Countdown to eternity

 

Samuel Benjamin Morris.jpg

 

Today marks one year….. one year of missing my little man. Holding his hand and stroking his hair and watching the rise and fall of his chest for the last time and the beat of that strong little heart stop was the hardest moment of my life.  

Throughout Samuel’s life after his accident… everything.. and I mean everything was a countdown.. everything had a before and after and the milestones we counted to and from were not those we expected…… One year….and still counting and feeling the unmovable weight of grief.

Countdown to Eternity

I counted
days, weeks
then months
and just a few short years.
Pause….
Reset….
New clock.
Counting days, weeks
then months and years
from THAT day.

Two timers counting
marking milestones.
THIS time
equals half of THAT time,
THIS time
equals THAT time,
THIS time,
doubles THAT time.
Birthdays….
Celebration, trepidation
markers of survival,
markers of decline.

February twenty-two…

Heart stopped… clock stopped.
three twenty pm.

Reset… new counter
Same milestones to pass
THIS time… THAT time
Though no more pauses THIS time,
days, weeks, months
since you’ve been gone.
One year down
Waiting for solace to be found..
THIS time…
a countdown to eternity.

Small reminders that hurt

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There are so many small reminders that Samuel is gone. They sneak up on you and surprise you with how powerfully they strike.

A mundane thing like receiving our new Medicare cards. Normally you would just open the envelope, have a brief look, take the old one out of your wallet and put in the new one… but not today…..

Today that quick look meant to be confronted with the fact that Samuel’s name will no longer appear on our Medicare cards listed under ours, like it has for so long….. another reminder.

Tanja’s name disappeared, but in the way we expected, the same way Taylor’s name will eventually disappear from our cards, she grew up and became responsible for her own, a chance Samuel will never have.

There are so many rituals and processes to work our way through that will be reminders that our little boy is not here. Always reminders that We are missing our little man.

The saddest duty of life.

Samuel_headshot

 

In this blog I have told the story of my son Samuel… (how did I get here) and updated his journey along the way in quite a few posts. I have always been inspired by little man.

On 22nd February 2014, almost eight years after his non-fatal drowning that left him with severe disabilities, surrounded by family Samuel finally no longer able to continue his struggle, and as I held his hand and stroked his hair he took his last breath and let go of this life.

The saddest duty of life

Yesterday (7th March 2014) my family performed the saddest duty of life. Laying my little man to rest.  Prior to this we held a Celebration of his life. My family was humbled by the attendance of over 400 people at the celebration, and around 200 that attended his funeral, as well as the many messages from all over the world.

My eulogy for my little man…

These are the words I shared with those that joined us to Celebrate Samuel’s life and joined with us at the funeral.

“When my heart is breaking, and I am missing the presence of Samuel how do I pay tribute to a little man who has taught me so much?

Dr Seuss is claimed to have said  “Don’t cry because it’s over, laugh because it happened”

 It might seem like a strange thing to say while we have been shedding many tears and will continue to do so, but I want to focus on the things that we can laugh about, and smile about as we remember Samuel now and always.

 I will always carry with me the laughs and smiles of putting the key in the front door of our house and hearing Samuel come hop skipping down the hallway with a gleeful DAAAADDYYYY. Of having him leap into my arms, give me a cuddle and then immediately wriggle his way down only to take off and return to whatever it was he was doing.

 I will forever remember Samuel, from no matter where in the house he was, running into the lounge room and standing in front of the TV as soon as he heard the Simpsons theme, and his outrageous laugh as the Simpson family crammed onto the couch, and again as soon as the intro theme was over.. off he went to do whatever he was doing as he didn’t really care about the show just the intro.

 I will remember the times Samuel would wait patiently at the start of a Pixar movie, quiet and still until the little lamp jumped up and down on the big lamp, and Samuel would jump up and down in time with squeals of laughter.

 I will remember the times when Samuel would go very quiet while he was playing and I’d think where is the cheeky little monkey… Only to find him on the lounge down the back with his bum in the air and his head buried under a lounge cushion.. Sound asleep.

 I will remember Samuel fishing, showing great patience… until he decided to bang the rods on the side of the boat and when told to stop just casually looked up and then dropped the rod over the side of the boat (and did it a second time… but with his sisters rod) 

Even when I think of things after his accident I will remember him always doing things his own way. right up until his last breath. If someone predicted something about him.. he would not let that define him. From the start of his accident when they said he probably wouldn’t make the night, and he did…. when they took him off the respirator days later and told us he probably wouldn’t breath on his own and he did… when we went to Bear Cottage in March last year with the news that Samuel was not expected to make it through the weekend.. and he did for another eleven months.. all on his own without the respiratory support that he had needed for a couple of years…. 

 Samuel that was one LONG weekend! 

Even as we arrived at Bear Cottage for the last time with Samuel, he chose his timing, waiting until things had settled down and he was surrounded only by family, and then as I held his hand and stroked his hair he took his final breath and let go of this life.

Not long after Samuel’s accident in a moment of despairing about how we would look after Samuel and what would become of him a work friend said to me   “ unlike almost all of us, what you can now count on is that Samuel will ALWAYS be surrounded by people that love and care for him”.  

