Jodie's family make sure she will never be forgotten
“Jodie wasn’t scared of dying, she was scared of being forgotten” her mum June explains. But it’s clear from everything her friends and family have done since she died that she will never be forgotten. June shared how Jodie and her family made the most of her last months to fit as much as happiness as possible into that time, and what they’ve done to remember her since.
Jodie was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma in December 2017 and had to start treatment almost straight away.
She had chemo in the run up to Christmas 2018 and she was in hospital a lot because the treatment floored her. She continued on with her treatment and seemed to be doing well. But in May 2019 she was told that the cancer was terminal, and that further chemo wouldn’t help. As always, Jodie took it all in her stride. We didn’t ask how long she had left as we didn’t want to be counting down the time. We just tried to fit in as much happiness as we could. We had a holiday booked to Mablethorpe, so we still went there and the place brought her a lot of peace.
She also went to see Olly Murs in concert with her cousin Bethany and she loved that. Jodie was really close to Bethany and was chosen to be godmother to Bethany’s son Noah. The christening was the week before she died, but Jodie was determined to be there. She had a wonderful day and got to see lots of family members and they got to see her. I feel thankful that she got to go as it was really important to her.
Those last six weeks were some of the best we had as we put everything into it.
We decided to throw a massive party for her to celebrate her life while she was still here. She was really poorly but she was determined to go, and her nurses accompanied her from the hospice. She had 150 people there and we were linking hands and singing. She was determined to stay all night and was the last to leave at half 12.
We went back to her hospice and a few minutes after getting into bed she went to sleep for the last time. The last memory all her friends and most of her family have of her was her having fun at her party. That’s how she wanted people remember her, she didn’t want their last memories of her to be them holding hands around her bed and crying.
We didn’t speak about the funeral at all, but I think Jodie trusted me to get it right. I think funerals can be archaic, so I changed a lot of the words. I don’t like the word funeral, so I called it Jo-Day. I couldn’t stand the word coffin and I cried when I first saw it, but I renamed it her forever bed and made sure we customised it to suit Jodie. It started off white and I asked everyone to come in and put their handprint on it and some words. Jodie’s middle name means star, so I spent hours cutting out sticky stars and people wrote on them on Jo-Day and stuck them on. Jodie always said she had seven favourite colours, so we had stars in seven pastel colours that she loved. That horrible white box turned into a thing of love.
She left me her passwords so I could get into her phone so I could have all of her photos. I keep it charged most of the time and when her new nephew was born I messaged her phone with a picture of him.
She had a countdown on her phone for her birthday, the dog’s birthday and my birthday, so when an alert went off the other day for my birthday, I saw it as Jodie saying: ‘I’m here, happy birthday mum’.
It’s been hard carrying on without her here and it wrecked me going into town the first year after she died when all of the Christmas decorations and presents started to appear. Jodie always wrote really detailed lists of what she wanted and where to get it from, but I don’t have a list from her anymore.
She always said that you can’t have a bad day if you have some nice memories in that day. She lived by that even in the days where she had relentless scans and she would have a giggle rather than complain when they couldn’t get a line in her. We get through Christmas by remembering the good moments, finding something to smile about each day, and celebrating Jodie. We spent hours wrapping her gifts for family and friends.
Jodie always wanted to open a present on Christmas Eve so a few years ago she set up a secret Santa where we all just spend £2. She put so much thought into her presents. We are going to do that again to keep her tradition alive – she’d be mad if we didn’t. She did leave some money for me to get presents for her Godson Noah and sisters to keep their spirits up and we’ve got them something really personal from Jodie. I got Noah a pocket watch inscribed with ‘Always make time for fun’ and I got her sisters a love heart with her fingerprint on. She always gave very personal, thoughtful gifts and I know she would have loved this. I know Bethany will talk to Noah about Jodie as they were really close.
Her friends said that in Finland people go to the graveside of loved ones on Christmas Eve and light candles and tell stories. They all do that on Christmas Eve to remember Jodie.
We always have our Christmas Dinner on Boxing Day – we call it Boxmas – so we’ve done that since and we set a place for Jodie. Her sisters wanted a life-sized cut out of Jodie so we got one and that’s with us for the day and it’s in our Christmas photos. It’s not how other families might do it and it might freak some people out, but Jodie would have loved it. We joke that she’s never going to age in the photos over the years but that we will – she would enjoy that as she had a dark sense of humour.
My eldest grandson, who didn’t get to meet Jodie, goes up to her cut out and I tell him about Jodie.
Talk about dying
There are lots of complicated questions and issues when a young person is told that they will die from their cancer. Here you can find more stories and information about how Teenage Cancer Trust staff and people treated on our wards have negotiated some of the challenges that come about.