With the run of celebrity deaths this year, and the good ol’ Brexit and Trump fiasco, everyone is declaring 2016 as “the worst year ever”, attempting to put Stevie Wonder into hiding until the the new year just incase, and wishing it over already. Seemingly 2017 is clearly promising the world political rebalance and a year long sabbatical for the grim-reaper, as it seems from tomorrow, all will be restored. Like a reboot. 2016 can go down as the year no ones wants to remember, and to be a forgotten dark period of our history, forever hated as the year that took the greats.
This rhetoric to summarise this year, the worst year anyone has apparently encountered, is starting to irritate us. Partly because there are many years that I would consider worse than 2016 in our history (1914 anyone? 1665 and the plague maybe? Take your pick). Equally, a string of celebrity deaths and a rocky political climate being factors that define “the worst year ever” is pretty light. I think there’s a few people hanging about in the rubble in Aleppo that might just challenge people’s plight. We however, are just sat here, in our heated home, after a gentle Christmas period, with an abundance of food on the table thinking “well our son died in 2016, but I’m not declaring it the worst year ever, nor do I wish to see the back of it…”
I would struggle to find a year of my life more challenging than this one. I don’t wish to compare them though, I don’t see that as a healthy internal debate. I’d rather just remember that time is a construct. Just as the world didn’t collapse as we hit midnight on NYE in 1999, the clock ticking over to 2017 isn’t going to change anything. It is another day, another year, another hour, and nothing will change on its own. People need to use their despair to improve the situation, not just wish time away. Politics won’t restore. Farage won’t miraculously become less annoying. Trump’s fake tan won’t disappear. And people will continue to die. Death is after all the thing we all have in common. And tomorrow, my son will still be dead. There isn’t some miracle that will make next year better, just because the year ends in a 7, and no longer a 6.
When people die, day in and day out, when babies are dying before they are even granted breath, why do people just sit there, wishing time away, wishing to forget an entire year because of the sporadic grief displayed on Twitter for your childhood hero. I don’t deny the grief shared for celebrity and idol – these people forged the way for progress in whatever art form or political message they stood for, they inspired, they lived, they shared, they created. And their families have to cope with their absence far longer than a Twitter trend lasts. We understand the grief of burying your child – I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, no matter how long that child lived for. Maybe those that are randomly allowed to live, when others die, should do more with their time than moan about how horrible a socially constructed period of time has been, and wish it away? When the next celebrity dies, will you wish 2017 away too?
Fourteen days into 2016, people were already taken a back with the spell of celebrity deaths we had already endured. Alan Rickman died on that day. Alan Rickman who I think I first encountered in Dogma, and who I now only see in Harry Potter, his voice synonymous with Snape. We discovered Alan Rickman died whilst we were sat in the waiting room of the Maternity Assessment Unit, just after midday on Thursday 14th January, 2016. About 20 minutes before we discovered that our son, our first child, our Leo, had died inside of me. I don’t think I could ever separate Alan Rickman from that memory.
Many more celebrities have died since. This is what 2016 will be remembered for by many. It will become a trivia quiz question in years to come. It will come complete with moans of “urgh, 2016, what an awful year!”
The year my son was born will be remembered by the world as a year everyone wishes to forget.
And I hate it.
He still died, and I don’t want to forget it. It is his year. We have almost had Leo as we know him in our lives for a whole year. A whole year of being able to picture his face. A whole year of creating memories in his name, of sharing his story, of wishing the world never dealt us this hand, of hunting for the light and learning how to navigate this life. Leo is 2016, and I couldn’t be prouder and happier when I think of him, and of meeting him for the first time. Yes, it is a story with a footnote of sadness, but he is still our son, our loved, loved son, and that makes us happy. I wish people could fully understand that, but I fear it is impossible to understand until you have juggled the bittersweet nature of this journey.
2016 was not the worst year ever. No year can be perfect for everyone. There is always a battle happening somewhere in the world. 2016 will not be erased from our memory. It is a defining, poignant, significant year for our future, and it will be cherished, warts and all.