel that by demonising each and every even-slightly suggestive encounter with males, we really are demonising ALL our men-folk.

To be clear, I am fully in favour that those that rape, molest and abuse should feel the full consequence and might of the law and complete public scorn. I do truly sympathise with any woman, or man, who has endured such horrific ordeals. It's unconscionable.

However, if I think how much joking and innuendo I myself have been part of, willingly and playfully with the people I was sparing with, someone could just as easily write #MeToo about an encounter with me! But I can honestly say with a clean conscience that I don't think I have ever been truly inappropriate or have harassed, or abused anyone in this way... (please do call me out if you think I have!)

So when is the #MeToo thing too much? It seems every woman who has had someone so much as admire them now feels harassed and victimised. Really!? Come on!

Also, I went to the an all-girls' school and the way those girls would bray and behave if even so much as a fat bum-crack-barring plumber rocked up to unclog the toilets was frankly disgusting and embarrassing. Those poor plumbers/electricians etc. were certainly harassed and abused!

So I do have an issue with everyone, and their aunt, jumping on this band-wagon (but I DO acknowledge that many, many , many of these are legitimate #MeToos and that there is a problem and it is far too pervasive). And as I have blogged about at least twice before... as the mom of boys I am so painfully aware, that especially now, they are demonised completely and it is purely because they are boys.

They are assumed to be bad, evil and that it's just a matter of time before they 'show their true colours'. The FemiNazi's are out to get them constantly, and showing ANY interest in a girl, unless SHE decides it's what she wants could have really dire consequences. Women are now seen as blameless and 'victims' and can really do no wrong. (Yet, I know some despicable women!!)

If I was a boy I would be terrified to put a foot wrong, or make any advances to anyone. It's a shame.

It's not that there are no issues that need to be addressed, of course there are. But bashing ALL men, does not feel like the right way to go about fixing it.

So yes I have had my share of #MeToo experiences. And I have also had a bad divorce and have an ex that has never contributed 1c since the divorce or contacted his children once since Dec 2009. No, I do not rate him as a prime example of a decent human being or parent... But those are not indictments on 50% of the human population. Every human born with a Y-chromosome.

As a mom of all boys I weep for them, and for how the world will see and treat them, purely for being born male. #BoysMatterToo

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Natey boy on your birthday

Dearest darling Natey. It's very nearly 8 months since you left us. 8 very long, sad and heartsore months. 

And today should have been a happy and very special day. Today would have been your third birthday. A celebration of the big boy you would have been now, and the bitter-sweet ceremony to mark that would be happening - the first cutting of your hair, your upsherin. Those beautiful, wild, unruly red curls. Which, just like you, refused to be tamed. It's hard to imagine how you would look without those cherubic curls.

But sadly today is not a celebration for us this year. As we are too sad still and miss you too much.

I do hope though that as the years pass that we can use your birthday to celebrate you and the light, joy and wonder you brought to our lives.

This year though my boy, we simply mourn and miss you.

I feel guilt and shame for not having been a good enough mother to you and not making sure you were safe one minute earlier. It's a heavy weight to bear, and it is my weight to bear.

Happy would-have-been-your-birthday my sunshine. Thank-you for all the crows.


Love Mommy