A few weeks after Elliott’s birth we decided we wanted to do something to celebrate his life and extend the invitation. People had reached out to us with love and support, some asked to come see us but we were too fragile to face too many people in the first couple of weeks. We thought a little event would be a great opportunity to see all of these people, and after such a small funeral thought it would nice for the rest of our friends and family to come and be part of celebrating him.
I must admit at first I was very hesitant. I wondered if it was the done thing, I wondered what people would think about it and I was worried that some people wouldn’t come to remember a baby they never met. Regardless of my fears, we extended the invitation to a day to celebrate his life, a day we ended up referring to as “Elliott’s Special Day”.
Most people around me told me to keep it as simple as possible, don’t stress yourself, don’t do too much. I knew everyone was looking out for me and didn’t want me to put myself under any unnecessary pressure, but this meant everything to me. My husband said “we don’t need to do much…” and I cried “he’s never going to get a birthday party, you know how much effort I put into the other kids, I NEED to do the same for him”.
I wanted to do this to honour him, I wanted a way I could express how we love him, I wanted to give him a party like we do for our other children, I wanted a special send off for him. Maybe I needed to do something to distract myself from my broken heart. Maybe it was a way to do something for him to deal with the guilt I was feeling. Maybe I thought it would heal me.
There I was completely desperate to do something… And I was desperate for it to be perfect. I felt like it was more important than our wedding…but I was completely stuck. I didn’t know what I wanted, I didn’t know how to do it. I searched for ideas on the net but came up with nothing. What words do you use to search for such a thing anyway? I found a few ideas for memorials for grandparents, but not really anything for a baby who never lived on the outside world. Again I started to question if this was because it wasn’t something that is usually/should be done. I was worried people might be uncomfortable.
In the end we decided on an afternoon at a beach we visit often and that we’d all fly kites for Elliott. We bought flat river stones for everyone there to write on or decorate. The stones were put around a frangipani tree a close friend bought for us after Elliott was born so his tree would be surrounded by the love of his family and friends as it grows, just as he would have been.
Since the day we have continued to add to the stones. Sometimes I write on one to tell him I miss him and my children draw on some at random times. We’ve also decided to make a tradition every year on his birthday to add a special birthday stone to his tree.
We wanted something to give everyone so if they wanted to, they could have a bit of Elliott in their homes. My sister made and printed beautiful booklets with photos and quotes. We also collected sand from that beach and put it into tiny glass bottles, labelling them-
In loving memory of Elliott Ryker Vowles
Who is loved more than all the grains of sand on all the beaches
We printed photos and bought paper stars and 3 metal star candle holders to represent the three days we got to spend with him, and hung them above the food tables. Emma wrote on a backboard we would use to hold the kites down saying “Fly a kite, send your love to the sky”.
As the day got closer we both became stressed. I was stressed it was going to be a disaster. I felt it was my only chance to do something for our son, I said frantically to my husband “he deserves to be celebrated, he needs his time”. Adam kept reminding me that we didn’t HAVE to do anything to at all to know and show we love him. We know how much we love our son, and that is enough for Elliott to know. I knew that, but it was still important to me to do. It was the only way I could process it all. Adam on the other hand was stressed it was all going to be a lot of work and headache. He was stressed that I was worried and what might happen if it didn’t go to plan. I also started to panic as I thought, what happens after the day has been and gone? I felt incredibly anxious as I thought “what then?”. I was scared it would mark a point where we were expected to move on and after that, life would just go on and I didn’t know how I was going to do that.
The day came and it was a rush to get everything done in time. It was hot, we were sweating as we were setting up and the wind was still. It IS going to be a disaster, I thought, we have 18 kites and none of them are going to fly and everyone will be standing around hot and uncomfortable. I felt extremely anxious about people arriving. I thought I was going to have a panic attack. But as they started to come, one family after another I felt that lift from me. I cried, I hugged, I felt comforted. Seeing my family of cousins, aunties and uncles arrive I felt like he was being welcomed into our wonderful family. Our friends being there not just for us, but for Elliott himself warmed our hearts. We have never been more grateful for our friends and family in our life.
About 30 minutes in the breeze picked up and it cooled down. An hour or so later the wind picked up enough and the kites started to go up. I went to get something and when I turned around back to the beach, they filled the sky. What a site to see, so many kites flying high, dancing in the wind. Light shone through the clouds and I couldn’t help but wonder if Elliott was up there watching and smiling, perhaps sitting with my late grandmother and grandfather as they looked down on their family. I felt a calmness and wondered if he was showing us he was happy and safe.
We watched the adults chatting together and all the children, laughing and playing on the beach together running free. Everyone was together for Elliott. We saw some children writing his name in the sand, a sight that will warm me forever. As sad as it was for the reason we were there, it was a truly beautiful, magical, peaceful and comforting day. I hoped Elliott was feeling all this love being sent to him wherever he may be. It warmed our hearts more to find out later when we checked our phones that a friend in Perth flew a kite that very day, and a friend in Timber creek went up to a look out and watched the sunset, both in honour of our son. We will be forever grateful and feel so blessed to have those around us who supported and gave us and Elliott their love.
As the day came to a close, we packed up, watched the stunning sunset over the water and just like everything eventually in life, it was over. I thought this day was going to give us some sort of closure but after realised there’s really no such thing as ‘closure’ after the death of your child. What it did give us was a sense of peace for the moment, a comfort and joy that he was welcomed into the world and his LIFE was celebrated by our loved ones. It gave us a day we can bring ourselves back to as a warm and beautiful memory we made of and for him. I talked to a couple of my closest friends asking them the question that plagued me… “What now?” I asked. They told me to just keep putting one foot in front of the other at times I feel I can. They assured me I don’t have to feel like I have to get over anything or move on from him. They reminded me that myself, Adam, Emma and Ashton will carry him forever with us in our family. They promised me they would keep him in their hearts as well, and that meant everything in the world to us.
So what now? I don’t know. But I know we will continue to celebrate and be thankful of his life as much as we mourn for how it was taken.
To anyone who wants to have a celebration or commemoration of their angel but feels hesitant to out of worry what others might think or what’s ‘normal’ to do, I say don’t worry about any of that and do what you like. No one should ever feel worried to want to openly celebrate or mourn their angel/s. If its been a week, a month, a year, or 20 years or more, have as many as you want to. Do it to mark a date, or just because you want to. Do it big or do it small, invite loved ones or don’t invite anyone at all, what ever you choose-do what you want and how you want to do it.
May all of the angel babies dance and play in the wind together.
Here are some more photos of Elliott’s day xoxo