The call came last night. An anonymous number on my mobile phone that I didn't answer in time. Two hours later I checked the message bank. It was J, whose message sounded ominous. I knew deep inside before I rang her back that this wasn't going to be good news, and I suspected the worst.
M was the oldest, stubbornly post dates and refusing to be born despite curries, vigorous sex and all those other attempts to move things along, but at last she arrived to be named after her maternal grandmother. As a first child she bumbled along but at 13 months her development faltered and it quickly became obvious that something was wrong. A search for a diagnosis began, and the endless round of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and sign language, special schools and other interventions began. J and G struggled on, helped by J's mum and sister and a small group of dedicated friends. And into this family arrived two more kids, smart happy boys who fiercely loved and protected their bumbling big sister from the vagaries of a modern world.
Then M developed seizures, which took a long time and alot of medication to get under some sort of control. She entered her teenage years, with all the hormonal torment that entails, and the extra concerns that put on her parents. And she began to learn a new way to communicate, which was helping M to be less frustrated and dependent on others.
Last Tuesday she turned sixteen. A wonderful age, and she had a wonderful day at school and with friends before arriving home happy and heading off to bed. On Wednesday morning she was dead.
No-one expected it, (it appears she had a seizure), and it happened far too soon for J, who has only recently lost her dear mum, and her father a year or so before that. But M's life was a happy one, in a family that adored her, and had the financial means to provide her with good care. And M had a great capacity to do some really hilarious things, born out of her lack of understanding of acceptible norms.
Like lying on the floor open mouthed to let Hazel give her big sloppy pashes. Climbing up onto the roofrack of my 4WD and refusing to come down. This was during her climbing stage, I also remember her climbing up onto the shed and leaving a little warm brown memento up there. Finding my facecream and spreading it all over the living room floor like a piece of postmodern art. In fact she loved drawing, with anything, anywhere.
We'll all miss M, sweet sixteen, and endlessly kissed.