Saturday, March 04 2017
A year ago I was in hospital in Sydney recovering from major surgery, when some 6 weeks later I was being discharged and ready to head home. It was a 8 hour trip home and my shoes went missing, so I only had my black slippers and I had hoped we weren't stopping anywhere.
Turns out we stopped at not one but two RSL clubs for lunch, the first was full so we drove until we got to Karuah RSL club... so it was embarrassing! My uncle that day drove 16 hours to come and get me and bring me home, what a legend!
As I was preparing to be discharged I got the phone call to say that my little nephew had been born. His poor mum had such a long labour with him and I was relieved when the news came that both mum and bub were safe and healthy. I arranged to stop in on the way home to see my nephew and meet him for the very first time.
I was the first of his many aunts and uncles to meet him and I got a cuddle with him. He was absolutley precious. I felt a special bond with him that day that I could have sworn he smiled at me.
Over the course of the past year, I got to have many more cuddles with him. Each time he smiled at me and each time my heart felt like it was breaking, as I just didn't know how many more hugs I would get or if I would get to see any of his milestones. I cherished every minute I did have with him.
So when his first birthday was approaching, I was nagging his parents back in December with "have you thought of a theme yet", I was met with "His birthday is still 3 months away yet, we have plenty of time".
But I didn't know if I did.
I worried about missing his birthday or if I suddenly got too ill and was unable to make the day or if I would even be alive for his birthday... it is all very unsure at times.
When you are living with terminal illness, everyday you do wake up is a surprise, so I have been so determined to make sure I am prepared and not leaving anything unfinished.... so for me I needed to feel safe in that the invites were designed and printed and that I had contributed to the day.
So January came around and I was asked to design the invitations and that it was a construction theme. Well, boy did I have fun! I wanted it to be fun yet sophisticated but not too cheesy. I wanted to add a photo of him smiling, his smile and laugh is infectious and it just makes you feel so happy.
I also designed some other wares for the party (various signs and what not).
Being involved in the planning of the birthday and contributing meant a huge deal to me. It is my fear that I will die and be forgotten or that Leo would grow up and not remember me. I cry tears of despair and frustration often, about the fact that I would miss so much of seeing him grow up. It's not just him but also my siblings that I am upset about missing out on things, it is missing out on everything and missing major milestones like weddings, graduations or first child....
So I had hoped that looking back on the day Leo could be told "Your Aunt Talya designed your invitations" and that he would remember from photos that I was a part of that day.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not setting out to make his first birthday all about me, but just sharing how I feel facing terminal illness and participating in milestones knowing the ones I will miss. Maybe documenting how I feel might help someone else who is facing a similar situation to know they aren't alone in their feelings.
On the day:
We arrived around 10am, I was a little late as my stoma that day decided it was going to misbehave and leak.
I was really impressed with how authentic the setting out of the birthday looked - true to a construction themed birthday.
There were construction signs and barriers, there was a wheelbarrow for the gifts with a sign I made that said "dump your gifts here", there was a table with a sign alerting people to a hard hat for people to sign as a keepsake momento of his first birthday, there was a lovingly made (bu his mum) construction cake which he devoured and loved, and he was even wearing a kids sized fluro work shirt too!
One of my memories of the day was when Leo stood and danced and I saw for the first time him taking steps. I won't forget how much fun he had with the cake, he even was lucky enough to have 2 cakes (one was a cake smash, a family tradition) and there was cake everywhere.
I struggled for months thinking of a gift for his first birthday, knowing full well that he would get a lot of toys, I felt it needed to be something that was unique and precious.
I decided on getting him a star, it is in his constellation (Pices) and it is meant to be able to be seen from his house. I named the star "Sempiterno Leo" which translates to "Leo Everlasting" in Latin. I wanted his gift to be something he could always feel a connection with me when he saw the star, especially as I love star gazing and astronomy.
Besides, how many 1 year olds can say they have their own star!
I am trying my best this year to really live and make the most out of each day I am given as I just don't know if it'll be my last.
Leo, thank you for the wonderful year of smiles and memories. I am so proud to be your Aunt and I know that you have a whole tribe of people here to support you and protect you through life. No matter what throughout your life always know how much you are loved, how important you are to so many people and that you are never alone. Know I love you a lot and will always be looking out for you.
To his parents Max and Tahli, Thank you for really letting me be involved in his life and for helping with his birthday. It truly meant so much to me and helped with the guilt I was feeling for missing out on future milestones in his life. You have raised an incredibly bubbly and gorgeous son and I am proud of how great of parents you are to him. He is the most happiest baby I have ever seen and I am so happy he came into our lives. Never doubt yourselves, you are doing great.