Hudson has been gone now longer than he was here and I’m not sure I’ve given his death the respect it deserved. I wake up now, as I have done every morning, facing his cot and crying is no longer the first thing I do. Sure, once I’ve made my coffee and I’m sitting outside feeling the sun on my skin, the tears come but instead of actively grieving, I find I have become more robotic than anything else.
Unless I’m drinking, I rarely laugh with honest amusement – I used to laugh deeply and authentically at a lot of things. So every Saturday, if I can make it so, I drink. I’m not allowing myself to drink during the week because I know I’ll sink into a hole so deep that I won’t ever crawl out of it again.
Sometimes I catch myself smiling or laughing in my reflection in a window and I feel like a Stephen King character – with a scary, metallic smile glued to my face. One that doesn’t reach my eyes. Grief kills your spirit. As much as I want to, and I know my son would want me to, be a little more like who I was before, it just doesn’t feel like an achievable goal.
But I’ve gone off on a tangent.
When Hudson died, instead of allowing numerous people to kill flowers in an effort to show their sympathy, I asked that donations be made in my son’s honour. We were going to buy books for moms in hospital or toys to entertain kids undergoing surgery. What has happened has put me into a situation that terrifies me every day. The Hudson Initiative has grown into such a big thing and, while it will reap much positivity for so many children in the long run, it has meant I cannot ever escape this grief. I have had to repeat his story so often… I don’t think other grieving parents have to do this. I’ve had to go back and remember his birth, the surgery, the infection… all the hospital stays, the fear and panic in his eyes. I’ve also had to remember the gummy smiles and the giggles and the squeals, so there’s that but neither memory brings a smile to my face yet. I’m still in the phase where memories of him bring the tears. The reminder that I’ll never hear those squeals again.
I don’t know how this all started. I don’t know how it grew into this thing that everyone’s talking about and media are publishing stories about and people can’t believe we’ve made a reality. But I do know, as much as I want to some days, I can’t escape it. There are babies whose lives are going to change because of it.
But where does that leave me? Am I giving my son due diligence? I speak to other parents and they couldn’t get out of bed for months – I was back at work after two weeks. They are only now placing photos of their dead children up on their work tables – I wasn’t able to take mine down and have been posting photos to his Facebook page without hesitation. It took them years to even think of having more children and I already know I want a brother or sister for Hudson.
I’m no rebel and I’m no nerd. But I work well with rules. What are the rules as far as grieving is concerned? What are the guidelines? Where can I go to speak frankly about what a fuck up this all is and how thoroughly and deeply angry I am deep down inside when all I am allowed to be on the surface is positive.
I’ve messed things up for me. But, like with Hudson’s death, there’s no escaping it now.
I realise how selfish I sound. I’m not looking for a clap on the back, so please don’t give me one. All I want now is relief. A breath.
And then a mail arrives, as it just this very second did, that reminds me why maybe relief is not what I should be chasing. Maybe I should be trying to be a hero… just like Hudson was.
This mail is from a friend of mine, Nicole. Her son Julian is giving a speech at school and this is how it’ll read…
“Braveheart by Julian de Wet
A hero saves the day; they have that special ability to make a difference. Heroes are admired for their courage, their outstanding achievements.
Every 2.5 minutes heroes are being born. Everyday broken hearts are being born.
One in one hundred babies are being born with one or more congenital heart defects. These babies are known as heart warriors or brave hearts. I am proud to say that I know one of these warriors.
Hudson Turkish Slater Smith was a bundle of baby perfection when he was born. He was ten fingers and ten toes perfect.
No one was prepared for the news his doctor delivered just two days after his birth.
Hudson had an extremely rare heart defect. Instead of having two arteries, he had only one artery and the blood was mixing. He was heading towards heart failure fast!
Six weeks later a team of surgeons successfully fixed Hudson’s broken heart.
Throughout his journey Hudson never complained. As countless needles were poked into his tiny body, as he lay strapped with tubes and machines attached to him, he never complained – he didn’t know to complain. Instead Hudson was a ray of sunshine, shining hope down on all who knew him.
Tragically as countless heroes before him, Hudson got his angel wings at four months old.
In honor of Hudson his parents are changing lives. They have set up a fund to educate and help other families. They are working towards making it law that every baby is tested for heart defects before they leave hospital.
Heroes are brave. Heroes save lives. Heroes make a difference. Hudson is changing the world one tiny heart at a time.”