In July 2009, our beautiful son Adam was diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma, an aggressive children's cancer. Despite four years of treatment in the UK, Germany, and America, Adam sadly passed away on 11th July 2013 at home with his family. He was just 9 years old.
Two pairs of slippers sit alone beside the shoe rack in the hall, unworn since the final blood transfusion one week before he left us. During those last few months the brown moccasin pair would get such an outing each week; along with his grey Albion jacket, worn over pyjamas he otherwise lived in. The second pair, closed-toe, open-back, soft and spongy, he wore in America, when we travelled seeking hope one more time; only to return finally defeated and bereft. The football pattern that adorns them would elicit comments and compliments from hospital staff, as he sat in his over-sized pushchair, en-route from hospitality house to clinic.
The jacket, the one he would wear on ever less frequent ventures outside, still hangs on its appointed hook in the under-stairs cupboard. Beneath all the others that have been in and out, taken down and hung up again, over the past twelve months. Much like his blue coat that sits lonely on its peg in the side passage. We bought it in Germany, during the six months that we travelled back-and-forth for treatment. Preparation for harsh winter weather that never materialised. Even so, he wore that coat a lot; it was a good coat. It still is; just destined never again to fulfil the purpose for which it was bought.
Toys, books, games, teddies, consoles, collections of stuff; all as he left them. His key rings; some bought, others acquired from friends and relatives, or sent to him by complete strangers through the Post Pals charity. Sorted one key ring at a time, a few days before he passed, into separate boxes for 'favourites', and 'the rest'. There they remain; just as he sorted them, just as he wanted them.
His bedrooms remain dormant, and mostly untouched.
Bedrooms, plural; for he has two. In the first is a cabin bed with built-in drawers and desk, slept in throughout the time he remained stable. For many months, during which he even joyously returned to school, that we hoped would extend to many more beyond; a hope torn apart as his disease became active again. Thrusting us back into a world of torment.
The second a spare room into which he moved, when his physical condition rendered a cabin bed unsuitable. In there is a single, wooden frame, low to the floor. The first full-size bed bought for our eldest, and which through the years all three of our children have claimed as their own. Whilst the room may once have been spare, it most certainly became his. Small and cosy, decorated in his chosen hues of blue and green; that still adorn its walls today, and which must never be changed.
As time passed, and the cancer took hold, he moved again; sleeping in our bed whilst I took his. In the week of his death a special mattress was delivered, designed to prevent worsening of newly-formed bed sores. It was uncomfortable, made him hot; he was unable to sleep. In the aftermath of a terrible, restless, night, he asked if he could try sleeping elsewhere. We carried him, tired and frail, from our room to his; set him down gently into the bed. His bed.
And there he slept, peacefully, for one final time. Our nine-year-old son.