This poem was the winning entry in Epilepsy Today's first-ever festive poetry contest: Outside the lines.
I am a mother of two. Our eldest daughter married this year and is living in Scotland. Our younger daughter, Emily, died of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) in 2012, just four days after taking her final exam at Birmingham University. This Christmas will be our first one with just the two of us for 29 years.
Christmas Eve and the home creaks in its sleep.
A lichened branch, hung with memories, forms tracery against the window.
For unto us ‘a child was born’, and 22 ornaments tell your story:
A sparkling star blinks in the moonlight through the glass:
Beside a snowman, knitted for inquisitive fingers.
A miniature book with a Christmas story
And a plastic house, brightly coloured and unbreakable.
Toy figures of kings, reindeer, camels and angels,
And a felt London bus from a weekend away.
Two glass icicles from your chandelier period, later labelled by you
As ‘minging ornament number 1’ and ‘minging ornament number 2’.
Subtle baubles, frosted and textured, stored in tissue,
In whites and blues, reds and black velvet,
And from your very last Christmas,
A handmade globe from Palestine for peace and hope.
‘Silent Night, Holy Night.’
22 ornaments emit thin vapour trails of memories which wisp through the house,
Enter our minds and wrap our sleeping thoughts:
Homemade gifts in rustling paper,
Stockinged satsumas and chocolate with your sister in the morning dark,
Later, waiting impatiently for you to wake in your own time, gently keeping seizures at bay.
Family parties and music and games,
Windblown, surf-splattered walks in the rain.
‘Ring out the bells for Christmas morning’ and let ‘the Herald Angels sing’
For you were here.
Joyful, singing, loved and loving,
Our grief is great, but Love is greater, and with it we are gifted the courage to continue,
Travelling with others, reaching out, hands held, with
The rhythm of your music ever-present in the beating of our hearts.