It's my daughter's birthday, today. It's also the anniversary of the day she died in my arms, following (appropriately), the longest night of the year, and the longest night of my life - awaiting a Caesarian section I did not want, not knowing if she would live or die.
No birthday cards, no excited one-year-old to share the day with. No decisions to make about how to divide presents up for Christmas and birthday. Instead, I'll be bringing Christmas magic to other children, performing in three shows today... Which is by far the best place for me to be.
It turns out, in many ways, anniversaries are no harder than any other day - because I don't need reminders about my daughter. On some level, I think of her every minute. In fact, over the last year, I've learned that I think of my son and daughter with equal frequency. At first, I waited for the day I would be able to control the memories. I knew I would never forget, but I mistakenly thought there would come a time when I would be able to actively choose when I thought about her. Perhaps there would be reminders that brought her to the forefront of my mind. It turns out, I was wrong.
I didn't truly understand until I became a parent, that your children are always, constantly on your mind. This is true regardless of whether or not they are physically present. My son is sometimes apart from me - at school, or at home while I'm working, or even just in a different room - but I think of him all the time, as any parent does. My daughter is not physically here with us. But I think of her all the time, too. In that way, my children are equal, and parenting a living child is no different to parenting a child who is no longer with us. There is no such thing as a "reminder," she is just there. Present, in my thoughts, and always will be.
A year on, we still do not know why she died. We have been told there is no possibility of answers before March at the very earliest. I can't say more about that right now, because although I have learned to cope with grief, I have yet to learn to cope with uncertainty and lack of answers, and that is something I can't dwell on today. Let's just say that it never even crossed my mind, that a year after her death, I would be facing her anniversary without being any closer to knowing what caused her to be taken from me, and this ongoing lack of closure has been one of the hardest hurdles.
I do know Holly Rose is as much loved today as she was for the few minutes I got to hold her, before she passed away. She only ever knew two things: love, and music. She listened to me sing as she died, and I could not have wished for more than for her short life to be filled with those two things.
Today, as every day, I will be singing for her (albeit through a cold!).
Here's "Holly's Carol," which I recorded for her funeral (again, I was ill at the time, so the recording is less than perfect, but it is raw, and real, and filled with love for my daughter). It's Christmas, so what better timing that to listen to this traditional carol, which I associate with my beautiful little girl?
Many thanks to Michael Lovelock for the musical arrangement and instrumental backing, and to Jill Priest for the vocal recording and mixing.