Wednesday, 29 February 2012

A desk of memories

Just after Aaron passed away I was up at his school dropping off his school keys and collected his belongings from his desk at school. They had been packed up into a box and I had a quick look through when I got it home, but it had been sitting in the garage until today.   This was actually Aaron's desk a few years ago.  He always had his desk covered in things that he loved - pictures of us, sports schedules, and Hawthorn.  Last year Aaron made sure his desk was facing out a window into the hall, so he could see the students walking past. He used to love having things all over the windows, and also his desk.

I've been wanting to give the garage a big clean out, so decided that today I finally started doing it, and started with the box of things from his desk.

It made me cry but also smile when I found his staff ID tags. He always made sure he wore Hawks colours (even if it was just a tie) on school photo day.  The photo of him with his Hawks scarf and geurnsey always makes me laugh. I totally thought he was joking that he was going to wear it for his school photo, but obviously he wasn't!

He loved laminating photos and posters and putting them on his desk.

This photo looks like my carpet is a mess and I promise we haven't really gone to the dogs that much yet! I took this photo in the garage where there is a little bit of carpet (covered in crap that has blown in from outside:)  He really loved this group that left school a couple of years ago as he was their grade leader for a couple of years. He was really sad the day they left, and I actually remember picking him up after school and he started crying as he felt so sad that they were leaving.

Every Wednesday after school, the boys and I would go up to visit him in his office, so I could drop them off and take Noah to the chiropractor without them.   We used to love seeing his desk and what he had done to it (especially when he had decorated it with Christmas decorations during December, including Hawthorn tinsel).  It's so hard to believe that his desk now belongs to someone else.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Special Keepsakes from Nanna and Pa

Last weekend Aaron's Dad, Roxley and Step Mum, Carrol came up to visit.  They had told me during the week that they had some very special presents for the boys that they had found at home for them.  Aaron had obviously forgotten about an old Hawks footy that was at his Dad's house, because if he had remembered he would've brought it home and had it sitting somewhere special.   Roxley thought that Harri would love it, and he was right.  He gave Kobe Aaron's old special 'Skippy' cup (what a classic TV show!) and they got Aaron's nickname 'Moochie' engraved into his favourite glass he used to use, for Jalen.

Kobe loves his mug and has been using it ever since. He keeps asking 'what's that on it!?' and can't remember the word 'Skippy'.  Guess you had to be born in the 1970s or early 80s to appreciate who Skippy is.

Kobe kept us entertained as he wanted to take photos all afternoon using my DSLR.  He's lucky that I have other things on my mind at the moment, as he doesn't usually get to use it. Right now it's the least of my worries.  It's pretty much falling to bits anyway and it being held together literally with sticky tape! I need to get it fixed, but hate to have to send it away for a time. It's lucky for Kobe though as it means that Mum isn't as stressed about him touching it.  It made his afternoon to be able to take photos.

He cracked us up as he kept wanting to take photos of Nanna and Pa, but it was too heavy for him to hold up for too long, so kept just getting their bottom half. I still think it's a pretty cool pic though :)

He finally got one of them kissing and was very excited about it.

He made us smile when he looked at the screen and yelled 'got it!'. 

Thank goodness for my boys who keep me smiling every day.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Quilted Memories

When Noah passed away my beautiful (and very talented!) cousin Toni asked us what we thought about her making a quilt or something similar out of some of Noah's clothes. I loved the idea but Noah didn't really have any clothes that stood out to us as being his favourites.  It's probably because he had so many lovely clothes as it was hard to buy him anything else.

When Aaron passed away I thought straight away that I really wanted Toni to make me a quilt out of some of Aaron's favourite t-shirts.  He LOVED his t-shirts and was like a big teenager with the ones he wore.  He would often spot a new t-shirt in town or online and would go on about how much he wanted it, and always in the end I would just cave in and tell him to go buy it - even though he really didn't need another one, as he had way more clothes than anyone else in the house :)  His t-shirts always had huge prints all over them with all the things he loved - especially music and sports.

