My Bleeding Heart

Imogen's story

My son Daniel was my world. The day he was born, my heart was so full of joy, I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. He made me a mother and brought me profound happiness, a kind that I hadn't experienced before. He was born eight weeks premature, and for a moment, I thought he wouldn't make it, but he was destined to be my child. He rescued me and believed that anything was possible.

I married at a very young age, for the wrong reasons. I had a difficult relationship with my father growing up. He was very old fashioned and set in his ways, and I was a free spirit who loved life and wanted to follow my dreams. We were like oil and water, no matter how hard we tried, we just never got on. I know that he loved me in his own way, but not enough to make an effort for our relationship to improve. It broke my heart; I always felt that I wasn't good enough for him or anyone else for that matter. It affected my self-esteem and also my relationship with men in general. My mother passed away when I was three years old, and I never got a chance to get to know her. She was beautiful; her name was Riona. I carry a picture of her everywhere I go. Deep down, I always wished to spend more time with my mother, but sadly, life had other plans.

I decided to leave home at sixteen. I went to live with my auntie and started college. I felt at home there, and for the first time, I believed in myself. It took me many years to break free from my father's emotional control, but I know that I had to embark on a new journey; if not, I would have completely lost my way. The next few years were joyous. I decided to study music since I had always loved the great classical musicians such as Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, and Debussy. The first time I listened to Beethoven’s 9th symphony I cried tears of joy, it was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. It transported my soul to a place of utter perfection. I wanted to dedicate my life to music and always be connected to my passions.

College wasn't easy. It took a lot out of me, and at times my insecurities would come and haunt me. I would get depressed and go into a dark place in my mind. I tried so hard to be strong, but couldn't always get it right. When it all became too overwhelming, I would go to the beach and watch the waves crash against the rocks. It was my safe place, and it made me feel close to my mothers' love. I could feel her presence in that space, and it brought me great comfort. Living with my auntie in a way helped me heal. She looked so much like my mum, they were very close as sisters, and my auntie always tells me how much she loved me. Hearing stories about their time together overwhelms me but also allows me to have a better perspective about the kind of person she was. “Your mother was like a beautiful mermaid. She had the longest blond hair and was very demure and petite. She would sing all day, the sound of her voice was breathtaking”, my auntie would say. I now believe that's where my love for music came from; I feel it was a gift from my mother's love.

I finished college at eighteen and graduated with honours. I was so proud of myself and felt I had come a long way in two years. When I told my father about my achievements, he told me that a woman's place should always be in the kitchen and that I had no reason to go to university. This brought me down in ways that I cannot express, but I managed to pull myself together and keep moving forward. I was ready to apply for University and study music full time to gain my degree. Even though my insecurities and doubts would always creep in, I didn't allow myself to wallow in self-pity anymore. I decided I wanted to pursue my dreams and achieve everything that I set my mind to.

I have always found life to be a strange and intense journey, full of unexpected twists and turns that can sometimes make you feel as if you're not in control. I got accepted at a prestigious school of music to study with a full scholarship. I was beaming with happiness. It was the best day of my life, and I was so excited to start building my portfolio of dreams, which is what I liked to call my work efforts. On the first trimester at University I met a boy called Nathan. He was a third-year music student and played classical guitar. He was very talented. My and my friends used to listen to him play outside the session room. He was very passionate and creative in his style, and there was something about him that captured my heart. A mutual friend introduced us one day, and we played together in one of the university concerts. I played the piano while he accompanied with his guitar. We got on really well, although early on I noticed that he had a strong temper. We became very close friends, and after time we became a couple. Our relationship moved forward very quickly. I felt that life was steering me in his direction, even though deep down, there was always something about him that made me feel a little uneasy. I dismissed it as my own insecurities and moved in with him after three months of dating. We had great times together, and our work meant everything to us. Our goal was to graduate and travel the world. We wanted to go and visit Austria and Germany and live our lives through music.

A year before I was meant to finish my career, I became pregnant with my first child. It was the biggest surprise of my life; we hadn't even talked about having children yet or even a future together for that matter. Knowing that I had a little life growing inside of me made me so happy. I left University to take care of myself so that I could have a healthy baby. I didn't want so much stress on my shoulders. I knew I would soon return to finish my studies, but my priority became my son. Nathan asked me to marry him when I was five months pregnant, and even though my heart wasn't entirely in love with him, I went ahead with it so that I could give me son a family and a stable home. I felt so attached to my baby. My relationship with him was close from the moment I could feel him kicking. He was pure joy to me, and I promised myself that I would be the best mother and friend in his life.

