Article for John Radcliffe Magazine April 2007

(written by Johanna)

So where are we today?

Our children are growing fast, Edward now 12 still remembers William very fondly and misses him a lot. He has a few friends who were in his class at school and have brothers in William’s class; I think it is tough on him when they meet up. The gap created by William’s death has meant he is now 5 years older than his siblings and would welcome his old partner for the games in the garden and doubtless the PS2!

We are proud of the way Edward has handled the whole situation, especially when we look back on the times we spent with Wills at hospital and the stresses around, he was so young to cope with that and I think we took for granted his strength throughout.

Lucinda is now 7 and also has fond memories of her big brother; they were very close. Lucinda was born the night he started his chemo and subsequently spent the first 18 months of her life between hospitals staying in with us quite often. William loved to cuddle Lucinda and she often writes notes and songs to him even now.

Henry is our ‘gift’ from William, strange to think he would not be here if William was with us! Our family was complete until we lost Wills then we just felt the need to fill a gap, although we knew Wills could never be replaced. Henry was born in 2002 and was a positive move for the whole family, bringing a fresh sense of purpose and fun.

We have such fond memories of William in the water, a great little swimmer! It was where he wanted to be and we didn’t let his illness stop him so he swam throughout his treatment. The physio who took William for hydrotherapy was amazed at his agility in the water; we still see Vivienne when she pops in to see how we all are – now that’s caring for you!

All the children have continued with the passion for swimming. William was a fabulous swimmer and now Edward and Lucinda swim for Chalfont Otters and for their respective schools. Henry is in the midst of shooting underwater pictures for a book to be published early next year; he is the main character and has done some weird things in the water so far!!

Peter and I talk with the whole family about William. We have never stopped anyone from talking about him whenever they like. The children have been through various stages of wanting to know different aspects of William’s illness and in fact the final moments of his life. We explain to them as clearly as we can with as much information as they ask for. We have a fantastic support network of friends who have stuck by us and remember William fondly, they are never too shy to speak of him and Henry is repeatedly called William… it happens in all families with more than one child so why not ours!! I still find it hard when people ask how many children we have, I always say 4 because William is still with us in so many ways and to exclude him would be too hard. He is our ‘star’ and appears as such in our family ‘logo’!

I am sometimes asked why the penguin as the logo for William’s Fund- well just because Penguins were William’s passion and he had them all over his room!

William’s Fund became a natural progression for us as we settled to life without Wills. It kept his memory alive and meant we were trying to change the outcome of this disease for future children. Although we are not a strongly religious family we feel William is watching over us and have had some ‘strange goings-on’ occasionally when we laugh and blame Wills!

It is actually quite difficult to explain how we got to this point, I sometimes feel (Peter does too) that we have been sedated for 6 years and that we are just starting to come out of the fog! In hindsight I think we both threw ourselves into staying as busy as possible to give us no time to think!! I have developed an‘off button’ when I need to stay strong! No doubt that friends carried us through it.

William’s Fund meant we were able to channel the emotion somehow and it just took off. Locally we have been well supported by friends, businesses and colleagues, many who knew William and that is very important to us, knowing that he is remembered. The events that raised the money are extremely varied, if I mention any I may offend those I leave out so best not!! However most are featured on the website and the archives give a fabulous summary of the number and variety of events. One ‘event’, which has really increased our profile, is the annual Christmas card. The story of this begins with one very good friend from William’s school (one of the Edward and William class!) who came to me one morning in 2001 and said she thought the Christmas card my mother painted was really good and that we should print them for William’s Fund! (My Mum has painted a card for family and own business use for some years but they were never printed, just photographed and stuck to card. The one she painted for 2000 was called ‘Star of Wonder’ and featured William flying a kite in the snow… except as Mummy drew ..the ‘kite’ became an Angel… the rest, as they say….)

My friend had costed the project and approached a local printer and was very keen to print 100,000 cards!!! Well in my ‘fog’ I agreed and what followed was another example of great friends and a great community. The cards and envelopes were delivered in a large truck to my friend’s house, boxes were loaded into her very large dining room and friends were recruited to come round and count and pack cards over coffee!! With the help of lots of the mums the cards were packed and sold locally with a huge profit and a great sense of achievement. My mother was stunned that anyone would buy them and still believes she ‘isn’t very good’!! The cards are now a firm favourite among locals and have gone to a wider audience nationally and internationally, and yes we still pack the cards in our sitting room over coffee with all our friends!

Losing William has taught us a lot about life. We are more patient now and try to enjoy things more, we appreciate the children and don’t take things so seriously. We thank William every day for being here and we are so proud of him and how he coped with it all. He has a tree at Kingscote School, the same age as him surrounded by a circular seat for the boys and engraved with his name as ‘the bravest of Kingscote boys’. We also have ‘Will’s Place’ now, a beautiful spot at the church he was christened at. He has a lovely stone made with his own handwriting carved onto it and a message from Edward and Lucinda carved by themselves on the back, he has a tree which is the same age as him planted by our local tree surgeon who knew William. He has a star carved out of a tree section by friends and a bench from his grandparents who miss him so much. There are stones and shells brought back from family holidays by the children and messages from friends who go there to sit and contemplate. It is a beautiful spot and whenever Peter or I go there you can be sure that a little glimmer of sunshine will break through and we smile to ourselves and say ‘Hi Wills!

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