She was getting to be an old lady. You see, she was 26 years old. She did her best and was quite reliable but she tended to huff and puff every time she came to a hill. And she was hot, uncomfortably hot on a sunny summer's day.

One day I said to my husband Andy, “If we had a vehicle that wasn’t quite so ancient we might be inclined to travel further afield. And if it was air conditioned, we could go places even in summer.”

So one Saturday afternoon we travelled up to Sydney to have a look around a few second-hand car yards. Before too long we’d found the perfect vehicle. Andy said, “Let’s go home and think about it,” but I replied, “Let’s just buy it.” He likes to think about things for a while. I like to be decisive.

The girls were so excited when they heard we were getting a 'new' car. 

“It’s got cup holders?”

“And air conditioning?”

“We’ll be able to go more places…”

“… even when the weather is hot.”

“Will we be able to go to the beach, please?”

“When will Dad pick up the new car?”

“On Tuesday afternoon.”

Tuesday arrived. As the girls and I walked up the driveway, on our way to the bush tracks for our early morning run, I said, “Take a last look at the van. It won’t be here when we get home. We won’t see it again.”

All of a sudden we felt rather sad. What would happen to our van? Would anyone want such an old vehicle or would it end up at the wrecker's scrapyard?

“It was a great van, wasn't it?” I said.

“Yes, it took us to a lot of places.”

"We had a lot of fun in it."

“It hardly ever broke down...”

“,,,even though it was old.”

We stood lost in thought for a moment. No one was smiling.

Then I said, “When Dad gets home this evening, he’ll be driving the new car.” 

We all smiled.

“Stand by the van and I’ll take one last photo,” I said, holding out my iPod camera. So the girls lined up and smiled and I clicked a few times: some memories captured forever.

We bought that van a few days before our son Thomas was born. We didn’t really need a new vehicle. There were 7 of us and our vehicle had 7 seats. Even with a new baby soon to be born, we wouldn’t need an extra seat, because no one expected Thomas to live after birth. But I insisted we buy a new car anyway. Why? Despite the doctor telling me we had to accept the fact that Thomas would die, I guess I couldn't let go of hope. We might have buckled him into a baby seat and taken him home. God could have worked a miracle. I needed hope to survive, so we bought a bigger vehicle with one extra seat: Thomas’ seat... just in case

And Thomas did travel in that van. For a whole week and a half we occupied the driver’s seat together, Thomas tucked up safely under my heart. But we never buckled him into a baby carrier. He never sat on his very own seat.

Thomas was born. He lived a day and then he died. Several days before we buried our baby, we visited him at our local funeral home. We held him one last time and kissed him goodbye.

And for months afterwards, whenever I drove past that funeral home, I couldn’t help thinking, “Thomas was once in that building.” I imagined him as we’d last seen him, dressed in his frothy cream baptismal gown. I remembered how he’d felt, his legs escaping my arms like a rag doll’s. 

Then one day, when my eyes turned automatically towards the funeral home, as I drove past, I got a shock. The funeral home was no longer there. It had moved to new premises, further down the road. A science research centre now occupied the building. I was rather distraught. How could someone have done such a thing? Didn’t they know that this was one of ‘Thomas’ places’? The room where we’d last held him was no longer the same. It now had another function. What was standing on the spot where Thomas’ coffin had stood? A desk? A printer? A piece of scientific equipment?

Another one of ‘Thomas’ places’ disappeared on the day we traded our old van for the newer car. On that Tuesday morning as we walked towards the bush tracks I thought about how I would never again think, as I drove along, “Thomas once travelled in this van with us.”

Andy came home that evening with a shiny silver 7 seater car. The girls jumped up and down, their faces alight with delight. They climbed in and out of the car. They tried out the cup holders. They buckled up their seat belts quickly when Andy offered to take them for a ride. So much excitement over a car!

Our first big outing in our new vehicle was to the beach, just as the kids had hoped. I am sure we smiled the whole way there, as Andy drove effortlessly down the steep windy road towards the coast. And despite it being a very hot day, we remained beautifully cool, an air-conditioned breeze blowing in our faces. The girls spent a wonderful afternoon riding the waves and building a sand mermaid. I just sat on the sand and drank in their happiness.

So another of ‘Thomas’ places’ has gone. Something else associated with our baby has disappeared. I could be very sad about this, but I'm not.

