It feels like everything.
On June 15th, 2017, I became a nan but not in the way I so naively expected to be. That day we lost Dexter Bear, my beautiful grandson and my daughter, Ruth’s and son-in-law Dave’s, beautiful baby son. He was just over 24 weeks old and we had been eagerly and joyfully awaiting his arrival, on his due date in October. Now we must live without him and it is so, so very painful. I want Dexter to be here for my lovely, brave daughter and son-in-law…for me too. What fantastic parents Ruth and Dave are and continue to be and what fantastic parents they would have been for Dexter – for all of his life.
Now we all have only Dexter’s memory.
Every day, I am humbled by the bravery of Ruth and Dave and of their determination to do positive things as a legacy for Dexter.
From the moment we knew about Dexter, we all loved him. Once we had the 12 week scan, I was able to put behind me a lot of the sadness and horror of Ruth’s earlier ectopic pregnancy and the trauma of Ruth and Dave losing their first baby and also Ruth’s loss of a fallopian tube. I was just glad to have Ruth still with us. Life suddenly became sweet again with the joyful news of Dexter. We all wanted him in our lives. A precious son for Ruth and Dave, a grandson for me and a nephew for Ruth and Dave’s siblings.
I prayed for your safe arrival every day, Dexter. I even prayed to the ancient fertility gods, like a mad woman, circling around my Egyptian scarab beetle daily! At the 20 week scan, I began to relax. Dexter was growing, we could see him clearly (his long legs just like his dad) and all was well with Ruth. He was safe and he would soon be with us. We would visit Mothercare regularly and laugh as we joked about how Dexter was going to bankrupt us all and Ruth would have him 3 different outfits a day with the amount clothes she was buying!
I remember laying on a sun bed in Parga in Greece on my summer holiday, thinking that when I get home, Ruth would be 26 weeks and soon we would have Dexter here, our much anticipated, new member of our family. I remember smiling to myself at the joy I knew he would bring to us all; I imagined Christmas, passing Dexter around the table, while we all juggled with the Christmas turkey. I saw myself baking with Dexter, taking him out for afternoon teas, reading all my favourite children’s books with him and loving him unconditionally. I even thought I could introduce him to Bruce Springsteen while we were making gingerbread biscuits!
And then, out of the blue, a bomb was dropped on my entire family and most of all, on Ruth and Dave. The reverberations of which are still breaking over us, every single day.
An unexpected phone call from Sarah, my youngest daughter, who was at the hospital with Ruth and whose words delivered darkness to me and destroyed my peace forever. Although Ruth and Sarah tried to be positive, from so many miles away, I tried too but deep down I feared the worst – that our happiness and joy was over. As soon as I learned that Ruth’s waters had broken my heart sank with fear.
I managed to get on an earlier flight home to Gatwick but as I waited for my luggage, still hanging on to a thread of hope, I answered the phone to Dave. There it was, the phone call I never wanted to take, never wanted to hear, never wanted to know or to accept that their dear son, Dexter, had died. No happy ending, no bouncing, beautiful baby boy – only deep, unrelenting loss and grief. I never thought that I would have to hold my daughter’s hand as she gave birth to her much-longed for, much-loved but stillborn, baby son.
But still Dexter, all the same.
Beautiful and sweet, looking like his dad, wrapped in Ruth’s arms, never to know us in this life or how much we all wanted him. We were all there, Dexter, all your family. Your mum and dad, your grandparents, your uncle and auntie. We were all there for you, bearing witness to the great love of the family you were born into.
The trauma of that day plays repeatedly in my head, searingly painful images of my beloved grandson and his broken parents. Every day, I think of all that Ruth and Dave have lost. I fight with anger and grief. I rail against the cruel, unfair world we live in. Each day, I try to carry on, for Ruth and Dave. I have lost my own parents and suffered grief but I have never experienced grief, longing, sadness and loss like this. It is unbearable for me to see my daughter and Dave suffer so much.
We had been promised great joy and now we are left empty – handed but what I do know is this, our hearts are full. Your loss, Dexter, is the same every day, your absence in our lives, Dexter, counted in painful minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and then, it will be, each passing year.
What do I wish for the future…well I wish we could go back in time and you would have been born, Dexter, as you were supposed to have been, alive and well in October 2017. Then you would be here with us and we could get to know you. I wish I didn’t have to bear witness to the awful, heartbroken grief of my lovely daughter and her brave husband or spend another day grieving for them and for you, Dexter. I wish for Ruth and Dave to be happy again, though I know that they can never be completely happy ever again. We are all changed by you, Dexter and all that you mean to us.
I wish with all my heart for a brother or sister for you, Dexter.
It seems we can’t go back in time, Dexter, so instead, we will love you and remember you, our lovely, special, little boy who brought such happiness to our family, during your short life. You will always be Ruth and Dave’s firstborn, a beautiful and special son. You will always be my beloved grandson. You will always be a much loved and precious nephew. I will always miss you. I will always carry you in my heart, Dexter, until the end of my days and after that too.
I am humbled daily by the dignity of your amazing mum and dad, Dexter. Their courage, love, resilience and will to make a positive legacy from your short life, Dexter, is admirable. From their random acts of kindness in honour of you to their charity and fundraising work. Above all though, their strength to carry on, when they have lost so much. How proud you must be, Dexter. You have the very best parents in the whole, wide world and, of course, the very best nan.
Wait for us.