There are different hard days. The obvious ones are Jude’s anniversary on May 6th, the boys’ birthday on January 16th, and holidays where a chair is conspicuously empty, a stocking hangs empty, an Easter basket stays in the closet.
And there’s August 24th. Three years ago the phone rang and cut through months of trying to come to grips with Jude’s unexplained death. We’d been living in a fog, having no idea what had happened, no idea if it might happen again, no idea if we’d ever have an answer. With that call from the coroner, Jude’s influenza B diagnosis brought more confusion, more questions, and an anger that hadn’t been present before.
But it also brought a call to action. Now we knew. Jude died from the flu. He died from the flu in May, months past when most people were thinking about it in the Northern Hemisphere. He’d been vaccinated, but failed to develop immunity in an outbreak. How many people had it before him in that long season? What if one of them could have made a different choice, and stopped the flu from spreading to the next person? What if one choice could have saved him?
What if we could help people make better choices to save other people’s lives and loved ones, and prevent more stories like ours?
Thomas is getting so big, and he looks so different. Pictures pop up in my memories and I can’t believe how much he’s changed. He’s so big, so funny, so chatty. He’s reading, playing t-ball, and starting sr. kindergarten in a week and a half. He’s not a baby anymore. He’s a little boy. And Jude’s not. Jude’s always missing, right beside Isla and Thomas, not here to cause trouble, to go to school, to learn how to swing a bat or throw a ball. I see him missing in every picture. Would his hair still be that beautiful strawberry blonde? Would he still be taller than Thomas? What would fascinate him?
I miss his hand in mine. I hate that I’m only getting two kids ready to go back to school.
We’ve accomplished a lot in three years. We’ve helped bring the flu to the attention of our nation, and to the attention of other countries around the world. More people know that the flu is not a cold or a stomach bug. More people know that the flu kills twice as many people as car accidents do each year in Canada. More people are taking action to protect themselves, their families, everyone around them.
But we’re not there yet. Flu shot rates are still too low. Too many people are still dying. Thousands more families will be like ours by this time next year. There’s more work to do.
Today’s hard. It’s a jarring reminder of how much we’ve lost, and so senselessly, and how many people will continue to experience sensless, preventable losses for the same reason. So we’ll take a minute to breathe, because we have to. But then we keep going. We can pause, but we can’t stop, because flu season will arrive in North America again before we know it, and we need to talk about it.
We’re getting ready, and we hope you’ll be with us again this year as we have this conversation. One choice can help you avoid the flu. One choice can stop the flu from reaching someone who might not survie the season. One choice could save your life.
One choice could save someone else’s Jude. Whose life could you save?