Going on holiday after one of you babies has died is a very interesting mix of emotions. For us it has never been quite the same as before. Some ask us how it feels, and I always remember my mum telling me about the empty nest syndrome. It’s looking for your child, but your child isn’t there. When your child died though it’s nowhere else. It’s not living in another house, on a sleepover, birthday party or even the other side of the world (like for my mum). My son, Boet, is always with us and always missing. We are always searching but we will never find him at least not in the way we want him to be. So going on holiday brings a lot of different conversations with the girls and for Joris and I. When Boet passed away, we decided to go on a road trip quickly after. So, we had to decide what our new holiday habits and traditions would be. When we talked to Caat and Eef about it, the first thing they said was: ‘Boet is a baby so he can’t stay home alone, he needs to come with us’. So ever since our first trip, Boet is always with us wherever we go which brings a lot of interesting situations. For most trips we make a packing list and so our little boy is on our packing list and gets a big √ when everything is packed. Although I am always so scared that we forget or lose him somewhere the girls are always on it and look after their little brother first.
A trip to the bathroom at the airport resulted in Eef yelling (just imagine us being in 3 different cubicles): “mum I really miss Boet. Caat responds from another cubicle: “yes me too”. Eef responds: “I wish we can do something so we can get him back to life”. Caat: “some things you can’t change in life, we just need to learn to live with it”. I was quiet, very quiet, I was sad but also so proud. My 2 girls supporting each other through their biggest trauma. So instead of answering with a lot of words, we had a girl hug and I told them how much I love them, how proud I am of them and that of course we all miss Boet always.
Now, imagine Caat on the plane listening to the safety briefing. After the briefing she asked me if she could go and speak to the crew member. I asked her why. She responded by saying the following: they say that in case of emergency, we need to leave all our bags. But I am not leaving Boet. We are bringing Boet’s bag. So, I want to ask her if it’s ok to bring just one bag as it is my brother….. What do you say to that as a parent? How do you respond? Knowing very well that Caat can talk and think about this like she is talking about a peanut butter sandwich, as this is her normal. Also knowing, after almost 2 years as a bereaved parent, how quite upset, shocked and completely stunned people can respond to a question like that. Most people aren’t good in responding to grief at all, it is such a taboo still. Not something we need at the start of a trip. So, I said to her that I am sure it’s fine if we bring Boet’s bag in case of an emergency. Keeping my fingers and toes and everything crossed for never, ever having to go through an emergency evacuation.
Or is it when, as soon as we arrive somewhere Boet’s bag gets unpacked first. He will get the best spot in our tent, room, apartment etc and is surrounded by pictures and his favorite toys and along the way during our holiday Caat and Eef will probably add the prettiest rocks, feathers, leaves and sticks they find.
Another one of our new traditions is that as soon as we hit the beach we write ‘we Boet’ in the sand. The girls will debate the best spot as the sand is much better to write in close to the water however, we also know that the water will wash it away quicker. So, when they have found a good spot, they will both write it as Eef can now write as well and lately they have been adding a ton of decorations, like coconuts in Port Douglas. It has evolved to a nice little family project.
Holidays and trips away mean that the girls will receive little treats and gifts but of course their little brother can’t stay behind so when we found a children’s book: Paddles the Platypus, they wanted to buy it for Boet. The platypus is special for us and Boet. His first stuffed toy was a platypus and it was with him everywhere he went and it still is. So, if we see a platypus or something that has to do with a platypus it reminds us of Boet.
Things have changed for us, are they worse or better? I don’t think I can put such a label on it, it’s just different and many many layers are added to everything we experience and do, and it is maybe more complicated as everything is triggering and emotional. But I think our lives are richer since everything we have been through has a Boet edge to it and that is how it should be as Boet is and will always be one of us and Boet is and always will be one of our absolute legends.