It’s hard being four. I’m four. I’m told I’m a big girl all the time but then I get called baby. I don’t yet understand that this is just an affectionate nickname. I’m told to try and put my shoes on by myself but then most of the time mummy ends up doing them anyway. I don’t yet understand that mummy just wants to help me, she isn’t trying to steal my independence. I try to brush my own peggies, but mummy usually ends up brushing them for me. I don’t yet understand that this is just because it’s usually late at bedtime, and mummy just wants to get to bed.
It’s confusing, being four. I’m expected to act like a big girly now but still sometimes get treated like a little baby. I don’t yet understand that it’s just my mummy trying to protect me and I find it frustrating.
Being four is no walk in the park. Now I’m four I have started to pick up on events that happen around me; I have started learning about the world and where we come from; I’ve learned that everyone on our planet is born and that eventually, everyone dies but, most of all, I’m now beginning to understand.
You see, there’s a difference you know, between knowing and understanding. There’s a difference between having a fact handed to me and then knowing what that fact means. Like, when my mummy told me that my little brother had died – I knew that as a fact. Now, after a lot of learning over the last 7 weeks since he died, I understand what that means.
I’m only four but I understand what death is, now. My mummy says it’s something that no four year old should have to endure; something that no four year old should know about in so much detail. This makes mummy very upset. It hurts my mummy. I’m only four, but I know that ‘dead’ means someone is never coming back. I know that now. I know that my baby brother is gone and he is buried in the ground in a blue wooden box, and I know that I will never see him again.
Even though I’m only four, that really upsets me. I miss my baby brother a lot. I look at his pictures all the time. I cry when I visit his grave because I don’t want to come home and leave him there. I get scared, you see, that he will get cold. Mummy tells me that my baby brother is wrapped up nice and warm in lots of blankets; she tells me that he is surrounded by teddies and he will be nice and cosy. Mummy tells me not to worry but I get scared for him.
With me being only four, I forget things sometimes. I forget things and ask my mummy the same questions over and over again. She doesn’t get mad because she understands that I just want to know. I just want to hear about my baby brother and where he is now. I just want to know that he is safe and fed and looked after, like me and my sister.
Mummy tells me and my sister that he is in this place called ‘Heaven’ now. It sounds like such a magical place! It’s a place where my baby brother plays with lots of other little angels all day, then he is read a bedtime story and rocked to sleep every night by our friends and family who went to Heaven before him. It’s a place where he can see us, but we can’t see him. I’m not allowed to see him; my sister isn’t either. Mummy tells us that this is because he has a very special job as an angel; that when he died 7 weeks ago he rested for a while, then when he was buried in the ground, the soil around him helped his wings to grow – just like it helps plants to grow – and he became an angel. I remember mummy telling me that when I asked her why he had to be buried in the ground in a box and why he couldn’t come home with us.
My mummy told me that my baby brother is an extra special angel, because usually people have to wait till they’re really old to learn everything they need to know to become an angel. But my baby brother didn’t. My baby brother learned everything he needed to know to become an angel before he was even born. That makes him super special, doesn’t it?
I’ll become an angel myself one day, mummy said. She’s told me that it won’t be for a very long time because I have a lot to give to the world before I go to Heaven. I’m okay with that. I know I’m only four, but I’m not scared now. I’m not scared of that thing that big grown up people call ‘death’ because I know when I’m old and wrinkly and I grow my wings, that it’s the most beautiful place. And best of all, I will get to see my brother there! By then, his wings will be the biggest, brightest, shiniest wings of all. My mummy told me that. She said that his wings will grow every single day and they will get brighter every single day, until they are big enough to guide me to Heaven when I go there.
I really miss my baby brother. I cry myself to sleep some nights because it doesn’t feel good not having him around. Mummy spent weeks and weeks preparing me and my sister for his arrival. I’m only four, I didn’t know what to expect. Mummy told us that our new baby brother would cry a lot; she told us he would do nothing but poop, eat, sleep and cry, and that he would need a LOT of cuddles off mummy to keep him settled. Mummy told us that it didn’t mean she would love us or cuddle us any less; she said that it didn’t mean she would care more for our baby brother, but he needed her a little more because he wouldn’t be able to do things for himself, like me and my sister can.
I remember when I met my baby brother. He was sleeping. He was silent. He was cold. He was still. It wasn’t what mummy told us it was going to be. He wasn’t crying; he wasn’t eating; he wasn’t pooping; he wasn’t even moving. I was confused. I remember telling my sister, when I thought mummy wasn’t listening, that I didn’t want a baby. I didn’t want a baby because it would just poop and cry all the time. I wish I never said that. I really want that baby, now. I really wish we had a pooping, crying brother keeping us awake all night instead of him being silent and him being in that box in the ground.
It’s hard, being four. It’s even harder being four, and being a big sister to a dead baby. Mummy never told me that. I learned that for myself. Other four year olds that we play with don’t even know what ‘dead’ means. When I told a girl at the park that I have a baby brother but he died and he’s in Heaven, she didn’t know what that meant. I guess, now, me and my sister are extra special too because we know a lot more about the world than other girls and boys who are four.
I speak to mummy about my baby brother a lot. It helps me. I know that my baby brother only ever knew love; he only ever knew warmth and the only noise he ever heard was my mummy’s heart beating, our voices singing, and his daddy’s voice talking and telling stories. My baby brother has never been scared; he’s never been cold; he’s never been hungry; he’s never cried.
It’s helped me, my mummy being so open about my baby brother and what has happened to him. You see, if mummy went in to hospital then came home with no baby and didn’t tell us why, then I would have been very confused and so would my sister. I’m thankful that mummy insisted we go to my baby brother’s funeral, too. It gave us a chance to say goodbye. Although it was a very sad day, my mummy said that it would give us a chance to see just how loved my baby brother is. People have to care to cry, she says. A lot of people cried about my baby brother dying, at this funeral. It was nice for us to know so many people love him. It was nice for us to see my mummy and my baby brother’s daddy have so many people around them to look after them, while mummy looks after us.
I love my baby brother, lots and lots. It’s hard being without him, but I know I will see him again one day.
I need to go to sleep now. My mummy tells me and my sister that my baby brother comes down at night while we are sleeping to give us a goodnight kiss and cuddle. We put some lights on his grave, to guide him here when he comes, so he doesn’t get lost. I dream about him sometimes, I tell mummy that’s when he’s here.
Goodnight, Otis. Sleep well and sweet dreams. I love you more than ice cream (and that’s a lot!)
Maisie Lily x
Otis Dominic Anthony Cullen; we miss you, we love you, we will do both eternally.