Tuesday, 13 March 2018

I'd like to start off this post by saying that I have the permission of both Aiden's Mum and Dad to publish this post.  I just want to explain that this is about my experience with my son I'm writing about.

I'm not trying to detract in any way the immense and indescribeable loss that Aiden's family is going through right now, I am just expressing and processing as a mum about my child and his friend.
I don't even have the words to express how sorry I am, and how saddened I am for Aiden's parents, and it isn't my place to delve into their grief.  That's their story to tell and an unimaginable one for the rest of us and I would hate to do any disservice to them by saying the wrong thing.

* * *

There comes a time in everyone's life where mortality is realised and the emotional impact and pain of death is forced upon us. For many, we don't lose someone close to us until we're well into adulthood. And for just as many, that first experience of death of a loved one is brought down like the fist of fury when we are just young.

When faced with the question of death from our kids,  we all tell them we die when we're old. When we've lived a full life. We've bred the next generation and hopefully the next after that. We've screwed up, we've loved, we've lost, we've conquered. But this sentiment doesn't always ring true.

My boys friend has been sick for the last 19 months. These kids are 12. He had a rare form of severe aplastic anemia and has been battling like a freaking soldier. This soldier's name is Aiden Hayes.
On Tuesday 27 February we went to pay, what will most likely be,  our last visit.

Aiden asked that Jax and 3 of his other mates - Milo, Jude and Daniel go and visit him. He didn't have much time left. We were told he was in Paediatric ICU and would likely have to go on a ventilator. I organised with the other mums to take the boys in that morning. Daniel's mum Fiona came too. We tried our best to prepare the boys for the situation but in reality, even we didn't know what to expect.

The mood on the way to the hospital was sombre to say the least. We were all quietly nervous and not many words were spoken. As we entered the hospital, the boys started to get a little anxious and silly and I warned them that in ICU they need to be respectful and quiet. I needn't have.

As soon as we entered his room, the mood shifted immediately. In the dimly lit room, with machines a plenty beeping away, lay a small body. The small amount of hair that had grown back after chemo was fuzzy and matted, his skin red, puffy, flaking and so tight on his body. A nice soft blanket laid over him, as his head lay on a pillow with dump trucks on the cover.

It was plain to see that the toll of the disease and numerous complications had ravaged his body.

The boys didn't really know what to say - none of us did really. What do you say to a young boy whose intense pain and suffering is coming to an end? My heart just broke. I tried with all I had to hold it together and not cry, for Aiden,  and for the boys. My efforts were meagre, and as I turned for a tissue, I saw tears falling from everyone's faces.

Aiden knew this. You could just tell. He knew how pained we all were to see him like this - he knew this was the last time we would visit - the last hurrah.  And he instinctively knew the boys just needed something 'normal' to lure them in and try to relax a little. There was something inexplicably peaceful coming from him. Between each struggled breath assisted by the machines (the extremely difficult decision was made not to put him on a ventilator, instead to assist his breathing with a a high oxygen breathing apparatus), he asked the boys about what subjects they were taking, about their sports,  he complimented his mate on his new found abs. He spoke of the most mundane subjects at a time of such significant meaning. He talked just as though there wasn't anything between them but some time between visits.

Each word spoken was a struggle and the natural inclination to stagger his breathing with his speech was dominated by the machines and inability to get all the oxygen he needed. But he continued on, filling the silence to ease the tension.

I was left that evening feeling so very torn between devastated and honoured. To be a part of somebody's death process is a privilege. Though the experience was one that devastated me and left me with such sadness for Aiden and his family,  I think there was more an overwhelming sense of profound beauty that I will forever cherish being privileged enough to be a part of that for my child and his friends and their late friend. 

Aiden passed away peacefully that night surrounded by those who meant the most to him.

* * *

Aside from his two great nanas passing away, Jaxon hasn't had to really deal with death before now. He wasn't overly close with my nanas and so even though their deaths upset him, the grief wasn't felt deep in his soul like it has been with Aiden. Aiden was part of his life, his childhood, his world. They hung out together, they laughed and played. They fought and made up. They got another year older and mature together. They did schoolwork together, they had sleepovers, went to discos together. I remember the last school disco they both attended in year 5. Aiden had a crush on a girl and he told me he'd talked to his dad. His dad had told him to be confident and ask the girl to the disco. So he did! And she said yes. Aiden convinced Jax to ask a girl he liked, which he also did but backed out of at the last minute as he was too shy.

