In early February this year I encountered a real life story which changed me forever. It has altered how I feel about my husband, my children and everyone in my life. Some will find that easier to understand than others, and some will not be able to comprehend it at all. What matters is the journey it has taken me on.
The following is for Jennie.
The Christmas Star
It was cold in the wood. Brown rabbit sang her little ones to bed with heavy eyes and a heavy tune.
'We have watched you Mama - every day you have cried and every day your shoulders have drooped as we heard you sigh. We have followed you late at night, as you crept from our tunnels and gazed with tear filled eyes to the sky.'
Brown rabbit did sigh then. For almost a year was a very long time, seasons rush not in the blink of an eye. Days are slow - for those who's hearts have been frozen in snow.
'Were it not for you I would recognise neither the morning sun nor the evening light of the moon. I would lose my path and almost certainly lose my way in the wood - forget the words and give up on the tune. You are my guiding light of morning, night and afternoon.
The smallest of the 2 asked her then - 'So why do you look as sad as you look?'
Brown rabbit pulled them close and gently told the truth.
'For this year we have lost. More than even you know. We have endured the worst of pain and we can never again entirely be whole. We miss your sister - who should be here - who should have been here all along. To grow as you grow, smile as you smile - be beautiful, brave and strong.
They knew this story of course - although very little and very small - they remembered the other who was lost and was gone.
'But it is Christmas Mama - and all in the wood are merry, whilst fires glow bright and glow warm.'
Brown rabbit suddenly decided - 'Then let us wrap up - and we shall walk'.
So they walked. From the depth of the burrow to the top of the slope. And the night was deep and still and cold, as the light from neighbouring tunnels glowed. And Daddy rabbit stretched arms wide and held his family close - as paw after paw they stepped through the snow.
And it wasn't long until the littlest rabbit shrugged free of his fathers hold - to chap on the wood of a nearby door. As home by home - before they knew - their evening procession gradually grew. Till a walk in the woods became utterly full - of friends and neighbours and those who knew. Who hadn't forgotten as a year sped through. Who cared just as much as the very first moment they learned the news.
And can you picture the view? All the animals the forest through - on a late night stroll to the heart of the wood. To the top of the slope under darkest blue, where angels sing and all things start anew. Where the love of an entire community can merge and glow and twinkle into view.
Where the reality of every mother's worst nightmare is devastating yet to those who can imagine themselves in her shoes.
And there in that moment the snow began to fall, the smallest, frailest, lightest flake that you could ever know. On the littlest rabbit, then one by one - on every shoulder, head and paw.
And it suddenly occurred to them all - that the snowflakes clustered thickest and most white around the 2 little rabbits at the front.
That here - in the winter and in the cold - stood a flurry of life and light and joy. 2 special rabbits - from a heartbroken home - who grew tall and quick and strong.
Who beyond all grief and all loss - held a bright happy future in their paws.
That love and magic surrounded these trees and these young lives with it's force.
That she who had been lost - would bless and protect her loved ones for all the years to come.
That the deepest well of darkness in the world, could never extinguish the tiniest flicker of hope.
That in the same long months as a family struggled and wept and very nearly broke - something extraordinary happened in an ordinary wood to common folk. Bonds were made - which never now in a lifetime would be lost.
A precious girl died - and in her wake - a multitude of hearts awoke.
We owe her that - this Christmas - as we pull our little children close.
She will not be forgotten.
The brightest star in the darkest sky shines down on those below.