Of the many wonderful fund-raising initiatives, the one closest to my heart is the ‘spread some happiness’ book series.
The invaluable experience I gained through working with Thames & Hudson and my absolute love of inspirational, empowering books, made this a natural fit in my fundraising efforts. The first book is going to be sold in my son’s school this week. Parents get a precious, heartwarming, keepsake and we get to give all profits to our chosen charities, so everyone is happy! I plan to roll a series out nationally, so if you want to get involved with the project in your school, do get in touch.
The first book was produced with work by the boys of Wetherby Prep; my son’s school. In fact, it was my son, who stood up in assembly, along with a very suporative teacher, to encourage the boys to spread happiness. He spoke of losing his sister and how he wanted to continue her goodness living on. He spoke of the value of giving and
I know I was privileged to have had ten years with Milli. There are those who are only granted a fleeting moment. My dear younger sister lost her premature baby within a day of his arrival. I cannot know the pain of giving birth, only to be parted without the chance to nature him and know his wondrous personality.
For me the way through grief continues to be, letting it come and go of its own accord and when the time is right, channelling that pain into something bigger than myself. Perhaps it is an escape but it sustains me and we must each do, whatever feels right.
My sister lost her son 9 years ago and has found the deep strength to open her heart and mind and at the same time to honour my nephew, by organising ‘the little angels remembrance service’ for all those in her area, who have endured the loss of a child.
A mother shared the story of losing her daughter 40 years ago, at a time, when the only memory she was able to glimpse was a nurse carrying tinfoil, with a tiny hand poking out of it. Another couple had endured three pregnancies, each ending in premature births and deaths. The service provided a short respite before they returned to be with their fourth newborn; one that would be going home. There was no bitterness or anger here; just strength and beautiful surrender. As the balloons were released over the tiny tombstones, there was joy for the bond that has and always will keep their little angels in their hearts. Thank you my darling sister for making such a day possible.
Mills taught me we come here to grow, love and ideally, have a lot of fun along the way. My own growth was helped, during difficult times, by reading spiritual books and finding re-assurance in nature’s life cycle. So the two pledges that brought such joy to me personally, were from a friend who pledged to grow herbs in her window box and my niece, who pledged to leave her old books, in random places, for strangers to find and make their own. Life is beautiful and really not that complicated.
Mills had a life-threatening illness when she was just two, but she survived it. The reactions, pain and perspectives I had the first time round were far removed from the second experience. Knowing this I understand that pain and grief are as individual as we are. I would not presume to tell you how to feel and all I sincerely hope is that you find some comfort and support knowing you are not alone.
What I can now say with certainty, is that one learns to live around the pain. The first time I went food shopping without Mills in my life, I felt extreme anxiety. I saw her everywhere down the aisles and yet nowhere. Where was the girl who could make something as mundane as food shopping fun? The car became the place I would literally run to and it was here that I would let out my cries of pain and then they would pass and I would carry about my day.
Life is different now that Mills is no longer with us in body, but it is still beautiful. We are each born with a wondrous super-power that allows us to shift from sad to happy within moments without any force; it’s just this capacity we have.
I was at a pre-wedding party last night. There was an awareness of missing Milli. How she would have loved dancing, singing and being around family and friends from all generations and let’s not forget the chocolate cake. That said, I felt a deep sense of bliss watching people experiencing such utter joy and knowing that Mills could look on at anytime.
Mills was just fifteen months when she went into hospital with a kidney problem. She smiled her way through needles, the endless drips, the large pink tables that changed her mood and her body into that of a small sumo wrestler. When she finally went into remission, we were overjoyed.
Life had never looked better. We were moving from our gorgeous little flat in Westbourne Grove, to a grand Victorian house, our careers were flying, our giggling girl was well and we had a baby on the way. We moved and I decorated the house with love and care. Mills and I set aside a little time each day to work on creative projects. I remember sitting by an oversized mirror, both randomly gluing on tiny white paper flowers onto the frame, whilst chatting away. Mills was healthy, I was big, beautiful and felt empowered. I noticed Mills becoming a little unsteady on her feet and constantly wanted to be carried around. I was concerned enough to mention this to my doctor, who assured me she was simply regressing and feeling jealous of the baby. A mothers instinct told me that was not like Mills and I kept returning until after the fourth visit, he agreed to book her in for neurological tests.
Our beautiful boy was born on 17th October. Fortunately Bittu just made the birth having rushed back from Mills test appointment. The tests showed nothing, so we insisted on a scan, which followed on 24th October. Holding my baby, I exhailed as I closed the door to visitors and then the phone rang. Bittu told me I needed to get to St. Marys, from where we would take Milli to Great Ormond Street in preparation for her operation the following day. She had a brain tumour. I shook as I dressed my baby in clothes all too big for his tiny new body. I called a friend to pick me up for hospital and as I repeated the words, I went into a sort of daze and something in me became afraid to get close to my son. If I loved him the pain of having to be apart from him this soon would be all too much to bare. Seeing Mils at hospital, beaming as she always did, broke my heart. Our picture perfect life was about to be shattered.