To know someone day in and day out and then suddenly they aren't here anymore is a near-impossible concept for any of us to grasp. And these kids have to do this at 12.

Eddie and I have been careful to ensure that Jax deals with this in a healthy way. We've been encouraging him to talk and cry. We really don't need to though. Jaxon has an instinctive emotional side that never fails to surprise me. His emotional maturity and compassion is one to be admired. He's not afraid to show his emotions and he's not afraid to talk about them. Though he is still a kid and still learning, he has a heart of gold that really needs some recognition. 

When we heard of Aiden's passing the morning after, Jaxon was devastated. He sat in his room, tears streaming, looking at old photos and messages from Aiden on his phone. 
My mum and sister came over to give our boy a cuddle. My best friend turned up with a beautiful plant for him. Jaxon's Pop and aunty's and uncles called and text to express how sorry they were about his friend. 

Later,  I said, "Jax - aren't we so lucky that we have such supportive and amazing people in our lives?"

He paused and said, "Yeah...they're awesome. But Mum, I feel bad that they're all being so kind. It wasn't my brother that died." 

He felt bad that he was getting attention when he knew Aiden's brothers,  sister, parents and grandparents all felt the pain so intently.

He felt as though his grief didn't 'qualify', wasn't justified. Because he was 'just a friend'.

We talked and talked that night about how anyone can feel grief even if they aren't close to the person. 

And about how when someone passes away, theres nothing you can do. And people who didn't even know that person, but know the person hurting,  feel pain for the person they love who is hurting. 

He got it then, and he just looked at me and said, "our family is really cool aye mum?"

I'm so thankful to my friends and family for their heartfelt gestures that have helped my boy through this difficult time. My village rocks x

Jax decided he would like to speak at Aiden's funeral. He told me he wanted to make Aiden proud of him. With a little help in structure from me, Jaxon wrote the following piece. He was far too upset to read it himself in the end, so I did it for him.  But I think Aiden would have been very proud of his mate. This came straight from his heart, dedicated solely to Aiden - the cheeky skater boy with the gorgeous hair and the beautiful smile. 

Rest in peace Aiden Hayes
7 November 2005 - 27 February 2018

Hi my name is Jax and Aiden and I used to be best friends. We actually met when we were one year old and then became friends when we were 8.
Even though neither of us remembered meeting when we were babies we decided that because we'd met so young it meant we were basically brothers.

We had many sleepovers and hang outs. We liked to play xbox and camping out in the lounge.
I remember one time Aiden was at our house and we were eating hokey pokey icecream. Aiden kept pushing the hokey pokey bits to the side and then he announced to us all "I don't  like the seeds".

Aiden was always a really caring friend to me when I started Oratia in year 4. We got on really well and though he was much more sporty than me, he had a similar caring and compassionate way about him that my mum says I have. We got to go on school camp together in year 5 which was heaps of fun. We did the Burma trail together and like always Aiden was by my side.

When Aiden went into hospital my mum was sick too so I didn't see him anywhere near as much as I wanted to. I thought about him all the time though and would often text him with what I felt were messages cheering him on. I tried my best to still include him in my normal life by sending him pictures and things but I also felt so bad that he was stuck in hospital so unwell and unable to do these things with me.

When he asked Milo, Jude, Daniel and I  to go to the hospital to see him last week, I was really nervous and didn't know what to expect. But even though he looked so different, he was still the Aiden we all knew and loved.

He was so brave. He knew we were nervous I think and he asked us all about school, sports and things we were doing - even asking "hey milo do you have abs now?"
He reminded us of a water fight we had at Daniels birthday and we all laughed remembering it. Then he asked 'when I get out,  can we have another water fight?'

I'm sure he knew he wasn't ever coming out but he still skipped over the reason we were there and made us feel like things were normal even though that was so far from the truth.  I really wish we could have that one last water fight.

I can honestly say that my best friend Aiden was the absolute strongest person I have ever met, and probably will ever meet.
I was worried the other week about having a blood test but when I think about all Aiden has gone through,  I feel so proud to have been a part of such a warrior's life.
I feel really blessed that he chose me and his other mates to go and say goodbye to him and though that visit was probably the hardest thing I've done in my life, it was an extremely special experience that I will never forget. I will always cherish my friendship with Aiden Hayes. Love you man and I will see you up there amongst the stars.

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