Nicola was a friend of ours who died in hospital when Ella and I were in our late teens and like us she had been through the foster care and Children's Home system. Almost exactly two years a group of Nicola's friends decided that she deserved a "proper" gravestone rather than the temporary marker that had been placed by the cemetery staff after an earlier one had been damaged.
So for two years we have been collecting money to pay for customised stone to celebrate Nicola's short life. Yesterday (July 11th 2015) the project reached a happy conclusion when a group of people who loved and cared for Nicola gathered together to unveil what their money had paid for.
The chosen design is a black stone with gold lettering and with a picture of Nicola at the top. It particularly mentions that she was a former foster child because Nicola would have wanted that.
I was lovely that so many people bothered to attend. We managed to track some of her friends from the supermarket where she worked after "timing out" from foster care but the largest group were the Children's home survivors.
Lots of them wanted to share a special memory they had of Nicola and hearing all these people speak was a special part of the event. Ella and I decided to sing a part of Allegri's Miserere mei, Deus because Nicola and the two of us had practiced that piece so often when we were all in the school choir. This is a tricky piece not least because you have to be able to reach top C which by no means all singers can manage!
Nicola (Ella's) and Alice(mine) will soon be 3. I don't know how much they understand about death. We have told them that Nicola was a special friend of ours and that she is dead and can never come back. They know that not seeing Nicola anymore makes us feel sad and that when we are sad sometimes we cry. They certainly know that a cemetery is somewhere people go to remember and think about somebody who has died.
They wanted to be involved in what the grown-ups were doing so at the end the two of them sung their special song. I think Nicola and Alice singing "The wheels on the bus go round and round" was a lovely way to end a day that was both happy and sad!