A Year

Such joy, such love, such a beautiful boy.

Today, 8th July, is the worst of all days; it marks one year since our joyful, hilarious, smart, loving, beautiful boy died.

He is dead.

The daily horror of that thought amplified by the recurrence of this date. Everything around is the same; the blueberries ripening, the sun shines and the birds sing, neighbours work on their gardens, cricket in the park.

Except…

It is too horrible to be real. It should not be real. It cannot be real. But it is.

I spent yesterday picking out pictures to pass around at our picnic this evening. Bittersweet memories bring small sparks of happiness remembering our time together, though each spark burns on contract and there’s an urge to recoil and lock them all away. A powerful emotion is building and the body wants to run from it, sink into the anaesthetic distraction of TikTok or television just so that time passes.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time

Macbeth. Always good for a chuckle…

Today we will visit Kip’s grave, introduce him to his baby brother Arlo.

We will sing his favourite songs, tell his favourite jokes and eat his favourite fig rolls.

I will pass pictures around, and remind everyone what he says, what he did, how he lived, and danced, and occupied our hearts.

We will mourn, as we mourn everyday, but today in our tears and our hurt, we will remember that for five short years a small part of the universe manifested itself as our son.

Progress in Pedals

Yesterday was a good training session, covering 28 miles in a couple of hours. Felt very positive and then…

Well, smart technology has its uses but sometimes there’s a bit too much information. You can easily end up staring at your pulse rate stressing about it being so high, which makes it harder to relax which keeps your pulse high which…

In the evening four of us riders had a great Zoom chat and sorted the route out, and some of the accommodation too.

Day One we’ll set off from Cardiff to Brecon, just over 50 miles.

Day Two is Brecon to Macynlleth, an altogether more challenging 75 miles and thousands of feet up.

Day Three from Macynlleth to Porthmadog, which will be “easier”.

Day four we finish with a long day through Caernarfon, Bangor, across Anglesey to Holyhead

Might need a beer after that…

Please click on our GoFundMe and support our foolish adventure!

Challenge un-underway!

It’s the 13th of June so we should be nearly finished our ride through Wales, right?

So why am I sitting in Birmingham?

Well, there’s a bit of a story to that… Several of our riders (four!) have contracted Covid of various severity in the last couple of months which has really impacted their ability to train.

And Kip’s auntie was burgled and her bike is currently on a dodgy website in Poland!

Until there’s a new bike and some fully-recovered lungs, we’re postponing the challenge to 19th-22nd August.

Oh, and we had a baby too.

Kip’s little brother, Arlo Jack, was born in mid-May so we’re trying to reintroduce the concept of sleep into the home…

You can support our fundraising here, follow us on Strava, and keep in touch on Twitter.

Find out more about our chosen charity Love The One.

Get a t-shirt and share your love of Smelly Pants Wee here!

Thanks all for your support and help.

2022 Fundraiser Challenge!

https://gofund.me/49745bb3We love a challenge here at Team Kip and, after the runaway success of our fundraiser last year, we decided to do something special this year.

There’s two things to tell you about; the challenge and the cause…

The Challenge

A group of intrepid and adventurous cyclists are riding from Cardiff to Holyhead, a distance of 220 miles. We’re travelling as a pack, and might even have Kip’s big sister Millie along for part of it.

We depart on Friday 10th June after breakfast, and finish the following Monday on the gorgeous island of Anglesey, probably in need of a bath!

The Cause

We care a lot about children and, as we’ve said innumerable times before, no child should miss out because of where they were born. That’s why we were so passionate about our fundraising for Equalize Health and World Child Cancer.

This year, we are supporting an amazing charity in India called Love The One.

They undertake some inspiring and life-changing work with children from the most impoverished and vulnerable backgrounds, caring for them holistically with education, nutrition, healthcare and supporting families and communities.

We’ll be talking a lot more about the challenge and the cause in future posts, but for now please click on the links to learn more.

The Goal

And here’s the important bit – how much?

We’ve got a fundraising target of £10,000; that will mean a world of difference to so many children.

How To Help

You can follow us on Strava to see how the riders and supporters are getting on.

Make sure you follow @TeamKipUK and @LTOIndia on Twitter and share some encouragement! Don’t forget to use #TeamKip.

Our fundraising page is right here, off to a strong start already!

Half a year

Having hot chocolate at Wendy’s, just over a year ago.

Six months ago today we held Kip for the last time.

It’s equal parts unreal, unbearable horror, distraction, desperate sadness and laughing about the wonderful things he did.

