Tomorrow is the last day of term. I have not felt this desolate or scared, this guilty or helpless, have not shed this many tears, since the days following diagnosis. And no, it’s not the prospect of 5 and a half weeks at home with my children that is the cause. Tomorrow is the last day of term and Hannah’s last day ever at her school. In September, she will begin at the new school and the next chapter will begin, but it doesn’t feel quite that refreshing and hopeful, not today. Today it just hurts.
I wrote about all the reasons why this is difficult to cope with back in October, following the parents’ evening at which the need for the move was discussed.
That parents’ evening, incidentally, is the one and only time (so far, tomorrow will be the second) on which I have ever driven away from the school in tears of sadness. Even when I first looked around, one of 10 school visits I made, when I was still struggling to come to terms with the concept that my daughter would need to go to a special needs school at all, I left this school in tears of relief, knowing that my little girl would be happy. And she has been. Ridiculously happy. Happy to the point at which we need to remind her to breathe as well as smile. Honestly.
Three weeks ago we all went along to ‘Celebration Evening’ (this is actually parents’ evening, but the name they use instead should tell you everything you need to know about the school!) and Hannah did not stop smiling or giggling the entire evening. Better still, neither did her teachers. Her laugh is infectious and her cheekiness irresistible, they are all as in love with her as we are, she knows it and she loves them back. I have never seen Hannah anything other than almost-unable-to-breathe-for-smiling when at school. This school.
A DVD came home with her in her school bag this afternoon: ‘A Farewell to Hannah’. I made the mistake of watching it. Hannah was all smiles, she loves watching the people she loves on the big screen and will happily watch the home movie of last Christmas’ school play on repeat. I smiled too, through the cascade of tears. It is a beautiful film made with love and sincerity, a testament to all that Hannah is and to all that they have recognised in her. It fills me with absolute pride alongside absolute sadness and fear and guilt. How do I take a child away from a place and people who make her this happy and who love her so vividly? How can I know that she will be loved like this, that everything that makes her ‘Hannah’ will be recognised, again? I can’t know, no one can guarantee me this, so how do I take such a gamble? Can anyone promise me that on-site therapists, hoist systems and a hydrotherapy pool are worth this goodbye? Is there any way of knowing that this is the right choice, in the same way that I knew, for certain, that it was the right choice three years ago? No. I can’t know. There is no certainty now.
There is, instead, a constant dull ache inside. I feel like another small piece of me has broken off and drifted away. I feel like I have let my little girl down so completely and I don’t even know how to make her know that I am sorry. I feel like somehow she will feel that I have given up on her, that I no longer believe in her, that I have underestimated her completely. I am so scared she will hate me for taking her away from the place and people she has come to know and love so intensely. I am so afraid that she will not understand why, and yet equally afraid that she will.
Somebody asked me today if Hannah was upset about it too, or if it was just me finding it difficult. I replied that I don’t know. How can I know how she feels or what she thinks about this? I can explain it to her but I can’t discuss it with her. I have no way of knowing if she knows what’s happening, why tomorrow is different to any other day, what ‘goodbye’ really means. But I do know this: Hannah loves instinctively, and she remembers the people she loves. I used to think that she lived only in the here and now, retained only what was in front of her at any given moment, but I learned a long time ago that this isn’t true, that she remembers and holds onto things (mostly people) just like any child. She adores, for example, my dad, and when my mum comes to visit without him, she will look around my mum, searching for him with her eyes. On the occasions when she finds him, she shouts her excitement and smiles broadly, her love for him has not diminished in his absence.
So I know that Hannah will remember these people, and remember that she loves them, and if this is so, then surely she will also miss them? Wonder where they have gone, why they have disappeared, why I have taken her away? Yes, maybe I’m over-thinking it, but I can’t stop thinking about it. How can I know it’s the right thing to do? I can’t know, but faced with an 8 minute film which celebrates everything within my daughter that I love and which they too have seen, understood, loved and valued since day one, it is hard to not want to simply stamp my feet and say no. The truth is that I want with all of my heart to say no, but I know I can’t, that I shouldn’t, that I have to force my head to win this time.
And so it is that I will get up in the morning, face final assembly, say our goodbyes and then make my head force my heart to embrace the next chapter. I know that there are lots of rational arguments and logical reasonings to be offered, and I know that some of you reading may even be amongst those who already know, understand and love Hannah and who will be right next to her as the next chapter begins. My hope and trust lie very much with you. I wrote this in my last blog on the same subject, but I will write it again, just to be clear: this is not, and never has been about how good one school is against another. Both schools are excellent, we are lucky. This is, and always has been, about what is right for Hannah and where she needs to be for her sparkle and her ‘Hannah-ness’ to shine just as brightly as it can. It has shone incredibly brightly for the last three years and has illuminated the world of those who have shared those years with her. If you don’t believe me, just watch (read) the movie . . . .
“Hannah you are such a determined young lady, you have a bubbly personality, you have a beautiful smile and infectious laugh. You’ve taught me so much about life and learning, thank you for being who you are. We will miss you so much.”