Sometimes we have to let go of the old so we can receive the new. New adventures and new joys lie ahead of us. 

“Maybe I could arrange another beach holiday for next spring,” I say. It’s been a few years since we last went away for a proper holiday. “Perhaps we could travel all the way up the coast to Smiths Lake again. It would be a very easy journey in the new car.”

“Oh yes!” The girls are bouncing up and down. They remember the magical beach house across from the golden sand, where we stayed last time.

A new car means new joys and new memories… but we will never forget the old.

Thomas' places can disappear but no one can take away our son. You see, he lives on in our memories. He will always be part of us.

Yes, it's quite okay to let go.

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  1. Hello and goodbye, that's after all what life is all about. And when we say our final goodbye we believe tha God turns it into a final hello! to Him and to everybody else we ever said goodbye to.
    On a ligther note. Gratz on the new car. I can tell from the car (if you had not already told so) that you're all hobbit sized persons. We had a car like your new one until 3 years ago, and now I would newer be able to fit all the long legged Owlets, leave alone almost 2 metres of Writer into it. We have an old lady like your old van. Like you say it huffs and puffs but dooes it's job. I hope you get many new and happy memories with that car.
    All the girls look so happy and smiling, and the mermaid, she's just perfect. Do you live far from the beach?

    1. Uglemor,

      You are right: we are hobbits! Well, the girls are. We are all around 5 ft tall (or short). Gemma-Rose is a bit shorter but she is catching us up! We could never have fitted in a car like this when the boys travelled with us. We also needed a much more spacious vehicle. Our old van had plenty of leg room. The boys have their own cars now so don't often travel with us. We decided it was time for a newer and smaller vehicle. The car feels so luxurious even though it is a few years old.

      It takes us about an hour to drive to the coast. It depends on which beach we want to go to. So it's not that far really. The journey down the escarpment, and back up again, wasn't easy for an old vehicle though. But now we have a new car we can go more often !

  2. Sue there is so much truth in this post. It is amazing how many parts of our life are affected by our grief and memories. Making new memories is very healing. I love your new car. I'm glad it has cup holders! That is exactly a feature I want when we buy a new car. The sand mermaid turned out quite lovely!

    1. Monica,

      I had to mention the cup holders! Such a small thing as I know all modern cars have them, but our van was so ancient cup holders hadn't been thought of when it was made. Sometimes it's the small things that give the greatest pleasure. They are also very useful as we do lots of waiting in our car. Having a cup of coffee while I'm waiting for a music lesson to finish helps the time pass more pleasantly!

  3. what an emotional post, I can't imagine the loss of a baby but I do know that after losing my mum I was very sad to leave our house as that was the last place we had a conversation before she passed away and I had so many memories of her in that house. But the memories are with me but it was still emotional.
    we drive a 7 seater multivan which was the first new car I'd ever had in my life and it looks huge but with our 6th on the way we are looking at 8 and 9 seaters! Someone suggested a hiace but I said we're not that big:)

    1. Corrie,

      I am so sorry to hear you have lost your mother. You must miss her very much, a big hole in your life. We do tend to associate places with people we love, and our minds replay the past as we strive to come to terms with our grief. It is very hard to let go and move on.

      Congratulations on your new baby! We considered a Hiace when our 8 seater got too small. I didn't like the thought of parking such a big vehicle though and so we converted the back seat of our van from 3 seats to 4, by putting in an extra anchor point bar in the luggage area, and exchanging the middle seat belt for two smaller ones. We ended up with two lap sash belts on the sides and two child harnesses in the middle. The four younger girls shared this seat. I don't think this would work anymore because of the change in car seat laws which insist children up to 7 sit in a special child seat. There wouldn't be enough room for all the necessary child seats. That was a long and complicated story! I hope you find a perfect vehicle for your growing family.

  4. This made me cry.

    We have moved in the years since my Beatrix died, and sometimes I am perplexed as to how I let this happen.

    The floors underneath my feet are not the floors that I walked on when I held her, and their was the doorway that I took photos in front of while I was pregnant.

    In my new house, I have another tiny girl now. She looks through windows and lets light in.

    And it's ok that we had to let go of that old dark house- because my first girl is still here jn this house with us.

    1. Sarah,

      While I was writing this story, I wondered if anyone would understand why the disappearance of the funeral home and our van affected me so much. Would people think I was a bit strange? But you understand perfectly. Of course we've been through similar experiences.

