There once was a little girl named Aliyah. She had the most dazzling smile and equally infectious giggle. She was special, amazingly special. She didn’t just touch hearts, she inspired them, bear-hugging them with her tiny, slender, little hand. Her eyes were always sparkling with the adventures she had had and those that were yet to come. Yet hidden under the most luscious of long black eyelashes was a story of immense struggle, because Aliyah was beautifully different. She was born to a natural born mother, a woman who had patience and inspirational strength beyond her years, who held her baby girl’s hand every step of her heartbreaking journey. They shared the highs and the lows, forming a bond never to be broken.
They say children love their parents unconditionally, with no judgement or conditions, it’s just love, but the love between Aliyah and her Mum was something I have never seen before, a love I could only dream to have with my own children. Because they lived for each other, had done from the very day she was born. On that day, my friend held her baby girl in her arms as she came into the world, she was there first, the first cuddle, the first voice, the first kiss. But a month ago, my friend was there for her little girl’s last cuddle, her last kiss, the last voice she would hear before she slipped away. My friend has endured the most horrific of parent’s nightmares. After 8 years of fighting for her and loving her, Ali has gone.
And I don’t know what to say. Usually words come quite quickly to me, whether it be of the foot-in-mouth variety or some kind of vaguely educated remark, but to this situation, I have no words. I did not spend a lifetime with Ali, like her Mum, nor every day like her family and friends. But the way she left an imprint on my memory is a testament to just how special she truly was. As I sat in the church watching Ali’s coffin being walked past me, the weight of grief was visible on my friend’s shoulders, as well as on the tear stained cheeks of her two other little girls. Sadness blanketed the packed church and there was no room for any kind of rejoice. The music reverberated through my entire body as I wiped away a tear for this little girl whom I had been lucky enough to know, but as my friend walked away with her daughter’s coffin, I could not look at her. Who was I to give her any kind of reassurance when I would return from this nightmare to my own, healthy, complete family? I do not know the agonising pain of losing a child, what could I possibly have to say?
My friend stood in a very crowded hall later that day, fielding messages of compassion and sympathy and getting lost in a myriad of hugs and kisses from her friends and family. I stood in the line, petrified of what would come out of my mouth when I came face to face with the strongest woman I know, crumbling under the sadness of losing her beautiful daughter. I think I muttered something about how strong she is, promising to drop off some vegetable bake to her house, and oh-so-carefully reminding myself not to say how sorry I was. I knew what I wanted to do; I wanted to make her laugh. I wanted for her to feel the sensation of a smile and feel the sunshine though her darkest day. But I couldn’t. The words, like Ali, had gone.
Aliyah’s funeral affected me like none other before. Her memory stayed with me for a long while, before life and its ever present struggles took over, until I saw my friend last week. She was at her daughter’s gravesite, the most heartbreaking place to be, and I realised for my friend that this will never be over. My mind races with the things she never has to do again, like parking in a disabled car space to accommodate her daughters funky pink wheelchair, or being on a first name basis with the nurses at PMH. Here I was so lost for words, my friend is just lost. I didn’t approach her, but she haunted my thoughts for the rest of the day.
When I saw her again the next day, I was mute, thinking how inappropriate all the gossip that we usually would have caught up on was so insignificant now. But my heart smiled when I noticed a tiny sparkle coming back into her eyes, the ever present memory of Ali, gone but never forgotten. And I realised it’s not what I say to her, or how many times I text her, or how many vegetable bakes I might drop off. I was, and still am, there for my friend, whether she needs me or not. She is on her own journey now, a new chapter in her life, and seeing as it has been proven that words have failed me on this occasion, she can rest assured I will be there with a bottle of Baileys, chocolate and a Latte, anytime she calls. And I suppose that I can take comfort in knowing that, given my past track record with Baileys inebriation, I will surely find some words to maybe not mend, but calm my friend’s broken heart.
By Clancy Briggs
This blog is dedicated in loving memory to the beautiful Princess Ali Mak, who was cared for so wonderfully by the staff at Princess Margaret Hospital For Children in Subiaco, Perth. To support this amazing establishment and the ongoing dedication and hard work of its staff, please donate to PMH at www.pmhfoundation.com.