Toni was so amazing and came to pick up the t-shirts straight away and went to work on the huge project.   Toni usually likes to handstitch her quilts, but knew it would take a few months before it was finished, and she wanted to get it to me ASAP.  It was so nice to hear that Sarah from Patchworks Plus had offered to quilt it on her longarm machine (does it sound like I know what I'm talking about, as I actually don't! I'm just copying what Toni said on her blog :).  Thank you so much Sarah for your kindness.  I'm amazed every single day as to how generous and kind people have been over the last month.

Yesterday Toni and I caught up and I was so excited as I knew she had finished the quilt and would be bringing it.    It was so much nicer than I ever imagined.

I couldn't wait to get it home to put on the bed. She had made it the perfect size to fit on our king sized bed.

She even did a special surprise for me with the help of Simone, who had very sneakily gotten hold of a copy of Aaron's signature from the girls in the office at his school.  Toni then copied his signature and stiched it onto the quilt. It looked so cool and I recognised it straight away. She was so relieved as she was worried it wouldn't look like his signature.

She also made the boys a special keepsake each out of his t-shirts. They got to choose which one they wanted and what they wanted made.  Harri and Kobe chose a blanket to snuggle under and Jalen chose a cushion. They look so great and the boys love them.

Thank you Tone for such a beautiful and special keepsake. We treasure it so much and it brings back so many memories of what was going on at the time that he got certain t-shirts or just reminds us of all the things he loved so much. We love it, we love him and we love you!

p.s.  you can see some great pics of the quilt with more detail on Toni's blog post here

Sunday, 26 February 2012

One Month

The last month has been the fastest, yet hardest month of my life. It's hard to believe that it's already a month since Aaron passed away.   I wish so much that we could go back to the 25th of January and just have things change, but I know that's not possible, and I really do believe (for some reason which I'm yet to understand) that things are how they are meant to be.

It doesn't mean I don't hate it, and it doesn't mean it's easy. 

I don't believe that Aaron knew it was coming, but I do believe he was prepared for it.

I just wish I was prepared too.

There are so many thoughts running through my head all the time.

Did Noah come to us to help us appreciate the little things in life, so we could make the most of every single day because the plan wasn't for Aaron to be around for long?

Why did Aaron have to go right now, just as we were starting to feel on top of our grief after Noah passed away, and was looking forward to doing so many things that we couldn't do for the past ten years?

I can't even get my head around both Aaron and Noah going so closely.  I feel awful some days because sad thoughts of Noah passing are just gone out of my head. I think of him all the time, but it's like my mind has just switched, and I no longer think about Noah passing away.   I just remember the life that we had with him and it's nice to think about the happier times, not when we said goodbye.  It's like it can't process both him and Aaron's passing together.  It's just too much.

Now all my thoughts are constantly about Aaron.


What is he doing?  Is he with Noah all the time?  What do they talk about?

Does he know what I'm doing?

Does he know what the boys are going through?

Does he feel bad that he left us?

Did he want to stay at all, or was it easy to just go to be with Noah?

Does he know how amazing people have been in supporting us?  Does he know that so many people have offered us so many amazing things?

Does he know how many people love(d) him?

Does he know that he changed students lives forever, and they miss him so much?

Does he know that the boys cry every day for him?

Does he know that Harri is so devastated that he can't watch Friday night footy with him anymore, or sit with him at Aurora stadium watching the Hawks play?  Does he know that Harri is sleeping on his side of the bed, and has a little shrine to him on the bedside table?  Does he know that Harri cries because I can't kick the footy like him as he used to kick it 'really high up so I could mark it'.

Does he know that Jalen is so sad and scared that he has to sleep in our bedroom? Does he know that he's so quiet and not the usual Jay at all?  Does he know that he had been having trouble at school with a bully, but it's now (hopefully) sorted out?

Does he know that Kobe cries for him all the time and yells at me 'me miss my Daddy so much! I want my Daddy, but he died though!'.

Does he know how much I miss sitting on the couch at night together, with my legs up over his as we watched funny shows like Wife Swap together as we laughed together about how crazy people were for even going on there.  Does he know that I would now give anything for him to be watching the stupid boring cricket or NAB cup?