I did not know at the time how true that comment would be. Yes he was always surrounded by our family that loved him, but he has also been surrounded by many many people that have shared our love for him and helped to take care of him. 

From his pre-school teachers at Wishing Well that welcomed Samuel back with open arms and hearts after his accident and went on a steep learning curve with us, to the teachers at his big school Kurambee for as long as he was able to attend… to the Doctors and Nurses and other staff and volunteers at the Childrens Hospital at Westmead, to the wonderful nurses,staff and volunteers at Bear Cottage. We can never fully express our thanks to you for embracing our little man, loving and caring for him exactly the way that we wanted him loved and cared for. I know that Samuel has touched many of you and I am glad that some of you were able to join us to celebrate Samuel’s life.

I will never get to know the man that Samuel would grow to become, and my life will always be poorer for that, but Samuel is and always will be my little man.

There is a Poem called the “The measure of man” that begins 

 “Not how did he die, But how did he live,

Not what did he gain, But what did he give

these are things that measure the worth,

of a man as a man, regardless of birth”

In his ten short years Samuel has touched many hearts and minds around the world. We have been inundated with messages from New Zealand, the USA, UK, Ireland, the middle east, South Africa, Sweden and other parts of Europe, from people whose lives had been touched by Samuel in some way.  

Samuel’s story, his strength, his tenacity and his courage through all he has faced has been shared through the work of the foundation created to honour him, the Samuel Morris Foundation. His story has been shared with Learn to Swim and Water Safety teachers, lifeguards, Life Saving Organisations and Doctors through conference presentations in Australia, Ireland, Germany and New Zealand as well as online. With many people sending comments after these events about how much Samuel had impacted on them personally, and how they would be thinking about their work differently as a result.

On Sunday 2nd March, one of those touched by Samuel, the mother of another child living with disabilities after a near drowning organised a balloon release event to be held for Samuel, this was shared via Facebook and again we were amazed at how far and wide the photos of the balloon release came from and the heartfelt messages that people sent with the balloons and photos, many from people we have never had the opportunity to meet, but who were touched by Samuel.

Sharing Samuel’s story has given me the chance to explore subjects, to go places and to build relationships with amazing people that I would never have had the opportunity to do so if it was not for my little man and the strength and tenacity that he put into his almost eight year fight for life.

Samuel has given so much strength, courage and inspiration in his ten short years, there are many of us that can live a long full life and never manage to touch and influence so many people across such a vast distance.

I will never get to know the grown up man that Samuel could have become… but I know that I am a better man because of Samuel’s influence on my own life.

Don’t cry because it’s over, laugh because it happened…..So yes…in time, I will not cry because Samuel’s life here on earth is over, I will laugh because his life happened …. it is not goodbye to my little man, because I will always carry him in my heart.. so for now… it is see you again some time Samuel.”

 

A sad reflection on choices.

Gavel by WalknBoston

Gavel by WalknBoston

My Period of Reflection

I have been quiet here for a bit…. and that is because I have been participating in a Coroners Inquest into the drowning deaths of eight children. Each of these deaths is an absolute tragedy. Sadly toddler drowning deaths, and children being left severely disabled by near drowning accidents, occur all too frequently. In the developed world drowning is one of the top three causes of accidental death in children aged 0-4.

Being in the middle of a series of posts on choices, my time in the court was a cause for a great deal of reflection on the subject of choices, and on the consequences that can flow from seemingly harmless choices by a wide range of people.

Systems choices and the perfect storm

The choices that lead to the deaths of these children were not just choices made by parents or care-givers, they were also systems choices made by people . Choices  State Governments to ignore previous recommnedations from Coroners to improve regulation and compliance with Swimming Pool fencing laws. Choices by  local government to not implement inspections and choices to not follow up on development applications. Choices made by real-estate agents in leasing premises without regard to the safety of the pool. Choices made by landlords about what they would and would not repair. Choices made by retailers of swimming pools about what information they provide regarding the safety of swimming pools and the need for them to be fenced and comply with legislation.

Any one of these decisions on their own would seem to be inconsequential, but as happens all too often, numerous choices not to act or choices to ignore result in a “perfect storm” and someone pays the price. Sadly in relation to swimming pools it is often a young child.

The Stigma

Many people often place the “blame” solely on the parents of children who have drowned without looking at the systemic issues involved. I have responded to one Journalist who is against proactive measures to reduce toddler drownings here.  Anyone with children will tell you that you cannot keep your eyes on them 24/7, it is impossible.

Maybe part of the reason it is so hard to effect change in this area is because of the stigma that people place on the parents of a child who has drowned/near drowned, that causes them to be very reluctant to speak out about the circumstances and issues surrounding the event. The additional fear of backlash after telling their story only serves to compound the grief and guilt that they already feel, and it always comes from those who say they ALWAYS watch their children.

Society in General

We all have a responsibility to help keep ALL of our children safe. We all have a responsibility to do what we can to prevent the leading causes of accidental death of our young children………

what would you be prepared to do to help save the life of a toddler……. how would you help stop the tragedy of child  death and disability from drowning….. I’d love to hear your suggestions……..