We have reproduced below the programme for Elijah’s memorial ceremony that took place yesterday. Also included are the eulogies we both gave our beautiful little son. More than 100 people came along and many of them came back to our house to eat and drink, laugh and cry. It was something we wish we had never had to do, but it was a very special day. Thank you to everyone who came and supported us, and thank you to everyone who couldn’t come, but let us know their hearts were with us.
Elijah Joakim Halse
27th March 2013 – 3rd May 2013
Welcome by Auntie Miia
“Say not in grief he is no more, but live in thankfulness that he was.”
From “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran. Read by Grandad.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
“Something Beautiful Remains” – Author Unknown. Read by Auntie Minna
The tide recedes but leaves behind
bright seashells on the sand.
The sun goes down, but gentle
warmth still lingers on the land.
The music stops, and yet it echoes
on in sweet refrains…..
For every joy that passes,
something beautiful remains.
Eulogy for Elijah: By James. (Dad)
When we started planning this ceremony, we asked the funeral director for advice arranging a memorial gathering. He told us if people don’t go for a religious ceremony, then they tend to do their own thing. The ceremony might involve reading a couple of poems and a eulogy – adding “but you can’t have a eulogy for a baby as there’s nothing to talk about.”
He hadn’t done his research. We’ve got plenty to say about our youngest son.
Before Elijah was born, Jenny and I were discussing baby names with Jonah and Amos. Amos was very keen to call the baby “lightning” after Lightning McQueen from the film cars. And so “Lightning” became his working title while we decided on what to call him officially. It’s a fitting moniker in more ways than one.
Elijah was fast. He arrived not only way too soon, but at some speed – born in triage within 45 minutes of Jen telling me “I feel quite uncomfortable”. Like a rookie, he tried to run before he could walk. He showed every sign of wanting to breathe for himself and was taken off full ventilation after 2 days. But he got tired after a few days and had to be put back on. He then showed again that he didn’t need the ventilator, but again wasn’t really ready. The doctors were a little more cautious after that and a little more wary of his bravado. He came off the ventilator after a week or so, but in the meantime had been working up to full milk feeds via an NG tube. He wasn’t quite a star pupil, but he was making good progress.
Sadly, his illness attacked his guts at a rapid pace. He nosedived. The consultant looking after him did not think he was going to make it through the day – but he did. That same rookie cockiness and fight came through. Another consultant remarked that the sorts of oxygen saturation levels, blood pressure and blood gas readings they were taking from him weren’t all that compatible with life, but Elijah didn’t seem to care. Alas, it transpired the consultant was right. Just as we thought he was on a road to recovery, we discovered the extent of the damage done. As Karen one of his nurses said to him “You fooled us all Elijah”.
We’re desperately sad to have lost our little lightning, but despite his all too quick life, he made a mark. He lit up our community and brought people together. I banged on in our blog about donating blood and many people responded. Maybe lives will be saved with the pints of blood donated by those Elijah’s story inspired. I’d like to think so.
And the support we’ve had from this community has been amazing. I wish we hadn’t had to go through this to fully appreciate just how wonderful people are. In the bereavement pack we received from the hospital was a flyer for a support group called “Too Beautiful for Earth”. No. I wish Elijah could have grown up to see how beautiful this earth is and to meet the beautiful people who put themselves out for us while he was in hospital. The people who looked after his big brothers so we could be with him, the people who brought us meals and cakes, the people who gave us lifts to hospital so we didn’t have to worry about finding a parking space. And people continue to show us the same love and support, doing what they can to help us prepare for this event and coming here today to support us.
And how I wish we could take Elijah back to Jessop’s Hospital in a few years time to meet the nurses and doctors who did everything they could for him; the surgeon who operated on him while has on an oscillating ventilator to give him a chance because, and I quote, “he deserves it”. That’s not how his story ends.
It’s hard to celebrate a life so short, but we have much to be thankful for. Elijah – it isn’t easy, but I love being your Dad. Feeding you via an NG tube was a little detached, but at least it was efficient. And on those rare occasions I got to hold you, everything seemed right. I am so very proud of my three sons.
