Julie McGregor

Joel, it’s four years and three months since that unbelievable day you left us. Unbelievable, but I have to believe it, because it happened. Where has the time gone?  Sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago, and other times it feels like yesterday.

At first I wondered how life could go on without you, but while not easy, I’ve found out that it does. Life does go on, in a different way, without you present with us, but always present in our hearts.

I see you in every picture, I hear you in every song

I think of you every minute of every day, and while sometimes it’s easier, sometimes I find it way too hard to comprehend that you’re not here. I will always have regrets about what I could have, should have done, to help guide you more, as you navigated those past couple of years, with so much going on in your life. The things I didn’t say to you, the things I didn’t do for you, but a dear mother I met early on, who had also lost her son in similar circumstances, told me that I did the best that I could at the time with what I knew at  the time. Yes I have to hold onto that and believe it. Even though I won’t ever imagine I did it all right, I know I can’t live my life focussing on these things, but rather on the wonderful years I had with you. We always had a bond, you and I, but I know as a teenage boy there were things that teenagers don’t share with their mother, and I always believed we had time on our side.

You’d be smiling at me now, having recently got a tattoo in your memory – ‘I see you in every picture, I hear you in every song’. How true is that quote, and yes Joel, I see you everywhere I go; when I’m driving past all the places we used to go together, in the shopping centre where you worked, when I’m at the movies, when I listen to songs on the radio, you’re there with me. When I visit you at the memorial garden where you now lay, located in the grounds of the school you went to for 12 years, I remember all the times I was there with you from that first day, through to your graduation. I know it’s a great place for you, with the air filled with noise and laughter from all the kids at school, going to and from class, and music playing in the chapel right next to you, where I still remember you doing your end of year piano recital when you were 10 – you added your own little flourish to the end of your song, and stole the show.

When it came to technology, you loved getting into all the new things and were the first one in your year at school to have a digital camera. You loved taking photos and there are still hundreds on our computer that I have, to remind me. Of course that love of photography developed over the years to a love of film, and coming top of your class for your short film, which I remember spending hours and hours helping you with! You were just about to embark on a film degree at University – we often talk at home of where you would be now – the world really is a small place, and even though you lived in Australia, there would have been nothing you couldn’t have achieved, as many other Aussies have proven.

You loved music and I can still picture you sitting at your computer, calling me into your bedroom to look at a new music clip you’d just discovered, or watching something new on TV and asking me if I liked it. While a lot of your music, considering your age, wasn’t my taste, there were many types that I did like. You had a wide variety of genres, and could relate to most music types. For years I have been ‘stuck’ on the same old radio station, listening to the old songs that I’ve always listened to, but recently I have changed over to a radio station that plays more up-to-date music, and it makes me feel closer to you. I hear some songs that I know you would have loved, and I can hear you laughing at, and singing the lyrics around the house. Just like you used to sing ‘Momma’s Boy’ to me, and give me big hugs as you sang.

I used to rely on you so much to help with the computer and even though you did get frustrated with me you still helped – now I have to work it out myself, and you would be proud of me and how far I have come. I had to – I needed to make a website about you to tell everyone your story, so people could visit so you can be remembered always. I had to set up new email programs, and then Facebook, to connect with other bereaved mothers out there whom I have met on this journey. They are all going through the same loss, with varying circumstances, but are all living without their precious child. What a comfort they have been, all with their different ways of coping, but all sharing a common bond. Talking of technology, you would have loved all the new phones and iPads that have come out in the past few years. Again, you would have been one of the first amongst your friends to buy one and be so excited about all you could do. I miss sharing all that with you. You kept me young, and how I miss that connection and energy.

Family life goes on. I know you are watching down on us and smiling. Ben is doing well in his studies. He felt your loss very hard, and has many regrets also. I tell him too, that he did the best he could do at the time, with what he knew. There was a lot of brother ‘stuff’ that went on between you both, and yes, I know you had times when you both didn’t get along, but that was just an age thing, and you were both on the verge of growing past that stage, and I know you would have become good mates again, just as you were when you were both little. He is slowly learning to accept that and live his life to honour your memory and do the best he can do with his life.  Of course Clint and Merrin are now married and have Kerala, who you would have loved to spoil too. We miss the fact that you won’t be around to be part of all this, but we honour your memory and Kerala will know what a great uncle you were. Dad doesn’t let his emotions out too much, but then he never did, but he misses you and all the things he will never get to do with you. Of the three boys, you were the one who really took an interest in cars with him, and you would have shared many good car times and stories over the years. He still has the hundreds of car photos you took on that first visit to the Wintersun rock and roll festival.

My life is different now, how could it be anything else. I am a different person. I’m travelling this journey one step at a time. Sometimes I travel a few steps forward, and then some back, but gradually I’m getting there. I am a stronger person these days.  I want to be, to honour you and your memory.

Christmas is almost here. How you loved Christmas and all that went with it and the excitement over presents and the food! You loved your food, as all our family do, and at Christmas we remember how much you loved your roast dinners – and chocolate pudding of course! This Christmas again, we will light a candle for you, and have you in our hearts even more so if that is  possible, as we celebrate this time and know that we will see you again, which is the one hope that keeps us going.  ‘For God so loved the world, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have eternal life’. John 3: 16.

First published in The Compassionate Friends Qld newsletter December 2011

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