May 312022

I’ve missed you every year
Every month,
Every week
Every single day.

It happened so fast. We met in a bar and our relationship developed. Lucy soon announced she was pregnant. I was overjoyed. We prepared a home and, at the second scan, Lucy wanted to know if you were a boy or much-wanted girl. I didn’t mind. We painted the nursery, searched in the second-hand shops for a cot, a pram, bought pretty clothes.

We’d sit on the couch, my head resting on Lucy’s ever stretching stomach and I’d sing. You’d kick and move. I was so in love. During this time Lucy became withdrawn and, unbeknown to me, turned to religion. I’d put it down to hormones and stress. After all, the whole situation was new to us.

There was such elation on the night you were born and the nurse handed over our baby. Lucy cried. I cried. You just lay calmly in my arms. After we brought you home, Lucy became very protective and when you were unsettled at night, insisted only she attend. One evening, I arrived home from work to silence. I ran from room to room calling,

‘Lucy! Josie!’ There was no answer, no cot, no pram, no baby clothes or toys.

It was some time before I calmed down and discovered the note.

My dearest Jack,
I can’t live this life anymore. It is sinful.
And I must be true to my beliefs.
Please don’t try to find me.
I will be well protected and Josie will be very loved.
Forgive me,

The scrunched note fell to the floor. I cried, screamed, beat the wall with my fists and finally collapsed on the nursery floor. Somehow, over the next days, weeks, months, I managed to pull myself together and life, although empty, went on.

I missed your first tooth
First words
First tiny steps
First birthday.

Becoming a war correspondent meant travelling overseas for many years. I’ve often wondered if there was also a death wish that the next missile would target me. Constant witnessing of the suffering, the carnage, the destruction helped distract me from the pain I carried. Traversing thousands of kilometres with only a cameraman for company, I’d grow sad and pull your tattered baby photo from my inner pocket.

I missed your first day at school
First tooth falling out
First inquisitive questions

First learning to read.

Each year a candle is lit on your birthday, and the day is spent dreaming of what could have been. Travelling to various countries where museums, art galleries, noted landmarks are visited – in my mind, you’re with me laughing, asking questions, pointing out things of interest.

Occasionally Lucy sent me correspondence with an update on your progress. She told me about your new Dad and how he’s so patient and loving; how the religious community took the whole family under its wing; how important it was not to make contact especially in the sensitive teen years.

I cried.

I missed your first day of high school
First debating team
First basketball final
First graduation.

Now my darling Josie, your father informs me that Lucy has recently passed away from cancer. I hear you are about to graduate as a Doctor of Psychology. I don’t want to miss any more of your milestones and I ask, adult to adult, if we could finally make contact.

I’ve missed you every year
Every month,
Every week
Every single day.

Your missing mother,