Six months

Elijah arrived into the arms of the neonatal team at 01:24 in the morning six months ago today, all 823g of him. I came home a little after 7 to tell the big boys they had a baby brother and to take the older one to school and younger one to the childminder before returning to hospital to see Jenny and our as yet unnamed baby. We referred to him as “Lightning” as that is what Amos wanted to call him and, given the manner of his arrival, it seemed fitting. I remember struggling to hold it together on the school run. Jenny had been really unwell and so a number of people asked how she was. “She’s had the baby – we’ve got another boy”. I remember that feeling of fear and of hope. Hope that everything would be OK, fear that it wouldn’t. I remember people’s faces, their not knowing what to say. The usual “Congratulations” probably felt odd in the circumstances.

And so here I am six months later. Nothing to show for it. There’s a line in Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses “Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real”. My scars aren’t visible, and sometimes even I don’t notice them. Life goes on as almost normal. Everything seems to be fine. I don’t ever forget about Elijah, but I’m not overcome by grief. Turns out there’s a fine line of grief and I don’t always realise how close I am to that line. A little gust of wind can push me across. If I felt overcome all the time, at least I’d know where I stood. My wounds have a habit of opening up when I’m not expecting it.

Jenny and I are both running a lot. We’ve entered the Percy Pud 10k which takes place in Sheffield’s Loxley Valley. The start/finish is close to the cemetery where Elijah is buried. Jen posted on facebook to see if anyone else fancied entering the race and maybe raising some money for Elijah’s tribute fund.  46 people will be running with us, plus three more are running a 10k down south. We’re a mixed ability bunch, with a handful of marathon and half-marathon runners, but also some who previously only ever ran for the bus. The love and support shown by others and their enthusiasm to remember him is overwhelming.

I first started running regularly after Jen’s cousin Laurie died. I ran the Sheffield Half Marathon with my good friend Martin to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT) Laurie Engel Fund. Back then it felt good to be doing something positive. Nothing could bring Laurie back, but I could at least do something to remember him. So I understand why so many people want to do something to remember Elijah. But now I’m the parent who has lost a child. I’m in this strange place where I’m pleased to be running regularly, pleased that Elijah has been an inspiration to others and immensely grateful for the love and support. I wish we didn’t need this support. I don’t want him to be remembered or to be an inspiration.

I want him to be.

I can’t have what I want. I am truly grateful for the support we’ve received. If you’d like to sponsor us, you can do via this link:


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2 Responses to Six months

  1. Crissy English says:

    Hi, we have just visited your Action Medical Research tribute page as we are looking for somewhere to donate the money we have raised in memory of our son Benedict. What you have written is exactly how we feel and so close to our hearts. Our son was born 27th Aug 2013 at Jessops Wing too and was 8 weeks early. We couldn’t agree with you more that the staff there were amazing and helped us a lot. Benedict as with your little one also got NEC after being seen on the ward rounds in the morning and everything being fine it was a matter of hours and he was a very poorly little boy. NEC is so quick and so brutal and anything that can be done to raise awareness, and fund research has to be done. We too are on a mission to continue raising money towards the Dove study and think that what you have achieved so far is absolutely amazing.

    Crissy and Dan English

  2. Samantha Poole says:

    Dear James and Jenny,

    I am only part way through your story so far. Your two eldest boys look loved and very much part of your journey. What strikes me most is what a strong family connection you are managing, despite losing Elijah. Additionally, the way you are channelling your grief into helping others is remarkable. I’m off for more tissues before reading some more. Sam x

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