Let the memories begin!

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When I was starting to gather all of these memories together, it took me a while to decide what to call them – “Finding Mac” seemed to work because this is a story of how we found Mac and became a family, but also how he found himself and became a beautiful man comfortable and happy in his own skin. 

But the subtitle for the collection was always going to be “Let the memories begin”.  Sitting down to write these memories has been a form of therapy – of course it has been an important way to record the memories for family and friends (and anyone who wants to read them), but also a way of starting to move forward since losing Mac.

Losing anyone significant in your life is difficult, and the loss of a child feels wrong on so many levels.  You never expect to have to sit down and plan your child’s funeral, or decide what you would like on their headstone.  But for me, those were not the difficult things to deal with.  In fact, they were great distractions, a way of getting through the early days and months.  Writing and delivering Mac’s eulogy was in so many ways a positive experience – my final act of love for him as we marked his passing.

The truth is that the pain is so great, your body doesn’t let you feel all of the hurt at once.  It seems to come out bit by bit – hopefully at a speed you can absorb it and deal with it.  The resilience of the human mind and body is truly amazing at times.

That doesn’t in any way make things easy. There have been some truly dark times – and I expect in the future there will be more. But with family and friends and support around you it is possible to move through all of this.

What I did find was that from the very beginning memories were important.  Swee and I talked (and continue to talk) about Mac so much and I didn’t want to lose a moment of the time we had together.  Writing it down seemed to be the best way for me to cope with things.  There was a real joy in remembering.  Looking at the faces in the photos and trying to remember how we felt – those feelings come flooding back, and really fill me with joy.  Even when feeling most sad, seeing us all smiling while we were doing something fun like playing in the garden in the sun really lifts the spirits.

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And here I do have a plea to anyone reading this.  Don’t ever worry about mentioning someone who has died to a grieving relative, however recent.  We want to talk about them all of the time.  We want to hear stories and memories; we want to know how they affected you and how their lives meant something to you as well.

Don’t worry that it will upset us by reminding us.  It won’t.  We never forget them; they are always on our mind.  As time moves on it doesn’t hurt any less.  It should hurt as that hurt is the absence of them that you feel.  But we do learn to live with the hurt.  And we do find ways to laugh more about them and to cry less.

We have learned so much more about Mac since he died and from the stories people have shared with us about their experiences of him.  We know that he touched so many lives in his short sixteen years.  There were more than five hundred people at Mac’s funeral – all of them with a reason to be there and all of them carrying part of Mac’s story with them. Their stories, and their parts in Mac’s life help us to know him better and to keep his memory alive. 

Of course, there are times of regret.  Mac was very caring, and we know from things we have been told that he had a gift at talking with his peers and helping to mend their hurt and help them with their problems, even if he wasn’t always as good at sorting his own! he had a real skill in breaking down factions within groups.  In some ways, as he had often been the outsider, he was able to find ways to bring different groups together. We could see that in him and they were skills that I would have loved to see him develop as he grew older. 

But I do know that he made the most of his life that he was given.  He had travelled to three continents, and had seen so many different cultures.  He had learned to love his friends and his adopted and birth families.  And he had found someone to love and who dearly loved him.  He had enjoyed a sense of freedom.  He had learned to overcome things that had gone wrong in his earlier life, and to begin to feel comfortable as the person he was. 

It is interesting how many loose ends that Mac had managed to tie off before he died – broken relationships mended and old problems solved.  But there is one thing that I will always remember about his last day…

Mac was always willing to give me a hug.  However old he got, he was never too big to give me a hug, even if they weren’t as often as before. 

I used to say to him, “Promise me you’ll always hug me and never feel you’re too old”, to which I would get the normal teenage grunt of “oh, dad!”

On the day he died, just before he went downstairs to go and ride his motorbike to school, he hugged me and told me he loved me.  I will never forget that hug. I can still feel it today.

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