To be honest, it’s tough to know how to move forward. Life continues, the universe moves on with callous disregard for our loss. Dear friends gather close and share their memories of him. Sometimes we even talk about him as if he’s in the next room. Every night I put my hand on his Batman onesie and say goodnight, tell him I love him. I carry a gram of his ashes in a pendant round my neck. We are reminded that he lives on in our hearts. But…

But he’s still gone, still dead, still in a box under a tree in Shropshire.

He’s not where he should be. And as the reality of that hits (several times a day), our throats tighten, eyes tear up and the waves of sadness break over us.

If time is a healer, it takes more than six months…

We are so grateful for everything that continues in his name. The fundraising has been astonishing, and we know that so many lives will be saved because of it. It makes us giggle that people walk around with “Smelly Pants Wee” on their t-shirts.

But bloody hell we’d give everything up to have him here with us.

Thanks for supporting us on this horrible journey.

#TeamKip

Singalong silliness

Here’s a little bit of Christmas cheer for everyone.

Kip loved singing along to loads of tunes, but You’ll Be Back from Hamilton was quite a favourite.

We filmed this a year ago, just as the worst effects of steroids were wearing off and we were anticipating a long, long admission for stem cells.

Now it’s our first Christmas without him, so we keep sharing memories and laughter and awesome videos. Keep speaking about him, even if it brings tears. He lives on as long as he’s remembered.

Have a Merry Christmas. Or just have a Christmas.

#TeamKip

Five months

Music is really important. It always has been, but more so right now.

Music has power.

It’s a catalyst for working out all kinds of emotions, remembering happy times and sad times, hard times, car times, calming times and crises.

I’m stuck on a song – The Night Will Always Win by Elbow. This tune is one I knew about for a while – as one of those extras between the songs you really like on an album, most often skipped.

Elbow – the night will always win

Now though, it has new meaning, a richness, and that quality of great songwriting that makes it sound like it’s was written for you. It almost doesn’t matter who Guy Garvey was thinking about when he wrote the song, it’s mine now! A connection in the tone and the lyrics that surgically, precisely states how life is.

“I miss your stupid face…” he laments; “I try to clothe you’re bones with scratchy Super 8s, exaggerated stories and old tunes”

This is where I am, living this refrain in hourly cycles between housework and keeping Millie busy.

I talk to his photograph, stroke my fingers across his Batman onesie folded on his bed, hug Rabbit, cook his favourite dinner, smell the dried flowers from his funeral. Emotions stick to objects as much as to sounds. Each pass, each touch and memory carries a charge that builds and builds until a song or sound or smell or sense suddenly grounds me and the high voltage reality of Kip’s absence shocks a crippling assault.

Days pass of these sequences, becoming months. What can be done? The universe carries on. We carry on.

Sometimes we almost feel like we’re ok…

Supporting World Child Cancer

In memory of Kip Freshwater, 2016-2021

Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors and donors over the last four months, we are in the joyful position to send £8,000 to World Child Cancer to support their vital work in Cameroon.

In rich countries like the UK, 84% of children with cancer survive, while in Cameroon that rate is below 15%.

Fewer than a quarter of children with cancer receive a diagnosis; cancer is frequently mistaken for something else, and those who do receive the correct diagnosis often get it too late to be cured. 

Treatment for childhood cancer is prohibitively expensive and, coupled with arduous, complicated journeys to and from hospitals, children are not able to receive the life saving care they so desperately need.

World Child Cancer is working hard to address shortages of skills and resources, especially in rural and northern areas of Cameroon. Their efforts so far have seen a significant increase in the number of children receiving the correct diagnosis and care, but there’s still a long way to go.

By contrast, Kip was able to access brilliant care from the start, after our local GP supported us when we found lumps in his neck, right through the intensive induction and intensification phases of treatment, monitoring, response to his relapse, stem cell treatment and palliative care at the end. It was all local, all to a world-beating standard, and all free at the point of care.

That treatment was available to Kip because he was fortunate to be born in the right country.

We don’t believe that where you are born should make a difference to your chances of living, and so all of us at TeamKip are proud to support World Child Cancer in their outstanding work.

Thank you for supporting our campaign in Kip’s memory.

Ed, Sarah & Millie Freshwater

#TeamKip

Help to breathe

Today was a bit emotional, sorting through photographs (hopefully for an article in the local paper), but mostly the morning was taken up with setting up an account with a broker so we could do this:

£15,000 was sent to our friends at Equalize Health.

All that cash, given to Kip’s memory, from you wonderful donors.

Equalize Health have developed a product called FlowLite that helps newborn children with breathing difficulties. It’s a condition that takes the lives of millions of children every year.

Equalize Health said:

“RDS is the leading cause of preterm newborn death globally but, with low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) suffering from the overwhelming burden. Over 3.2 million babies each year will suffer from RDS in LMICs and without treatment, nearly all of these babies would die from RDS complications. 