Does he know how stressful it is for me to have to fix things that I've never fixed before like the Wii or things on the computer?

Does he know that I'm 'okay' but feeling like that's the only way I can be right now because the boys need me so much and I just don't have time or energy, to be anything but okay right now.

Does he know that I couldn't eat a thing for two weeks, but now I'm eating too much and getting fat again! 

Does he know that sometimes when it's quiet I have a good cry, and Jay hears me from bed and comes out to give me a hug and a box of tissues?

Does he know how hard it is to be a single parent, especially when all of us are grieving?

Does he know that I feel like I just have no time to sit and 'be' because I'm too busy doing everything that the both of us did as a team. Now I'm doing it all on my own plus dealing with the boys grief, sorting out our still unfinished house, bills, banks, insurance, and superannation while trying to keep a normal routine with the boys.

Does he know that I'm trying to make things fun and 'normal' for the boys, but feeling anything but?

Does he know that I've been doing some fun things with good friends, even though I wish that the world would just stop so I could just sit and think and breath. 

Does he know how much I love him and always will.

Does he know how much I miss him?

Does he know that even though this is SO hard, we will be okay.  I know we will. I just wish it wasn't this way.

I just wish we could go back to missing Noah and thinking about him all the time, and wondering how we were going to live without him.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

So Much Support

As hard as it is to deal with what has happened over the last four months and particularly the last month, it's so nice to know that hundreds of people are thinking of us, praying for us and helping us in so many ways.  I've been blown away by how much support we have been by family, friends and strangers.  I've been stopped in the street by strangers telling me that they have been thinking of me and my boys and were so sorry to hear what has happened.

I have been amazed and surprised that there has been so much interest in what has happened to us, but it makes me realise how much people care and want to help.

The Punchbowl Primary School newsletter, the first week back at school.  

A lovely reporter Jayne wrote a newspaper article back in October just two weeks after Noah had passed away, about us going in the Make a Wish run in honour of Noah.  After Aaron passed away, a couple of people had contacted the paper, and Jayne did another story in the paper about a beautiful lady Naomi who had started doing some fundraising for us. Naomi, like me loves blogging and blogs about life with her seven (yes seven!) children.  Her page is called Seven Cherubs.  

I didn't even know she was doing any fundraising, until the total was over $2000. I was so blown away that someone would do something so lovely, and was amazed that so many people had donated so much money and thought that $2000 was incredible.    The first article in the Examiner talked about the fundraising (you can click on each picture to go to the online article). 

Before I knew it, there was another article in the newspaper almost once a week.

As the fundraising was going I wasn't really following it at all.   I was so grateful to Naomi and to everyone who was donating, but at the time I was just in so much shock and dealing with just getting through the day, that I couldn't even think about what was going on with it all. My family and friends were telling me what was happening though, and I just couldn't believe it when they would tell me how much money people had donated. 

If that wasn't enough, Naomi and another beautiful lady Nicole (the cupcake fairy) then started working on having an online auction, and before I knew it there was over 100 items donated from so many beautiful businesses and people from around Tasmania and the whole country.  My cousin Toni even made a very cool button for the auction (in Hawks colours for Aaron of course! :)

I often have people asking me 'what can I do to help?' and I really have no idea what to tell them, but it was so nice to know that people were doing what they could to help anyway, especially as I'm a very independent person usually, and find it hard to accept help from others.   No amount of money will bring Noah or Aaron back, but it's so nice to know that so many people care enough to do something to help us, and the amount of money that has been raised is absolutely incredible.  It will definitely make our lives easier over the next little while, and gives us some breathing space, until everything is sorted out. 

Aaron and I hadn't been able to afford to get Noah's headstone and plaque made for his grave yet, so I'm now 'looking forward' to getting that done with some of the fundraising money (if you can ever look forward to getting a headstone for your own child) and also will be getting Aaron's plaque done very soon. It's so nice to know that I can get it straight away.