Einstein said “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”
Elijah was a miracle. The chances of him being, the chances of any of us being, are tiny. A well-known biologist wrote:
“Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.”
Elijah defied those odds to be here. We’ve been struck by lightning; we’re broken and our landscape has changed forever. But we will regrow and mend, different from how we were, but I hope with a greater awareness of the beauty that surrounds us.
Eulogy for Elijah by Jonah (brother) – read by James
Elijah was probaly the smallest baby that I had seen in my life. Elijah was born way too eary. And he got very ill, and he died. Me and Amos got a big cuddle on Elijah’s last day.
Eulogy for Elijah by Jenny. (Mum)
It is going to take most of my strength to read this, so I’m going to take my time. Thank you for coming.
It’s clearly a very special and important day. But this is not the celebration we wanted to have for Elijah.
Where to begin Elijah? Right at the start. It’s true you weren’t planned, it’s true we took a good while to accept that we had room for 3 boys in our life. We love Jonah and Amos through and through, but I’m not the most patient mum, I can’t pretend I relished the thought of spreading that patience any thinner.
It was a difficult pregnancy, I was trouble, or you were trouble, and things just weren’t working out. And then you came. 25 weeks and 3 days. You came swiftly and silently into the arms of the medical team. I held my breath when I asked if you were alive. “she cried a little when she came out” they said.
“She?” They double checked, “He” they said. We smiled, we were happy to avoid Disney princesses.
They placed you in a sandwich bag, to keep you warm and to protect your see-through skin. “You’ll be able to tell him that when he’s older, you were small enough to fit in a sandwich bag.” One of the doctors said. That was the first morsel I clung to. Someone thought you might be able to survive this early arrival. And we loved you immediately.
We missed that incredible moment where you get handed your new baby to hold and to sniff. I touched your hand through the sandwich bag, and you were whisked off to intensive care.
“Has he got a name yet?” the staff asked for a couple of days. You’d caught us rather off guard. We settled on Elijah, another biblical name to go beautifully with Jonah and Amos – in the weeks to follow I looked up who Elijah was and found this snippet: ‘Elijah showed up out of nowhere, and wasn’t easily intimidated.” This was more fitting than we could have ever known. And why Joakim? St. Joakim was said to be the Father of the Virgin Mary, which would have kind of made him the Grandfather of God, which we thought would be a great delusion of grandeur for our 823 gram baby to aim for.
As the days and weeks passed, we sat with you, we “contained you” with our hands to stop your heart from racing when you were being handled. We touched you when we could, but hesitantly because of your delicate skin and because you were still meant to be in utero. We tucked your feet into your bedding to keep you cosy. We leapt at the rare and wonderful chance to hold you. I got 4 cuddles in 37 days. James got 3.
You made me so proud. I told you so many times how proud I was of you. You repeatedly defied expectations, you showed strength and determination and self confidence. On day one you were showing signs you didn’t want ventilation, but you just weren’t quite ready. You just kept on trying and trying and trying. You very nearly died age 3 weeks, ashen faced and swollen, but you pulled through enough to face surgery bigger than any I hope to ever have, and this nearly 12 weeks before you were even due. I told Mary your glorious Scottish nurse – “but he has no choice, he just has to do it.” “Oh, he has a choice dear, he wouldn’t do it unless he wanted.” I have to believe that. And you survived the surgery, but life would have been very hard.
We had a message this week from our friends Toby and Sara. Which I thought was well worth sharing:
“I’m not sure Toby and I will be able to come up to Sheffield on Thursday as Toby is flying off to Japan next Monday for the World Blind Sailing Championships and has already taken most of his leave, but we will be there in spirit and we will be praying for you all. We followed your blog ever since Elijah was born and prayed that he would be OK but it would have been a very difficult few years if he had recovered. Toby and I were both premature and he is blind because of it and although Elijah was being checked for retinopathy of prematurity it could still have developed later on and it is very unpredictable. I spent much of my childhood in hospital and my mum had to tube feed me for the first 4 years, which is hard work and distressing. Elijah would have been a wonderful and amazing boy with a fantastic, loving and caring family but now he doesn’t have to suffer, be brave and feel different to his siblings and friends. He will forever be in your hearts as a perfect little boy who was beautiful, brave, small but determined and that can’t be a bad thing.”