FlowLite, is a neonatal CPAP, specifically designed to address the gap in effective and quality care of RDS in even the most challenging settings. With FlowLite, we are addressing the key factors hindering accessibility, adoption, and effective treatment so that no baby, no matter where they are born, dies of RDS. 

We are grateful to be given the opportunity to contribute to Kip’s legacy with FlowLite. It is our honor and privilege to conduct our work in his memory. His laughter and love will live on in the thousands of babies, who will be given a chance at life.”

Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who has donated so far. If you’d like to give (or share to friends and colleagues) you can find our fundraising page here.

You can also get #SmellyPantsWee t-shirts that raise money for Equalize Health and World Child Cancer here.

#TeamKip

Saying goodbye

In the week since Kip’s funeral, several people have messaged asking to hear the eulogy.

Well, there wasn’t just on eulogy; we had contributions from friends and family as well as on each from Sarah and I. There was plenty in the way of laughter (obviously laughter!) and sadness and dancing (obviously dancing!) and tears.

As we arrived at the crematorium, the local Scouts had formed a guard of honour, saluting Kip as he arrived and shouting “Smelly Pants Wee!” at the tops of their voices.

Everyone placed a flower on Kip’s coffin before we went in; Kip’s two grandfathers, my dear friend Andy and I carried him while Millie led the way.

There were beautiful songs to open, beautiful songs to close, and a silly tune in the middle. If you’d like to listen, there’s a playlist on Spotify here.

Long story short, we had a difficult but beautiful service, and here’s what I had to say about him:

Kip was born on the 3rd of May 2016 in a warm pool in a softly lit room, into so much love and gratitude. Short breaths and tears marked his arrival.

In the beginning – we held him in our arms, we told him that we loved him, that he was a wonderful gift, and we would always be there for him. Our hearts were made whole and together we cried.

We took him home to a wonderful little girl who that morning became a big sister in our perfectly formed family.

He grew, and learned, and crawled, and walked, and pooped, shouted and sang, danced and ran, listened, loved and above all – laughed.

And – I know you’re meant to eulogise in a eulogy but – he could be annoying too. And frustrating, and give me a thump when he didn’t get his way, and break things and eat what he shouldn’t and not eat what he should.

Because he was a little boy; a perfect example because he did all the bad and good that we could have hoped for.

For five years, two months, five days, fourteen and a half hours.

Cruelly, unlikely complications from an unlikely course of an unlikely illness abruptly took Kip from us.

Kip died on the 8th of July 2021, in a warm embrace in the dappled sunlight of our back garden, surrounded by love and gratitude. Short breaths and tears marked his passing.

In the end – we held him in our arms, we told him that we loved him, that he was a wonderful gift, and we would always be there for him. Our hearts were broken and together we cried.

But the laughter though… Did any boy ever laugh so much? Did anyone who had such compelling reasons to be downbeat and dejected ever respond with such silliness and sniggering? When he had an operation, we’d play The Farting Song so everyone was in a good mood. When the nurses needed to take a blood sample from his finger, sometimes he’d wave his hand around, or run to the other side of the room, or say they could only check his blood pressure if they played the Bird Game with him.

He would share his chips and make people sing or dance with him, or use a urine bottle as a tennis racket. How can a little child hooked up to bags of chemotherapy use a drip stand as a skateboard? When a medic returned from holiday and said “Kip I’ve missed you”, he responded “of course you did”.

And the dancing. In the world of swinging your bum side to side, Kip was a champion. Had a central line fitted? Then grab a spoon and play air drums to some Northern Soul. He liked to move it move it. And to Pump Up The Jam. Two days before being admitted for stem cell transplant, he was doing an Edith Piaf impressions. Even the day before he died, when he could barely move his body, he bopped his head to Shania Twain, waved his arm in time to Prince Charming.

It is this, I think, that makes the separation most acute. That joy in the moment, often in such stark distinction to his circumstances brought so much to us. It’s an energy that can’t be replaced, but we will always remember.

Thank you Kip, for being the most cheerful and wonderful boy.

We are so humbled by the messages we have received from around the world about the impact Kip had on people’s lives. He brought laughter and tears and comfort and joy to those who knew him and thousands who didn’t.

And we are humbled by the donations made to our GoFundMe; we had an initial target of maybe £2,000 and now we’re at £38,000!

This means we can make huge donations in Kip’s name to our chosen charities (Equalize Health and World Child Cancer) on top of donations already made to Young Lives Vs Cancer, the Anthony Nolan Trust and UNICEF.

If you would like to donate, please click here.

We also have fundraising t-shirts, hoodies and masks here. (All profits are being split between our chosen charities).

Together we can ensure that Kip’s legacy brings comfort and healing to thousands of children and families around the world.

Thank you for being with us on this journey.