I have only slipped away into the next room I am I and you are you Whatever we were to each other That we are still Call me by my old familiar name Speak to me in the easy way you always used Put no difference into your tone Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow Laugh as we always laughed At the little jokes we always enjoyed together Play, smile, think of me, pray for me Let my name be ever the household word that it always was Let it be spoken without effort Without the ghost of a shadow in it
Life means all that it ever meant It is the same as it ever was There is absolute unbroken continuity What is death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind Because I am out of sight? I am waiting for you for an interval Somewhere very near Just around the corner
All is well. Nothing is past; nothing is lost One brief moment and all will be as it was before How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!
Death Is Nothing At All by Canon Henry Scott-Holland, 1847-1918
Off to a wedding related event and missing the fact that Mills won’t be with me, as she would have loved it. Still Manav and Mills best friend Maia is coming and I am sure Mills herself will dip in and out. I just have to feel her and know she is around.
Mills loved to write poems. She had a special pink embroidered book we found on a tripto Rajasthan. Taking the book from her neat stationery unit, in the corner of her bedroom, she would sit and write. Sometimes there was silence and other times, singing and then she would waltz into the kitchen and announce it was time to hear her latest works. We would sit, trying to keep the smirks off our faces as Mills shared her words with a knowing smile that said, ‘it’s great and I am rather charming, don’t you think?’. Well, it always was and she always was and yet, she constantly surprised us with her depth of inner knowing. She loved poems, music and dance and no matter what the activity, Mills was always in the moment. Something, I have yet to learn and I now listen to Mills message of stillness.
Calm is being still. Be loving when you are still. Be joyful when you are still. Stillness means to be steady. Stillness means to really think for yourself. Stillness means to listen to yourself.
It’s been four months since my darling Milli left home; this home, we all share. I can’t say she died because, I don’t see it like that. I have decided to write this blog because perhaps in seeing why I feel the way I do, it may cause a shift in prespective and in doing so, give more joy and less pain. From a totally selfish point of view, I like having a place that allows me to share stories of my girl, because whilst I can’t talk about how she is doing in school, her friendships, planned birthdays and holidays, first boyfriends…..I can indulge in all the lifetimes worth of lessons and beautiful memories she has left behind.
I don’t know anything for certain, but what I FEEL deeply, as a result of Mills life is this:
We are all born with a pre-determined number of breaths. We come here to laugh, learn, love and grow and then we move on. Before heading off, do as the cheesy card says and as my daughter naturally did. ”Dance as if no one is watching, sing as if no one is listening and live each day as if it were your last”.
When those we love, leave us physically, they reside within us, in our every action. Accessing the powerful goodness within us is a precious gift and every interaction we have ever had provides us with that gift/that learning.
At my daughters send-off (sorry, don’t like the word funeral either), I opened with the line ‘when I grow up, I want to be Milli Kaushal’. She had just turned 11, but lived a rich and full life, in which she did more than one could hope for in a much longer span. She was always true to herself and never afraid to show her duality. Mills loved pink, princess and fairies, even when her peers thought it was not cool. In fact, Mills was a life of total passion, love, strength and when necessary, one of beautiful surrender.
Mills life has lead me to the realisation that I was never as brave as my beloved and have spent much time doing what seemed, rather than felt right. There is still a deep longing to hold Mills, to hear her sing, giggle and share her musings on life. Yes, I do miss her but I will not let that deter me from living and as honestly as she did. I do feel vulnerable sharing this journey, as who knows where it might end and indeed how being so exposed will play out. My home, friendships, vocation and all that has seemingly provided a foundation, is on shifting sand but it’s fine and it is a path I can no longer ignore.
Oh, one thing I do know is, I am not good at writing short bullet points!
I will write again very soon but in the meantime, here is a picture of my lovely girl and I in Namibia, on shifting sand! But look, hand in hand we felt safe and I still do, as her love carries me.
Thames & Hudson Family Life Style Travel – Anita Kaushal. Photo Penny Wincer
My dear, life-long friend Sonia; we were born at the same hospital within a month of each others and our mothers have known each other since the fifties. Sonia now lives I Kuwait but it did not stop her lending her support. She held a lunch at her home and invited friends to pay for the pleasure. In doing so she raised £1,500 for Milli On and On and I hear some wonderful pledges were made to make life richer and happier.
Milli’s dear friends Maia and Hannah held a cake sale in school. Mirium – Hannah’s mum and my friend makes legendary truffles and named them Milli’s truffles, selling them at the cake sale with pretty pink ribbon, label and fancy wrapping. Mills would have devoured these truffles, not to mention the pink cupcakes. She could have written a book on cupcakes and her favorite were from The Hummingbird, but as Milli once commented, their icing is better and The Cupcake Store’s sponge is better. On one of our cake making sessions we mused that it would be fun to open a cake mix shop, where people would get little bowls and pink serving spoons from which scoop out the mixture and just eat the mix; the best bit! So, back to reality. The girls managed to raise £400 for GOSH.
Mills was an extraordinary girl, who lived so full; always in the moment, who giggled so freely, felt so deeply and loved so generously. Here are some of the beautiful musings, pictures and memories as shared by friends and family.
Milli lived with illness, yet has never shown a want of valour. Let that then be her living legacy to us. To be brave, to be honest, to face all and not flinch; to love without reservation and to be unimaginably beautiful, in heart and in soul.