Life would have been hard, but we’d have given you our all. We would have loved you, and cared for you, and squeezed you, and shouted at you, and taught you pop trivia, and dragged you round charity shops and up hillsides and down dales. Your brothers? They would have carried you, and sat on you, and fought you, and loved you and sung to you and thumped you and fed you. We would have loved you to have stayed to make us 5.
But you didn’t stay, you couldn’t stay. That wasn’t you giving up, your body was no longer able to sustain your life. Your brothers were thrilled to hold you. As were your dad and I. Getting to talk to you, and cuddle you, in private without the noise and the tubes. You were bright eyed and wriggly, but calm. You enjoyed that time of comfort and warmth. I have to be glad that you died in our arms peacefully and painlessly.
And what did you show us? What did you bring to us? You brought us pride in your persistence and strength.
We learnt so much about the value of life. Despite your extreme prematurity, and vulnerability the staff treated you, and fought for you and stopped at nothing to try and keep you – we were amazed and so grateful for what they, the NHS were prepared to do for you.
And outside the hospital we were amazed at what people were prepared to do for us.
On one of the many drives to the hospital, I was listening to the radio. Humphrey Littleton was described as “Having got into the bloodstream of the British Public.” I feel in many ways that’s true of you Elijah. Not the British Public, but certainly our families, friends, friends of friends – a wide community.
You brought out a community of people near and far who bent over backwards to support us, and love us. People fell in love with you, and were desperate to know you were safe. We are so glad to be left with a community of people whom we know love us, and care for us very deeply. For the month of April you created a buzz in the air, of hope and love and generosity. You have reminded us of how lucky we are to have Jonah and Amos. And what a warm and loving place this world can be.
We are so sad that your story is not one of your survival, and you growing up to be a huge great hulk of a lad, that would have been a wonderful tale. I don’t think of you in soft focus, baby blue with angel wings or with glittery stars. You are and always will be our incredibly small, beautiful, strong, determined, cocky, self assured and precious baby and little brother.
While you are not here anymore, you leave us with warmth and love and pride.
Sorrow is not forever, but love is.
The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” written by Ewan MacColl:
Sung by Yo Tozer-Loft, guitarist, Glen McGlone.
A time for Reflection:
Song: “King of Rome” written by Dave Sudbury and performed by the Unthanks.
“Turn Again to Life” by Mary Lee Hall. Read by Grandpa.
If I should die and leave you here a while,
be not like others sore undone,
who keep long vigil by the silent dust.
For my sake turn again to life and smile,
nerving thy heart and trembling hand
to do something to comfort other hearts than thine.
Complete these dear unfinished tasks of mine
and I perchance may therein comfort you.
Song to accompany the slide show: “The Littlest Birds” by The Be Good Tanyas.
Written by Cousin Laurie Engel. Read by Auntie Katy
Sleep. Tomorrow will bring the burning sun shining in the east
Sleep. Tomorrow will bring the tiger hunting his prey
Sleep. Tomorrow will bring the cock crowing in the morning
Sleep. Tomorrow will bring the tree spreading its silent branches that sway in the wind
Sleep tomorrow will bring the sun shining in the west.
Miia finished with these words from the Northumbria Community:
“Be gentle with the one who walks with grief.
If it is you, be gentle with yourself.
Swiftly forgive; walk slowly, pausing often.
Take time, be gentle as you walk with grief.”
James and Jenny would like to extend their heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported us in so many ways over recent weeks and months.
Acorn illustration by Jonny Ford
We lost count of the number of blood and platelet transfusions Elijah had over his short life. We are immensely grateful to the strangers who donated blood or platelets that helped give Elijah a chance. To make an appointment to donate, go to http://www.blood.co.uk or freephone 0300 123 23 23.
We have set up a tribute fund in Elijah’s name to raise money for Action Medical Research. It’s one small way of remembering Elijah. If you’d like to make a donation, there are gift aid envelopes available, or you can donate online at:
Or if you’d like to remember him by donating to another charity like Bliss or Sands, that’s great too. Remember him.