Thank you Naomi (and Nicole) for being so kind to do something so amazing to help us, and to everyone who has either donated money or items for the auction (big or small) or purchased something from the auction.  I have been touched by each and every donation. I will never, ever be able to say how thankful I am to everyone. I wish I could thank everyone individually.  The money will help us immensly, allowing us this time to grieve without having to worry about finances so much. 

It has helped me so much to know that I'm not alone in this, and makes me realise how many people care for me and my boys, even those who don't know us.  I'm sure that Aaron and Noah would both be smiling down knowing that we are being looked after by so many amazing people right now.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Another Farewell

During the week I went to a funeral of an older friend from church. He had been sick for a while, so I know it was a relief for him and his family, but also know it's going to be hard for his family to now live without him.

'Nifty' was a truck driver before he retired, so it was an awesome idea when his son Mick (who is a truck driver too) thought of transporting the casket from the church to the cemetery on the back of his truck.  I'm sure he got some looks along the way, but know Nifty would've loved his last ride in the truck.

I'm afraid Kobe has been to too many funeral lately and thought he owned the place at the cemetery.  He plonked himself down on the seats which were meant to be for family members and sat there with a huge grin on his face, waiting for it to start.

It was a lovely funeral and it was nice to see that Nifty wasn't far from Aaron's grave.

I went and spent some time at Aaron's and Noah's graves afterwards, and sat there still not believing that it has really happened. Some friends were taking photos for Nifty's family at the cemetery, and sneakily took these photos of me. Thank you Leona and Annette.

This photo of Leona's son Benny makes me smile so much.  He was laying down next to Noah's grave to measure himself against Noah :)  You look pretty much the same height as him Benny! Not long now and you will be taller than him.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

I am still here

A couple of days ago at school, Harri had free choice and decided to make me a card.  He came out to the car with it and was so proud of it.

I almost cried when I read it! It was so lovely and sad at the same time.  I told him it was the most beautiful card I had ever gotten.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Meant So Much

During our week in the Hobart NPICU with Noah, we were so grateful for so many amazing doctors and nurses who cared for Noah.  Many of them touched our lives so much, especially the two beautiful nurses who were with us when Noah passed away - Brodie and Lisa.

Peter was Noah's main doctor in the PICU as he is the head of the unit and was amazing all week in supporting us, being honest with how Noah really was as the days went on, and giving us and Noah the time that we needed.

Lisa, Brodie and Peter were all with us when Noah passed away and nothing touched us more than seeing tears in their eyes as well as we said goodbye to him.   Even though we only knew them for a week, Aaron and I felt a special bond with them as they shared such a huge event in our lives.

We couldn't have asked for more special people to share the end of Noah's life with. It was the hardest day of our lives together (I didn't think I could have had a harder day than that, but boy was I wrong), but we couldn't have asked for our last day with Noah to have been any better than it was, and most of it was because of them and the way they treated us and Noah.

To see the beautiful nurse Brodie walk into Aaron's funeral meant the world to me. It was so nice to see her, especially as I hadn't seen her since the day Noah passed away.

After the service I was standing outside when Peter, the doctor from the NPICU came up to me. I was so shocked that he was there, especially as I imagined how hard it must've been for him to get away from work, and travel to the funeral for the day.  Aaron and I felt an urgency to catch up with him not long after Noah passed away and I'm so glad now that we did while Aaron was still alive.  Aaron found it very hard to go back to Hobart and especially to go back into the hospital, but he was really glad that we got to talk to Peter, to thank him for everything that he did for us and Noah.

To have the two of them at Aaron's funeral meant so much to me.  There were probably close to 800 people there, and I was so grateful for each and every person who came to support me and say goodbye to Aaron, but I was especially touched that they both came, especially when they only knew us for a week.

