Thank you all for your words and thoughts of love and support for Anna and Rob. I have seen Anna and I am amazed by her fortitude, her capacity to even keep breathing after the most devastating loss imaginable. She has read all your comments here, and appreciates your kindness and loving thoughts.
She has asked me to talk about Lara, to keep her memory real, to preserve the precious brightness she brought to my life, and the lives of many others, most notably her amazing parents.
I’ve put off writing this post for so long, not wanting to revisit the pain while it is so raw, but thinking of Anna has made me want to be stronger, and has reminded me that the pain I feel is a reflection of the love I felt for Lara, that the pain has the same depth and intensity of love, and that the pain is there to be felt.
I always knew Anna was going to be a great mum. Not a super organised, efficient, marshal of the troops, or a wafty earth mother who could read auras but forgot to pack lunch – Anna was always going to be a world class parent. She loved babies, she loved children, she loved adolescents. She even liked a lot of people. She was smart and compassionate, educated, worldly, yet still optimistic. She could be diplomatic, she could tell it how it was. She could have tea with the Queen, Stoli with the queens, or pretend tea in the muddy backyard.
I knew her children would be loved, fiercely loved, I knew they would be nurtured, and protected, and encouraged, and I knew that she would always do everything she could to make their lives as happy as could be. She was going to be the mum you read about in books.
So when she told me that she was pregnant, I knew that little Boris was going to be born into a special family, and I couldn’t wait to meet him or her. I started on an ambitious project, a knitted baby blanket, hoping that it would be finished before Boris had finished “cooking”. The Boris Blanket went everywhere with me, and I think I gave it to Anna still smelling of beer. She’s the sort of friend you can do that to.
I’ll never forget the moment the text message came through. “Boris is a girl, and her name is Lara”. Tears rolled down my face as I read, the bond I already felt with this baby was cemented, and the knitting pace ramped up.
When she was born, I couldn’t WAIT to lob in on Anna and Rob, to hear the birth story, to talk about what breastfeeding had been like, to hold her, to smell her, to start to get to know her. And I’ll never forget the horror of realising (after Inigo was born) how challenging those first few weeks with a new born are, and how if you do visit, you must always be helpful. But I sat on their couch, and let Rob make me a cup of tea while Anna entertained me and I stared at the baby.
Two more memories of Lara. Her Christening day, I was asked to hold her for a little while, it was late in the day, and she was very tired. I worried that she might start to cry, and became tense – she sensed my fear, and began to look a little wobbly. So I started to tell her jokes, and pull funny faces, and as I relaxed, so did she, and we had a marvelous ten minutes or so. I think it was the first time I had ever really (honestly) enjoyed interacting with a baby.
For her third birthday, we gave her “Fancy Nancy”. Surrounded by a hundred other toys, shiny and noisy and far more glamorous than a simple book, she struggled to pay attention. Trying to raise her interest (after a long party, and lots of cake), I wafted the cover in the light so she could see the glitter. I had her attention, and I knew the book was going to be a hit. Anna tells me that she did love the book, and now that book will always make me think of Lara, and the way her eyes lit up at the merest shimmer of glitter.
Apparently we will never know what took her. The experts say that they see a case like Lara’s once a year, a young, healthy child dies with no discernible reason. It’s very, very rare.