The Adventures of Christmas Conor

Conor’s Daddy and I are just back from spending Christmas in Budapest. Exploring the sights (and of course tastes) of the city helped us to get through a Christmas that should have been so different. We brought with us candles which we lit to remember Conor, his Grandad John, Conor’s little pals and all those missing from our homes. We also brought our “Christmas Conor” decoration and he ended up on a great big adventure.

There were no cakes baked for Conor this Christmas. There were however a whole new set of Hungarian treats to be tasted. This Chimney Cake was our favourite…

image

The Chimney Cake was sold at market stalls.  Its a sweet yeast bread.  The dough (similar to brioche) is shaped into a long strip and wound around a spindle and cooked over charcoal.  It’s a bit like a BBQ. The cake is coated in sugar and melted butter while cooking.  Once cooked you can pick a flavour to dip it in.  We picked coconut. It’s eaten freshly baked and is delicious.

Budapest is an intriguing city.  It has such a significant recent history.  It regained independence only after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989.  While learning about its history it struck me that our generation in Hungary is the first in a long time to know only freedom as adults.  Their children’s generation will have choices and opportunities that their grandparents could only dream about. It’s something those of us in the west have taken for granted.

In my old life I attended a talk by a bereaved mother whose young son had died many years before.  I have never forgotten her describing how difficult she found what would have been his 18th birthday.  Up until this point she had pictured him in a uniform attending their local school.  Once she reached what should have been his adulthood she had no idea how to picture what he would have been doing.

This trip to Budapest and taking pictures of Christmas Conor’s adventures has me wondering what Conor would have become and what choices he would have made…

I enjoyed talking the photos of Christmas Conor’s adventures. They provided a welcome distraction from the grief that followed us over to Budapest.  We nearly lost Christmas Conor in the castle moat and like every good mother I rescued him, spat on a tissue and cleaned him up! I now have 17 years to get used to the idea that I will never know what Conor would have or could have been. I know that what’s more important than any career or achievements, would have been that he was happy and loved.

Advertisements

Santa doesn’t stop here…

Food is so closely associated with this time of year. Christmas is a multi sensory event filled with unique sights, sounds, tastes and smells.  Last year I made the stained glass star biscuits featured on the top of all of these pages. I wanted to try out my new star cutters and I wanted to bring Conor’s stars to the Christmas table. I even left one of the biscuits on Conor’s grave. The biscuits were easy to make and the cinnamon scent from the oven was amazing.   After rolling the biscuit dough you cut out a centre shape. In this hole you place crushed hard boiled sweets. As the biscuits bake, the crushed sweets melt to fill the hole. (See Top Tips below for the recipe) This year I’ve been looking at recipes but I don’t have the motivation to bring them to life. Sorry Conor, there’ll be no biscuits left for your birds or foxes to devour.

I think most people can appreciate the impact on our family of the empty chair that my dear dad should be occupying this year. I am sure there will be lots of toasts raised in memory of my dear dad at various Christmas dinners. There will be stories shared and healing will take place.  The loss of a baby is so different. We have no stories of Conor at Christmas to share with family. We grieve not for what we once had but for what we imagined we’d have. In my imagination there’s a one year old boy opening his present of a toy garage. There’s a proud Daddy taking photos and stealing all the chocolates from his son’s selection box. It hurts so much knowing the reality of Christmas is so different to the one in my imagination. The magic of Christmas left our lives on bad news day.

There is such a pressure to feel joy and happiness at this time and there is no escaping all the reminders. Our neighbours have had houses decorated since November. There are ads on the TV and on the side of buses. There are office parties and the exchange of cards and gifts. All the twinkly lights and jingle bells remind me of the Christmas of my imagination when the reality is so different. While the Christmas sights and sounds do not sting as much this year, I do not feel any festive cheer. I feel only sadness for what should be.

With all this in mind what do we, the bereaved do at Christmas? There is only one way for us to get through Christmas- that’s by doing what feels right for us at any given time. We need to take care of ourselves and our broken hearts. I now know a number of bereaved parents. Some plan to  stay with their families as they do not want to be alone in an empty house. Others are seeking out the empty house and hibernating until January. Some are heading away to escape the reminders of what should be. Many are doing a combination of all these options. Other parents I know are having to put on an act to give their surviving children some Christmas magic. All the parents I know are looking forward to January when feeling blue is the norm. Christmas is a holiday to survive as a bereaved parent. We know from all those parents who have gone before us that we will make it through. We also know we are not alone and that there are others feeling just like us.

We ask that you respect the decisions the bereaved make this Christmas. We are getting good at surviving so we must be doing something right! Do not be afraid of our tears. Do not be afraid to cry too. You do not need to stay strong for us. We know how exhausting that brave face can be. Raise a toast or light a candle for all those who both did and should occupy empty chairs. However, the greatest gift you can give to me, a bereaved parent is to remember our child.  I know you have no stories to share of Conor at your Christmas table but you can tell us you have thought of our little boy who should be leaving sticky finger prints on your walls.

I will leave you with Conor’s tree. It is decorated with gifts sent by some very thoughtful people in our lives. There’s a globe to represent all those countries Conor did not get to explore and there are plenty of stars…

image

I would like to wish all the readers of Cakes for Conor a peaceful Christmas. I hope you will be surrounded with love, kindness and tasty bakes.

Love from Conor’s Mummy x

*Top Tips

Here’s the recipe:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/stainedglasswindowbi_87505

After a number of trials with different hard boiled sweets, I found “Fox’s glacier fruits” gave the best results. You could see the different coloured centres better with these sweets.