I'm sure Aaron would've been smiling down with Noah, grateful that they came to support me and the boys.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

KMHS Remembers Him

So many lovely (and funny!) things were said about Aaron at his memorial service at school last week. This is the eulogy which was written and spoken by Aaron's past Principal (who isn't at the school this year) and the Assistant Principal who he was great friends with:

"I never thought I would be back here so soon for such a sad task but really, today is not meant to be sad. This is a celebration of Aaron’s professional life at Kings Meadows and of how he has touched us all and how he has helped to shape our school to the amazing learning community it is today. 
Let’s start with the obvious things. Aaron was a beautiful person and we are all so lucky as a school community to have known him.   He had a great sense of humour and made us all laugh every single day.  Mornings in the office will be very different.  Each day he would do something annoying to Mrs Ponting, just to get a laugh form her.   He was cheeky and great fun to be around. He  loved Lisa and his boys, our school,   Hawthorn,  maccas, chips,  pepsi, oreos, clothes and the students in his grade ( not necessarily in this order).  

This last year Aaron went on our school’s footy trip, which he organised each year. Mr Dean and I (Mrs Barker) went too.   The students were wonderful, really well behaved. There was only one person who played up and that was, you guessed it, Aaron.  We would look around to check the students and there would be one person misbehaving; sneaking off to buy maccas, saying something silly, yelling out  abuse at the footy and then hiding behind the students so no-one would know it was him.  Our supervising teacher, Mr King!

Aaron loved being around his students. He loved mucking about with them.  He spent hours every lunch time in the yard or the gym, playing downball and basketball with everyone. At the end of lunch time he would come in as hot and sweaty as any of the students to take his classes.
Aaron was the only teacher any of us know who has his computer set up to stream sport – footy, cricket, baseball, whatever, just so he could check the scores wherever he was.  And who can ever forget him carrying that Hawthorn Grand Final Trophy around last year after our Beacon assembly.  It was a huge highlight for him. 

Aaron was a funny person, always joking around, but we all know there was much more to him than that.  He was a truly good person and a wonderful teacher.  Aaron had a strong sense of personal morality that impacted on us all.  He never preached or lectured, but students and staff knew that Aaron had a very strong sense of moral purpose.  He lived his values and we learnt those values just by being around him. 

If someone in his grade had done the wrong thing, they knew that they had let Mr King down, and that upset them as much as getting into trouble or having a consequence.  He had the amazing ability of building deep connections and relationships with us all, no matter who we were, whether we got into trouble often or never.   He was still able to maintain a positive relationship and have a smile and a laugh the next day.  He believed in students and was always there for them. 

Students loved to be in Mr King’s class. ‘Yes, I’ve got Kingy,’ we would hear  when students saw their timetable at the start of the year.  They knew that they would be learning in a fun filled atmosphere where they were encouraged and supported to do their best and where there was a gentle, caring atmosphere.  Aaron never got angry or frustrated with his classes, he just kept on persevering with the teaching and learning.

Aaron loved his students, he was passionate about his teaching and had clearly found his vocation when he became a teacher.  He placed his desk in his staff study especially so he could see the students in his grade and keep an eye on them.  He taught Maths and Science, but his passion was coaching the footy  team and in fact I have a suspicion that was why he was keen to be involved in the timetable – so he could make sure he got a footy class.  

Again his approach was fair and supportive. I will never forget the speech he made to the Junior boys footy team just before their grand final last year. It was amazing. Passionate, stirring, very eloquent. I had never heard him talk like that before.  No wonder the team won that day – how could they not! However, it was not just about winning with him, it was about the values of being part of a team, caring for each other, of being sportsmanlike and of representing Kings Meadows  with pride and honour. 

Aaron was caring and thoughtful as a colleague, as well as great fun.  He lead a grade team that has  become very close. He was sensitive and supportive of the needs of others and often did little extra kindnesses for them, especially for his team. All our parents knew that Aaron was there for their child. It has been great to see him grow and develop as a professional over recent years, to the extent he was taking on leadership roles such as his grade and the timetable.  

Aaron represented everything that was best about Kings Meadows and has been a key part of our journey forward.  Our school would not be the wonderful place it is today without his efforts.   He had a sense of community and acceptance of all, of moral purpose and was a good and caring person, just as we want everyone in this school to be. While he never took himself seriously, and in fact was not that confident, he was the best of teachers and the best of people. All of us in this school have been so lucky to have known him and been taught by him.   We have learned so much from him and we will never forget it or him".

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