One night Nathan arrived home late. He was drunk. I was seven months pregnant and felt very vulnerable at the time. “Why are you so drunk, how dare you come home like this”, I said as I walked towards him. “Shut up, don't you dare tell me what I can and cannot do”, he replied, looking at me with such anger. As I turned, he grabbed me by the arm and pushed me with great force. I fell onto the kitchen floor and hit my head hard. I was bleeding. I panicked, I cried, I screamed. Nathan quickly took me to the hospital. When I got there, I realised my waters had broken. All the stress had caused my body to react. I was frightened and felt so alone. I didn't want Nathan anywhere near me. The nurses took me to a room, and after twenty hours of labour, my beautiful son, Daniel, was born. I looked at him in disbelief; he was the tiniest baby boy. He was born eight weeks premature but was a very healthy baby. Nathan came into the room and held him. He cried and was regretful about what he had done. I forgave him, but deep down, I knew it wouldn't be the first time he would be violent towards me.

Daniel was the most joyous little boy. So full of life and love. I was so proud to be his mother, and nothing in the world meant more to me than him. I introduced Daniel to the great classical musicians from a very young age, and he began playing the piano at three. He was my best achievement, and I invested all my time in his upbringing. I took a job as a part-time music teacher as I wanted to fit my life around him. We had a powerful bond between us and understood each other very well. He was the only love of my life. Two years later, our daughter was born. We named her Faith Riona, in memory of my mother.

Just when I thought that I couldn't love another human being more than my son, Faith comes into my world and completely turns it upside down. I fell in love with her the moment I saw her. She chose me to be her mother, and I was so grateful for that. Having a daughter was very cathartic since I felt that I could build a beautiful relationship with her and experience all the things that I couldn't have with my own mother. Daniel was the best big brother I could have wished for, and for the next two years, my family lived in a bubble of happiness. Nathan had a steady job and wasn't drinking anymore. We had bought a lovely little house on the outskirts of town and were spending quality time together.

Daniel loved music more than life. Every day he would play the piano for hours, and ask me to sit and watch him. When he came home from school in the afternoons, we would sit together and listen to Beethoven’s music. The first time he heard the 9th symphony, he cried just like I did when I was little. He was so much like me, and I adored him beyond my heart. His smile lit up my life in ways that I could never imagine. He always wanted to protect me and help me do things. By the time he was eight he was teaching the piano to children of three. He was so talented, and I was the proudest mum.

Nathan began drinking again by the time Daniel was nine, and Faith was seven. His reasons for doing so where never clear, but nothing stopped him from making those decisions. In a way, I was expecting it. I don't why, but I always sensed that he was never happy with himself. I married very young because I wanted to give my son the best life, and I had taken a risk for happiness. Looking back now, I believe I married for the wrong reasons, and that my love for Nathan declined the moment he was physically abusive towards me. I was naive and full of hope. My mind didn't think logically; at that age, I would always follow my heart blindly. I have no regrets. I would take that journey a thousand times over to have Daniel and Faith in my life.

The beatings began at night when the children were fast asleep. Nathan would arrive home late, always drunk. He would find excuses to slap me, push me, and pull at my hair. Sometimes I would try and fight back, but I didn't want to make a scene and wake the children up, so I would suffer in silence, and cry where no one could hear me. Nathan was tall and strong, and I was petite. Even if I fought with all my strength, I could have never won. He knew this and used that power to prove that he owned me. In the morning I would go to the bathroom very early and cover my bruises with makeup so that people wouldn't notice when I dropped the children off at school. It was awful and debilitating. I felt so alone, afraid and unloved. The children were starting to notice that something was wrong. I couldn't hide it for much longer.

One day I went out to see one of my dearest friends, and when I arrived home late, Nathan was waiting for me, he was drunk. “Who the hell do you think you are?” he said with anger in his eyes. “What do you mean? I was at Claire’s house. I told you I would be there until late”, I replied as I made my way towards the kitchen. “You stupid bitch” he shouted. I looked up at him and built up enough courage to stand my ground. By then, I had suffered enough abuse, and I decided I wanted to break free. “Nathan, I want a divorce. I’ve had enough. I will not allow you to mistreat me any longer. This has to stop”, I told him. As soon as I had finished speaking, he put both his hands around my neck and started choking me. I tried to scream, but I could hardly breathe, and I was starting to feel faint. Suddenly Daniel came rushing into the kitchen and jumped on Nathan’s shoulders. “Don’t hurt my mum, leave her alone. Could you stop it? You’re hurting her, please. Stop it, dad”, he frantically screamed. Nathan let go of me and grabbed Daniel with one arm and threw him along the corridor. He landed on the floor and wasn’t moving. I ran to him and held him in my arms. “Baby boy are you ok? Please wake up, darling. Please, Daniel, wake up. Please tell me you’re ok. Daniel opened his eyes and said, “I’m alright, mum. I won’t let anyone hurt you, ever again. I promise you”. We held each other for hours that night. Daniel rescued me that day. He rescued my heart.

