I once went a whole year without seeing my mum. Not because of a fight, but because I was working halfway around the world. Phone and video calls were our saviour during that time. It’s almost been a year again since I was last with her but this time, there will be no tearful and joyous reunion at the Arrivals of a busy airport.
When she was diagnosed with advanced cancer eighteen months ago, my ears were ringing; I could literally hear the blood swishing around in my ears as I tried to remain calm and strong. Incredibly, but unsurprisingly, mum carried on with the same strength and dignity that she always had – traits that stayed with her until her last breath. Death had been kind to the family; our grandparents lived long and fulfilling lives before they passed away so as much as they were dearly missed, there were no feelings of ‘being robbed of time’… until now.
Mum moved into our home and I became her carer. After all, she had looked after me for all of my life (something that I never truly appreciated until I became a mother myself!) and now in her time of need, I wanted to be there for her. Every time there was a hospital appointment and more disconcerting news was given, my stomach would lurch – like it does when waiting in anticipation at the top of a rollercoaster.
My four year-old always had a special bond with her and he was such welcome relief at times. He had developed an aversion to Calpol and would only accept suppositories. When he saw my mum upset one day, he ran for his doctor kit and confidently suggested, “Don’t worry Gran, I’ll get you some medicine for your bum and you’ll be fine!” Needless to say, the mood instantly lifted.
THE SWINGING PENDULUM
After only six months, her last weeks were spent in the beautiful Strathcarron hospice where she could sit outside and watch the sun set across the lake. As time was running out, my emotions swung like a pendulum; the fear of her dying and then praying it would be over quickly so that she’d be at peace. When her time came, I was there to hold her hand, tell her that I’d always talk to her and promise my son would never forget how amazing she was. It was precious.
I couldn’t sleep afterwards for weeks; every night I would dream of mum on her death bed and it was an image that I couldn’t shift. Everywhere I turned, there were reminders of her. I once made her lemon meringue pie but something wasn’t quite right. I actually lifted the phone to call her – an automatic reflex, I guess. I was told often that first anniversaries would be the hardest and it was true, none so more than on her birthday. “Try to remember the fun times” and “Don’t be too sad” were phrases that came up but tears stayed with me all day.
ONE YEAR ON
And so, it is almost the first anniversary of her death. Each day there is a reminder of what was happening this time last year. My memories are awash with photographs and videos of her. Hearing her voice unexpectedly, physically takes my breath away. I know that we are living in an age where we are blessed that technology can gift us with these everlasting memories but sometimes, it breaks my heart just that little bit more.
She is on my mind constantly as the date looms and she’s in my dreams again. My son, now five, has spoken of her every day this week; he asked me out of the blue if we were going to have another funeral as her last one was so much fun (he joined in after the service). I could almost hear her laughing at that one! Mum always believed perfect white feathers are a sign that someone is looking out for you in times of need and it’s always comforting to find one at my feet when I least expect it. I still have days of utter disbelief that she’s actually gone – I just assumed that I’d have her for another twenty years or so.
Regardless of what the circumstances are, losing a loved one that you are particularly close to is harrowing. I believe that grief is the hardest emotion I have ever had to face and this passage sums it up for me:
“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”
One year on and I’ve learned that the grief and longing will never leave but I’m learning to live around that and enjoying life again, knowing that my mum is cheering me on from wherever she is.
By Lynn Guthrie
#lifewithoutmum #mumimissyou #losingaparent