By Irene Karakasidis

My eldest child died in my arms. She was twenty-five. It was the less known auto-immune disease Scleroderma. As September draws closer, I’m reminded of five-years without her. As I close my eyes, I see my newborn placed in my arms, first time. She is red and underweight, she trembles and cries – a premature baby. We name her Athina. I open my eyes , the images so real, so yesterday, but occurred thirty-years ago. 

The Coroners’ report was performed on my other daughter’s birthday. The fluid surrounding Athina’s heart ended her life. Olga received gifts from Athina’s friends and as she unwrapped them my mind drifted. Coming to terms with Athina’s death, identifying her body a few days later, was something I never imagined. Her cold slim body, lifeless, this child I gave birth to is gone. And I’m alive, my parents are alive too. 

As I write, my mind drifted to our conversations on weeknights. We both looked forward to them. Wearing her woollens, clutching a large white bag, coming in from the cold after work, settling herself at the kitchen table is etched into me, as this was her last winter. Over dinner stories unfolded. Her warm smile, easy-going personality, zest for life and love for her mildly disabled sister made her a pleasant child. Autumn saw us in regional Victoria. The excitement of escaping to the country, with all its tranquilities, saw her longing for more escapes. Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be.

An avid reader from age four, her Little Golden Books she placed under her pillow after reading and re-reading them. Waking up to her reading was always a delight. As an adult the Shopaholic books helped her unwind for the night. These books she placed beside her bed, read in the morning, resulting in her scrambling out the door… ‘I’m late … I’m late …’

Focusing on a plethora of other wonderful thoughts and pleasant times we had helps deal with her departure. Blessed as I was, and not dwelling on her death also assists. Olga and I keep her spirit alive in our daily conversations. Receiving texts and visits from Athina’s friends is always a pleasure as we reminisce. 

Athina’s death has taught me to value life, not take life for granted and not fuss over minor issues. Embracing life and taking one day at a time enables me to deal with life in a positive way.

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