Nathan left for America the next day, and I didn't see him again until many years later. Daniel wanted nothing to do with him, as far as he was concerned, his father had died for him. He had lost all respect. The years that followed were very peaceful and serene. Our house was always full of my children's friends who would come over to visit. We felt free and safe with each other, and I was much happier too. The house was filled with laughter and joy, and the children were happy. I became everything to them, and I worked very hard to provide for a good life. I had two jobs, and I made sure that my kids would be covered. I didn't want anything from their father. As far as I was concerned, it was the children and me. They were my world and my reason for living.

Music to Daniel was like the air that he breathed. He would never stop playing the piano and also took up guitar and violin. By the time he was sixteen, he was the best student in his school. He began studying music at college and won a scholarship for outstanding merit. I couldn't believe how life was repeating certain events that I had also lived. I was thrilled that Daniel was going to be a musician. He had incredible talent, and the world would finally see it. He worked every weekend giving piano and guitar lessons to young children. He always helped me with everything and was so kind and generous. Everyone who knew him loved him. He had the most beautiful smile and an incredible heart. I felt so lucky to be his mum.

By the time Daniel was twenty-one, he was finishing his last year at Music school. He had done brilliantly well and was a distinguished student. One day he invited an old friend from childhood to the house. She was a film student and needed Daniel to help her with the music score of her short film. He hadn't seen her for a few years, so she came the next day.

Amanda came to the house with a friend. Her name was Felicity, and she was a very kind and beautiful girl. The first time Daniel saw her, it was love at first sight, it was the most amazing thing to witness. They became inseparable from that very day and married soon after. I had never known someone to love another person so deeply. Felicity was Daniel’s entire world, and he took great care of her. They were young, but that wasn't something that worried me. I knew my son well enough to know that he had the passion, drive and capabilities to form a happy and stable life, and that's all that mattered to me. I was going to support every decision that he made because I owed him the best part of me. He was an incredible son and the most important part of my world.

Their marriage was a happy one, and they were so overwhelmed when they bought their first house. Together they were building a strong future and were supporting each other through it all. I admired them. Their love was so profound and pure. It was like music playing in a fine orchestra. I was so proud of them and honoured to be a part of their lives.

Life is mysterious, and it takes from you when you least expect it. The notion of happiness is fleeting, and we can only hope that we have more moments of joy than that of grief in our lives. What I experienced next is a pain that goes beyond any human understanding. Life had brought me so much joy through my children, but it had now decided to take away my most precious gift. The unpredictability of it all is the hardest thing to cope with. We sometimes want to think that moments are eternal and immortal, especially when they are next to the people we care most about.

I got a phonecall from Felicity ten days before her birthday. I will never forget the sound of her voice that day. Daniel had gone to work like always, but he never returned home. He was involved in a collision with a lorry while driving on his bike to work. Felicity could barely manage to get her words out. She was crying uncontrollably. I rushed to be by her side and held her in my arms. We quickly got to the hospital to be by Daniels side.

I saw my son laying on a hospital bed, and all I could think about was the very first time he played the piano, and how wonderful he always made me feel. It was all so surreal; My heart was bleeding, and I didn't want to believe this was true. The thought of losing him was too much to bear. Felicity stayed by his bedside for three whole days until he took his last breath. I hope that he felt her presence. I know that in his final moments, he spoke to her, and I'm so grateful that they had that. It meant the world to her.

My son died at twenty-seven years old. He was the best thing that ever happened to me. Our world was better because of him. He taught me that a smile was so important not only to oneself but to the people around us. It had the power to change things and improve someone's life. I believe this is true. Daniel had a passion and a drive like I had never seen before. His musical talent was incredible, and the way he loved his wife was admirable. I lived my life for him and my daughter. I am certain that he knew how much I loved him. “Mum, you do know that your awesome right?”, he used to say to me. “You really think so?” I would reply. “I know so”, he would say with a smile.

Felicity came to stay with me for the next few months, and we grew very close. Grief brought us together, and we appreciated each other so much, she and my daughter gave me the strength I needed to carry on. I wanted to make my son proud. Two weeks after Daniel’s death, Felicity learnt that she was expecting my grandchild. I was so happy, I played the piano that evening for hours, and felt my son’s presence very close to me. There was hope in our lives and a part of Daniel that was still living with us. This gave us comfort in the darkness.

I will miss you every single day for the rest of my life, and I will never stop being your mum. Goodbye, my precious baby boy. Fly with the angels. I love you forever.

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Wallis May Streete

Wallis May Streete

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Mother of three. Freelance writer. Poet. Lyricist. “We are lost souls trying to find the light, and when we do, we dance with shadows.”