      A few days after Thomas died I said that I could never move too far away from where he is buried. I had a strong feeling we belong here. Well, we have moved house a few times since then, but we are still in the same area. We are still able to visit Thomas' grave whenever we need to. But it might not always be that way. I hope I don't have to face that for a long time.

      Yes, it is difficult moving to a new house. We moved about 2 years after Thomas died. It wasn't from choice and I cried at first. But I reasoned that God must have thought we were ready to move on, otherwise He would have made sure we remained in our safe Thomas place. And it was all right! Just like your daughter is still with you, we have taken Thomas with us whenever we have moved. It doesn't really matter where we are, he will always be part of our family.

      I was so happy to hear you were blessed with another daughter. I know she will never replace Beatrix but every child brings joy. Beatrix is a big sister!

  5. This is beautiful :) Enjoy your new van, it looks wonderful.

    1. Kelly,

      Thank you! It's funny how a vehicle can bring so much pleasure. We really appreciate having our new car. Yes, we will enjoy!

  6. I am happy for that new van, but my heart breaks for the loss of Thomas. Where would we be without the hope of reuniting? Through the love of his mother and family, he is now a saint and I am going to pray for his intercession tonight for a special intention. Would that be alright with you?

    1. Michelle,

      You are so right. It is hope that keeps us going. I often think about the moment we will be reunited with Thomas. Grief will be over forever. It will be such a sweet moment! I would be very honoured if you asked Thomas to pray for your intention. I do love it when people want to share him. I will pray for you as well.

      Thank you so much for sharing my Thomas story!

  7. Oh my goodness, Sue...this is beautiful...and so so true....the older I get "things" do matter less and less, but this type of sentiment is so compelling...the last time. The way you describe Thomas's places is just so laden with memories.
    We still, for ex, have in our family, the house we all grew up in, in Queens, outside of the city. Mom died 5 years ago, my sister left the convent and now lives there. We go to the house to visit, have Thanksgiving and etc...but when it's finally time to sell, it will be killer hard.
    But the way you described the new bldg over the funeral home and that Thomas sat with you n the driver's seat, oh Sue, just so sorry for your loss. Despite your grief, and the story's sadness, you do have a way with words that sweeps up the reader. I felt as if I'm there too, on the beach with you and riding in the car!

    BTW, that, your girls have some creativity and talent! I can't wait to show the boys the mermaid. They'll flip. And on the beach? You lucky devils. We're not big beach ppl ( except I do love an Adirondack lake in the mountains!) But still, looking forward to a carefree shoe-less evening at the Long Island Sound ( which is 5 min away from us) in maybe a month or two, after a day of school! Then you poor things will be stuck with the shoveling!

    Great visit, Sue. I love coming here and to your US blog as well.....:) I've gotten myself caught in a web of review posts and such and while they are FUN and I'm happy that in a few cases, I get free curriculum, for a few, I actually get paid ( not much, but still) and for a couple, free use of great math sites for one year...all good, I'm feeling a bit crazy bc my focus on blogging and the reason I began blogging has lost its direction.
    And I'm doing so much organizing of when to pub these posts rather than HSing organizing and writing my own stories.
    I respectfully turned down an offer from a publisher to do a review/giveaway for a product that looked pretty amazing and I felt SO good about it afterward. I'm excusing myself from The Old Schoolhouse rev Crew bc it's too much to keep up with..... I thought I could handle an occasional review, but the behind the scenes "work" is not manageable..So once I post the rev for the products I was chosen to do for The Crew,I'm done.
    The reason I tell you this is that visiting your blog again today has really affirmed my decision to cut back and only blog for my own write and tell our story...and of course to share some fun and HSing things too....just bc I really enjoy doing those posts.So THANK YOU for that! Once again.
    Sigh, I just wish we could get together for a cup of coffee and's only Sat AM here and I'm doing some online "work' in a bit before we head to the boys' basketball games later so it's been delightful to visit you Sue...wish we could catch up in person!
    Sorry to leave a crazy-long comment...don't worry about replying. You're so good about that! But this is a long one, friend!
    BTW we got the date for Kev's confirmation.. It's in early May and he is taking the name KAROL after Bl JPII!We are so proud of him and it's been another stretch of time time with him, but I think we may be coming out of it. Something really positive to look ahead to...being confirmed!

