As a kid, I sometimes attended services for Remembrance Day on November 11. My grandfather fought in the war, so it was big deal. We'd go to the local RSL and eat lunch after the service, wearing our poppies. A poem would always be read out for the fallen, containing the lines "age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn." Years later I understood the emotion that day held for my grandfather, why everybody looked so solemn.
My stepdads birthday was November 11, so every year for ten years I would give him a present. The last present I gave him was a crossword book, in England 1988. After he died it stung, that his birthday would roll around and the day was called Remembrance Day. I remembered every damn day.
November 11 2006 was one of the most amazing, intense days of my life. I queued all day in the sun at a U2 concert, got right up the front, and during the night Bono knelt down and held my hand as he looked at me while he sang. 60,000 people a teeming mass behind me.
November 11 was good again!
On November 11 2007, a baby was born across the world, over in America. She came too early, and struggled so hard to stay alive.
She was the most beautiful baby you've ever seen. Eyelashes that take your breath away. Parents who adored and doted on her .... who went through so much in those early days. Days where it was touch and go. Imagine having your child in the NICU, with all the beeps and sounds and nurses and fear. Imagine not knowing if your baby was going to make it through the night.
She grew bigger, got stronger, and went home. She played with her mama late into the night, adored her Rigby, loved music, got fascinated with her dad strumming his guitar. She put up her dukes, had a little breakdance routine in her high chair, and on November 11 2008, chowed down on some mean looking cream puffs. At her party, Maddie was the cutest little Pebbles you will ever see.
All was well! This was a gorgeous family, living their lives with spunk, sass, and spirit.
In April this year, Madeline passed away.
And nobody who has anything to do with the Spohrs has ever been quite the same since.
Unbelievable. Tragic. A dreadful thing to comprehend, understand. There are some things in life that will never be made sense of. The loss of such an exquisite, beautiful child is surely one of them.
If this happened to me, I would just kill myself.
No, you probably wouldn't. Nobody can say how they would handle a grief this size, until they are actually going through it. I can only imagine what it must be like ... indeed, Heather tells us. Sometimes Mike does too.
They have both continued to parent their precious Maddie, after her passing. Setting up Friends of Maddie, a non-profit foundation to raise awareness and money for packs to send to NICU parents some comfort in an uncertain time.
There are parents of babies who haven't even been conceived yet, who will be helped by this organisation. Bringing glory and honour to their daughter. She did not die in vain.
There's a lot going on, out there in this big world. The story of Madeline and her life has touched so many people, in profound ways. It's touched me. Heather sharing her deepest pain kind of cracks you open in ways you don't expect to be. I think she shares for many reasons .. to work through her grief, to educate people, to ensure people never forget her precious daughter.
I think of Maddie most days. Every time I walk out to my blooming lavender bush at the front of my house I think of her. Madeline reminds me to love my loved ones, right here and right now. This second.
I thought of her a lot today, on her second birthday, and imagine she would be running around by now. She has left such a Presence, in the world.
Heather and Mike taught her so many things, in her short life. And now she has become their greatest teacher.
Happy Birthday, Maddie Moo. Wherever you are, it must be beautiful.
"Age shall not weary her, nor the years condemn."