I mentioned in a previous post that my friend, Andie, had passed away from breast cancer, leaving behind two children. Her ten-year old daughter was ill on the weekend with a sore throat and Andie’s husband rang me in a panic to find out if I knew how to make Andie’s lemon soother drink. Lizzie wouldn’t settle without it and was kicking up a fuss. He was distraught, so I immediately drove over with lemons, honey, ginger and on the off chance that Lizzie liked the same type of drink as my son – lemonade.
Thankfully, I was right. Lizzie was pleased with hot lemonade with a teaspoon of honey and a tiny twist of fresh lemon. She sipped it in her Sailor Moon mug with tears in her eyes. ‘Daddy doesn’t know how to do anything,’ she said. ‘He can’t even iron my school skirts properly. I want Mummy back but I know she can’t come back. She used to read me stories when I was sick. Now Daddy does but he doesn’t do the voices. I liked Mummy doing the voices. She used to call me Chick. She used to say ‘What’s happening, Chick?’ Now no one calls me Chick. Do you remember when she used to call me Chick?’
I remembered. Andie called all the women she knew Chick, all the girls too. It was her thing the way some people use Honey or Sweetie. A term of endearment. I can’t tell you how sad I felt thinking that dear little Lizzie would not hear her mother calling her Chick again. Ever.
Andie’s husband was sitting at the kitchen table when Lizzie finally dropped off to sleep. Slumped, defeated.’ This is the hard part,’ he said. ‘ The every day stuff that I don’t know like how Lizzie is supposed to take her trumpet to school on Tuesdays and that she starts at 8.30 instead of 9AM on that day, and that she likes little notes in her lunchbox and a dollar on Fridays to buy popcorn from the school canteen. Andie did so much with the kids and she never wrote it down. There is so much I don’t know. I feel so guilty like I’ve been an absent father for years but all I was guilty of was working and providing a good life for my family. Lizzie was in tears the other day because I wouldn’t let her feed a pigeon that came into the garden. Apparently Andie had let her feed it. They had called it Kenny. I didn’t know. I didn’t know.’
It’s the everyday reminders of what the person we have lost was which colour our grief. What they knew. What they did. What they were. How they interacted with others in a way only they could. It’s the little things that are hardest to get over – the way sandwiches were made, or coffee was prepared, or that song that was always turned up when it came on the radio and danced to in the kitchen. It’s the little things that were real. And just as they make it difficult for us to forget, they can also help us to remember. And as sorrow eases with time, to remember can be a comfort. I hope that one day Lizzie finds comfort in remembering the woman who used to call her Chick.