    In case you missed this...pls do NOT feel pressure to join in, but the Catholic Bloggers' Network is hosting the lent linky again this year. Monica and I are organizing --the linky begins Mon 3/3 and runs for one week.
    If you missed info at CBN or one of our blogs, here it is:

    Ok, friend, be well. I'm happy to stop by soon!

    1. Chris,

      Oh my! What a treat you comment is. I feel like I've received a letter in the mail! Thank you so much. It was wonderful catching up with all your news.

      You have been very busy! In comparison, my blogging is going very slowly. I felt overloaded not so long ago, and I'm still trying to work out a balance. I hardly do any networking or link ups, and I don't review, and still I'm finding it hard to stay on top. I'm sure there are lots of people benefiting from your reviews. It's always great to read about a resource before making a commitment to buy it.

      Oh you must be so excited with Kev's confirmation approaching. I also love the name Karol in honour of John Paul II

      Despite everyone's excitement about our beach outing, we're not really beach people. All of us are fair skinned so we can't afford to spend hours in the sun. We never spend more than 2 or 3 hours on the beach at one time. But that time is always very special because it doesn't happen very often. As we don't live near the coast, we always enjoy our rare beach holidays. Actually, I love going to the beach out of season. It's just nice to walk along the shore and collect shells and explore rock pools.

      I can just imagine how much you are looking forward to the warmer weather. Yes, it will be cooling down here before too long. But we won't be doing any shovelling! It never gets cold enough for more than a fluttering of snow, and most winters we don't even get that.

      Thanks for the invitation for the Lent linky!

      Thank you also for reading my Thomas story. I appreciate that very much! xx

    2. Finally getting back to visit Sue! Love catching up with you.
      Must read today's story :)

      Hope to see you online at some point this weekend...we are beginning our school day soon---it's just after 10 AM Fri. but I was happy to see a new post from you today and clicked over!

      Thanks for the reply!

      Have a great weekend, friend!

    3. Chris,

      Thank you for dropping by! We're having a relaxed weekend. It's raining and cool which is nice. It's the second day of autumn for us! I hope you're enjoying your weekend too. God bless!

  8. It is interesting how places ornitems make us feel so connected to loved ones who havengone to heaven. I bought a cross necklace that I asked the priest to leave on the altar and bless at my dad's funeral. I am so glad I did that - I treasurenit so much more than I ever realized I would. Also, with regards to sad times due to illness...for the longest time after my son was diagnosed with diabetes, I got teary eyed every time I looked through a diabetes magazine or heard certain songs that I had listened to in the car at the time of his daignosis. Now the tears have mostly stopped except for once in a blue moon.

    1. Gina,

      I'm sorry to hear your son suffers from diabetes. I imagine you went through a period of grief when you found out. I've grieved for a the loss of a child's perfect health. It's so hard knowing they will have to live with a health condition for the rest of their lives. I hope your son's diabetes is being managed without too much distress.

      Your cross necklace must be very special to you indeed. I am reminded of Andy's Rosary beads. He placed them on top of Thomas' coffin during his funeral. We did mean to retrieve them before Thomas was buried, but somehow they were left in place. When I realised, I didn't feel I could shout out, "Wait! Can we take Andy's Rosary beads back before you bury Thomas?" Later, Andy was glad his beads stayed with our son.

      Thank you so much for sharing your own stories. It is always good to chat.

  9. I don't know what to say - I read your Rocket and Van stories this morning - so sad - yet so profound. We do have to let go of the old sometimes to experience the new. Our memories and the love we hold in our hearts cannot be taken from us though. Just last week, I was on a school bus with children on a field trip to the city. We passed an intersection where I hadn't been in many months. It used to hold a funeral home where we had services for a few family members on my husband's side. It is now a drug store with a drive through window - no sign whatsoever of the place where so many goodbyes were said. My first reaction was that it seemed so irreverent. I was shocked.

    1. Dana,

      Oh you understand perfectly about the sacredness of some places. On a practical level it shouldn't matter if a funeral home turns into a scientific research centre or a drug store, but it does. It seems especially irreverent to use a church for a different purpose even if the church has been decommissioned (is that the right word?) That's what happened to a church in our parish. The church wasn't big enough for the growing congregation, and was sold. We attend the new bigger church. We weren't living here when the old church was the parish church, but every time I walk past it, I think about Our Lord once waiting there in the tabernacle. I don't suppose the new owners even realise this is what happened.

      Thank you for reading my stories!


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