The run up to Lauren's 15th Birthday has been a busy one. Alongside the usual family events we've also been getting organised for our youngest to leave primary school and, of course, both myself and Chris have been training for our respective events.
The day of the #epicswimforalderhey was an emotional one. Not only was it the day before Lauren's birthday, but seeing all the friends who turned out to cheer us on really brought everything home to me. We had some #teamloz t-shirts printed up, and when we rounded the island on Derwent Water to swim to the finish line, the bright white of the t-shirts could be seen from the shore line. It was all I could manage to not turn into an emotional wreck, right there and then in the middle of the lake. As we crossed the finish line they announced why we were swimming, hearing Lauren's name was the straw for all of us as we huddled together and cried.
It was emotional, the relief of completing the swim, but also the knowledge of why we were doing it.
Keeping busy on the run up to Lauren's birthday meant that I had avoided quite a lot of the emotional upheaval that landmark days tend to bring. I would definitely recommend having something else to focus on before in advance of such days as stops the mind from travelling off down col-de-sacs of despair.
There was still no escaping the sorrow of Lauren's birthday. My head tells me it's just another day, but my heart says different. It's impossible not to let your mind wander to what she would be doing if she was here now, how tall she'd be, what she would be doing at school, how excited she'd be for the next dance or drama show. And that's okay, that's grief.
We couldn't do much in terms of a group gathering due to school bubbles bursting all over the place. Hopefully next year we'll be able to do more. But we stuck to our mantra of What Would Lauren Do (WWLD) and watched the new Black Widow movie whilst eating our weight in sweets.
As the day drew to an end we wrote our own personal messages to Lauren on rockets and sent them up to the sky, watching the noise and colour fill the air for just a few short moments, like she did for all of us.
Later today we are walking (another!) 5k for another birthday. This one is for Jemma-Louise Roberts who would be 21 years old today. Like Lauren she also died aged 13 from sepsis. She was treated at Alder Hey by the same consultants as Lauren and her family went through an almost identical process, with the same heart-breaking conclusion. Jemma's mum, Diane, continues to raise money and awareness of sepsis through events like this and also #jemmarocks
Check out #jemmarocks on fb or Just Giving for more information