Music provides the soundtrack to our lives. It evokes emotions, memories, reminiscences – both good and bad.
Martin and I wanted Hugo’s funeral to be a celebration of his life. Part of that celebration included selecting songs to play during the service. Songs that we loved, that held a special significance for us. We were aware that the music we chose, however much we loved the songs, would forever be tinged with a deep sadness with the added connection to the death of our beloved son.
The songs included Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakakiwo’le; Teardrop by Massive Attack; Weezer’s Islands in the Sun; Mr Blue Sky by ELO; and Good Riddance by Green Day.
Most of them are fairly obscure, meaning that thankfully the chance of hearing the songs while out and about was low. Mr Blue Sky appears on the radio occasionally; its bright cadence usually keeps me hovering over the abyss of sadness, so hasn’t been met with dread.
Good Riddance, though, is a song that has long has the power to move me. Mournful, contemplative lyrics sung over a simple acoustic track. A no-fuss arrangement.
Green Day’s Billy-Joe Armstrong apparently wrote the song about a relationship break-up but as with all songs it is open to personal interpretation.
For many years, I thought the song was called Time of Your Life (which isn’t far wrong, its official title is Good Riddance (Time of Your Life). It was the chorus:
There’s something unpredictable, but in the end is right
I hope you had the time of your life
An acceptance of the ebb and flow of life that had got under my skin.
After Hugo, this lyric and the song as a whole adopted a whole new level of significance.
Life is unpredictable.
Who could have guessed I would have a rare, life-threatening pregnancy complication at 24 weeks? That I would narrowly escape with my life? That I would have had to make unthinkable decisions. That I would learn to be a mother through a clear plastic box.
I knew I would love my son, but the power, strength, pull of that love? Something no one can know until they experience it.
And I never would have thought that I would have to leave the hospital without my baby. To arrange his funeral. To not watch him grow up, but to tend his grave garden.
To hold on to the memories of those 35 precious days, held in my heart forever.
I had no idea that I would be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, that I would have to fight for support. That at times those precious memories instead of prompting feelings of intense love would provoke terror, meaning they were shut away in my mind.
And there were points in the time since Hugo’s death, at the end of March 2014 that I doubted I would still be here. At times, I thought I didn’t even want to be here.
But here I am.
During the past couple of years or so when the song has come on the radio I cried and crumbled. Day wrecked. Too much significance, too many memories, too much of a trigger.
This morning was different. I closed my eyes, listened to the lyrics. I felt the emotion, let it wash over me. I let the tears prick my eyes. I let myself cry, knowing I would survive.
While I felt sad, I didn’t crumble. I felt connected to Hugo.
A corner has been turned.
Another turning point.
To use Armstrong’s lyrics as inspiration, Hugo’s death provided a fork stuck in the road of my life. I made the best of the test…and have emerged stronger, a different person yet the same.
I look at the photographs of Hugo, of the three of us. The still frames in my mind play with intense indescribable sadness, now no longer polluted with terror but suffused with love and beautiful precious memories.
For what it’s worth, it was worth all the while.
I wish with every ounce of my being that my pregnancy had gone to plan, and that Hugo was still with us. I still wonder ‘what if’, and probably always will.
But for him, I would do it all again.
I know we gave Hugo every possible chance. I know we did everything we could for him. I did the best I could for him as his Mummy. Hugo was a boy showered with love from his first moment until his last.
And I know he knew that.
It’s the line that chokes me up most:
I hope you had the time of your life.