This is not an easy read.
As most readers of this blog will be aware, four weeks to the day, on 1st October 2019, our lovely son Josh died after spending 27 days in hospital as an infection, which had entered his blood stream via an insect bite on his scalp, inexorably wore him down. He was twenty seven.
The impact of this on the three remaining members of our family has been brutal and bewildering. I cannot speak precisely for either my lovely wife or phenomenal daughter, but I am struggling to grasp the reality that I will never see my gorgeous son again.
That is despite the fact that on Friday we committed his body to cremation in a service that was astonishing for its grace and hopefulness, led as it was by my sister-in-law, Anna, in a remarkable act of emotional control, purveying the succour of spiritual hope to all of us.
In the afternoon we held a service of Celebration and Commemoration for Josh at the local rugby club: a fitting venue for a young man so fit and full of life (and partial to the occasional pint) until the freak misfortune that struck him down. Something in the region of 300 people attended and we laughed and cried at the memories of our lovely boy.
And yet I cannot get that he is gone, not because I am in denial: we were with him when he died. In an act of fidelity that I was unaware I was capable of, we sat at his bedside when the ECMO machine was turned off and we held his hand until his heart stopped beating. So I know that he is dead.
But losing your son is a monumental deal. It goes beyond the physical reality. So much of what I do as a person is predicated on the fact I have two children – a son and daughter. I am very happily married to the wonderful Mrs B and we live in a beautiful part of rural Somerset in a house with views over fields towards Cadbury Castle. And up until the begnning of September we would regularly voice our appreciation of our good fortune to possess such riches.
But now that is all changed – and it is such a fundamental change in our lives we are in a state of confused paralysis over how to deal with the next stage of life’s journey. The landscape has altered and the maps we have are out of date. The change is so much more than the simple absence of someone. It is emotional, intellectual and philosophical.
So we need to find something that is reliable and within our control. On Sunday we took it upon ourselves to get out into the garden. When merely getting out of bed seems a struggle, gardening needed a high level of commitment. It is nearly two months since I did anything in the garden other than pick tomatoes or peppers. And making the effort to get out did help. We felt our spirits lighten and almost rise as we cleared beds and tidied the greenhouse, taking out tomatoes and herbs, leaving it as a pepper house with chillis and green peppers ready for picking.
The act of gardening, as I have said before, is fundamentally a positive one. You are making plans to create and nourish life; it looks to the future with the intention that it will be positive and plentiful. It was also something that Josh enjoyed as a job before university.
In Josh’s memory we have asked for donations to a fund that his school has set up to support underpriveleged students’ physical wellbeing through gardening clubs and after school sports clubs. It is a fitting way to remember our boy and will hopefully assist young people in improving their health.
Feel free to donate if you like or simply leave a message of support.