We were already running late for the school run when Ieuan looked up at me and asked me a simple question.
“Mum? What do you think Evalyn will buy me for my birthday?”
It is the hardest thing to look your child in the eye whilst trying to stop your own from filling with tears. His question was so innocent and I quickly scanned his face for any signs that he may be upset, but there were none. . . .
In my head, Evalyn wasn’t going to buy Ieuan a present for his 5th birthday. The thought had crossed my mind, but then I put it to one side as I was worried about what Ieuan would think it would mean? I thought about the questions he might ask us on finding a wrapped present from his baby sister amongst his other gifts.
How did Evalyn buy me a present? How did she know what to get me? Does this mean she’s coming back? Having to answer questions like that didn’t seem fair to either him or us.
We have created a world for Ieuan where Evalyn is still a very big part of our family and in her own little way, she still exists. She is mentioned more than once every day. Ieuan knows that he has a baby sister who died. He knows that she is not coming back. But he also knows that, in our world, Evalyn can be wherever we want her to be. He knows that she watches over him. He knows that rainbows are her way of saying hello. He knows that he can ask us any questions he wants about her and we will answer them. What colour eyes did she have? Did she have hair? Did she look like me? What colour angel wings do you think she has? have all been questions he has pondered.
He will also talk about Evalyn in day to day subjects.
“Do you think Evalyn would like that dress?” he’ll ask as we walk past a party dress hanging in a shop window.
“Probably,” I’ll say.
“Hmmm, I’m not sure,” he’ll tell me, “Evalyn’s favourite colour is pink and that’s purple.”
Evalyn has become such a big part of Ieuan’s life that sometimes it is hard to believe that she isn’t here with us . . . .
“Mum?” Ieuan asked again, snapping me out of my thoughts, “What do you think Evalyn will buy me for my birthday?”
“Erm,” I started, choosing my words carefully, “Do you think that she will buy you something for your birthday?”
“Maybe,” he frowned, “She might get me a little teddy because she knows I love teddies. But you’ll have to help her buy it as she can’t buy it on her own. She’ll need your help.”
And just like that, my panic subsided. Of course Ieuan knows that Evalyn won’t really be able to buy him a present. He knows that she exists in the new world we have all created just for her. . . .
But it is nearly his birthday.
And he is a big brother who just wants a birthday present from his little sister.
“I’ll see what me and Evalyn can come up with,” I told him as he wrapped his little arms around my neck and gave me a big cuddle.
It was probably quite naive of me to think that we could get through Ieuan’s birthday without thinking too much of Evalyn. I thought that watching one of my children turning another year older when my other child will never have a birthday would break my heart and re-set the grief. And that’s probably how it would’ve been.
But then Ieuan spoke eleven little words that changed everything.
Yes, Evalyn won’t ever have a birthday or a party. But she sure as hell can be a big part of Ieuan’s!
That night we ordered a little brown teddy bear for Ieuan from his sister. Today I wrapped it up in spotty paper and wrote To Ieuan, Love Evalyn on the tag. I like to think she’s somewhere watching from the edge of her world telling us, That’s perfect! He’s going to love it! And he will, not only because it’s yet another teddy bear to add to his collection but because it will always be a little link to Evalyn and another memory of her that we have created for him to treasure. . . .
And I know that from this moment on, for every year to come, there will always be a little gift for Ieuan on his birthday and a little tag that reads. . .
To Ieuan, Love Evalyn.