Happy Birthday Kate Nightingale

 I am really quite a lucky person, as I have had two sisters and a brother in my life. My sister Kate lived from Jan 14th 1970- July 1974 and would have been 42 today. My younger brother and sister are alive and well and some of my best friends today. Seeing my two children together now, I understand more what having brothers and sisters means to a child, and how lucky I am to have these relationships.

Since becoming a mum, it’s made me realise more the impact it would have had on me as a toddler, and my parents when she died in a car crash, aged only 3 and a half and I was only 18 months old. Although I don’t really remember her, I know I loved her, and she was a great sister, as I still miss her at times, and couldn’t tell you exactly why! From talking to my extended family, everyone said how beautiful she was, quite delicate. She still wet the bed, and, and had got really attached to a piece of blanket which she took with her everywhere. She was intelligent, likely to throw the odd tantrum, and a bit unpredictable, and I have always imagined she would have been someone who took the limelight a bit! 

Her death was a tragic accident, and noone’s fault, she ran out in front of a car, whilst my granny was struggling to lock the car door. My mum and me had crossed the road to find a picnic spot, and they were following. Years later my granny (who is well into her 90’s now) broke down in tears on me about this, and told me how guilty she felt. My mum describes how she changed as a mum from being quite care-free to worrying about every eventuality.

 The times when I feel most sad about her, are wierdly at weddings. I got really stressed about my sister’s wedding last year, and then my brother is also getting married this year, and I start to dread it and don’t know why!

I think it’s to do with the thought of her not growing up and having a family of her own, and not being there at big family gatherings. When close girlfriends get married, I think part of me wishes it was her big day. My Dad mentioned her at my wedding, and talked about what a blessing I’d been to them at the time, and I can see now, through my daughter who is now a similar age to me when Kate died, and at the moment is a very busy toddler, permanently cheerful, how wonderful that would have been. I feel sometimes that my daughter is my “wonder-wall”, “going to be the one that saves me” as she helps me understand my past better than years and years in therapy!

Weddings are about the future, not the past though, and I feel really blessed to have a lovely husband, and two children and a great job. I am delighted my brother and sister and close friends have met the person they want to spend the rest of their life with. One of the things I’ve got right  is marrying my husband who is an amazing support to me, and a brilliant Dad, and knows how to cheer me up if I get blue. I really enjoyed our big day.

Another amazing blessing that I’ve got in my life, is a network of “big sisters” who look out for me all the time, through church, and old school friends, and at work. I’ve been really blessed with gifts for the children, hand-me-downs, toys, and advice, that has really helped us get started as parents. 

As I wrote this blog last night my mum rang and told me that it would have been Kate’s birthday today, so am dedicating this to her. I didn’t know until I started writing that this was the case, but had just been reading “Eyore’s Birthday” story to Jonathan beforehand and had been thinking about her all day.

So today I want to wish her many happy returns, for her birthday party in heaven, (sure there will be a good cake and balloons, and lots of presents) and try and enjoy my life as much as possible, including the weddings, as after 40 years of missing her, I know she’s not coming back, and there will always be a space in my life which only she can fill. But if she hadn’t died, I wouldn’t be who I am today, and wouldn’t have such amazing relationships with sisters all over the world.

Henri Nouen quote: 

‘Remember you belong to God from eternity to eternity. You were loved by God before you were born, you will be loved by God long after you die. Your human lifetime long or short is only a part of your total life with God. The length of time doesn’t matter.”

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