By Chris Coulter
I was asked this week by a couple of individuals why I write about my daughter, Madeline. Over the last twenty-one months, the reasons have been diverse. Sometimes it's about an event that's occurred that hits so close to home that I feel a need to share its relevance in my context. Sometimes it's because I have an exceptionally bad day and other times it's because I've had an exceptionally good one. Sometimes it's when the boys are not with me and sometimes it's because they are so close. Sometimes I write out of a sense of obligation but mostly I write to express how I'm truly feeling. Sometimes I write for others but usually I write for myself. Sometimes it comes so easily and sometimes it doesn't.
Truthfully, there are few times throughout the course of a day that Madeline isn't on my mind or play on my emotions. When I write, it's my time committed to her. She gets a disproportionately small amount of time with me compared the boys but in a sense, she's always with me. I sit down and I commit to write until completion. Rarely do I take a break. For me, writing makes my memories of Maddie more vivid. As the boys continue to grow up, she remains timeless. I never want to stop remembering and I never want to lose the familiarity of her face, her laugh or her shocking sense of humour. Some of her past antics, once may have made me angry, but now makes me smile.
Writing makes me feel grateful for Madeline. Not only do I value the time that we spent together but look back and realize how much she taught me about being a father, a friend and learning how to show compassion. So many lessons packed into such a short life.
I hope my writing helps people understand what an important footprint Maddie has left. She's brought awareness to a seldom talked about subject. She's helped others to put up their hand or ask for help. She's taught others to watch out for one another, have each other's back and by putting what's right ahead of what's popular.
Also, I write for Maddie's friends. I see so many of them growing up so quickly into beautiful, respectful, caring young adults. They always have a warm and loving memory of Maddie but usually a story of Maddie being so outrageously... Maddie. She was adored. That adoration lives on in their hearts and through their actions to further the youth mental illness cause and being tremendous ambassadors for The Maddie Project. Through so many of Maddie's friends, I see a present day image of Maddie.
I write for the sake of my boys. They usually read and critique every blog before I post them. It's met with a "That's really good, Dad", or "That's one of my favourites" and sometimes they don't say anything, we share a look, a slight upturned lip and a glance downward. That is their silent consent. Maddie will always be an important and integral part of our family.
"watch out for one another, have each other's back and by putting what's right ahead of what's popular"
In April, we will approach the second "Angelversary" for Maddie. I'm often asked "how am I doing?" and "does it get any easier?" It's not that it gets any easier but it becomes different. This feeling is something that is impossible to articulate, yet only can be understood by a parent who has gone through a similar tragedy.