"My mother is dead. I don’t know who this is for. I like to think it’s for anyone suffering the loss of their beloved but probably it’s just for me. A self-indulgence.
We all knew it was coming; she’d been like a cat with nine lives. No one could be that ill, for that long and continue to fight and fight and fight. We’d been told she had months, not years. In the end it was days.
Within hours of her passing people were saying at least it was expected. Why do people think that makes all the difference? It wasn’t fucking expected. I hadn’t been expecting the phone call in the middle of the night, I hadn’t been expecting to see her dead in a side room of a hospital ward, I hadn’t been expecting it to be now.
I say now, but I started writing this just after she died; 14 months ago. I recently got a new laptop so I was copying across all the bits and bobs saved on the old one, when I saw this. I read it, and I cried. It’s still true. 14 bloody months have gone by and it’s all still true.
Even when I made myself face the harshest realities of her illness, I never imagined the actual moment of her passing. Yes, I’d been terribly practical, planning the funeral in my head, organising my father’s life and grief in advance. It didn’t matter in the end. The holes that have been made in my heart, my head, my gut are beyond imagining. You can’t prepare for that.
Funny, how you still function. I’d never understood how bereaved people were able to carry on being human. Truth be told, I’d always thought my grief, when it came, would be so overwhelming, people would see how it is to be truly lost in despair. I was at best naïve, at worst supremely arrogant. I know better now. God, she was fabulous and funny and beautiful. But as much as I miss her I wouldn’t wish her back to the life she had. The indignity of a once such vibrant woman being confined to a hospital bed, kept alive by machines while her mind wandered further and further from reality. It would have been an existence not a life.
I dial ‘mum mob’ on my way back from work, even now. I always called her on the walk between station and home. I wish there was a voicemail message so I could hear her, but she never quite got to grips with the whole voicemail thing in life, so I suppose I’m expecting too much to hope to hear it now, in death. I remember she had her own mother’s handbag in the back of our airing cupboard when I was small. I didn’t understand that then. She’s gone, why hold on to the tat? But I’ve got mums handbag, stuffed in the back of a wardrobe because I can’t face looking through it. I know there’s some change in her purse, but what do you do with a dead woman’s coins? Can’t give them away, can’t spend them.
14 months, and I still feel lost. I still feel anger and bitter and I’m raging; at the hospitals for not curing her, at myself for not doing more. And at her, for leaving me when I need her most.
It’s hard to remember the times before she got ill. Try as I might, the memories of sickness and distress will keep pushing out all the happy and fun times. I hope this will pass. It has to pass because I can’t spend the rest of my life with only the sad recollections of a too-short life for company. And I know the other stuff is there, waiting in the wings, anticipating a time when I will look back and laugh and remember and be thankful for the life she had.
I’m getting married. She won’t be there. I never really expected that she would be, but it still puts a pre-emptive downer on the day. She would have loved being the mother of me, the bride. I want to go shopping for her outfit. Actually I do go shopping for her outfit but then I remember she’s gone. Anyway, it would have been a hard task persuading her to splash out and not go for a Matalan two piece. Perhaps I’d have splashed out on her behalf, but then again, perhaps not. I was never quite the daughter I wanted to be. I took too much and gave too little. Maybe that’s just how it is with mothers and daughters.
People tell me I’ll feel her with me. I haven’t yet. But mum, if you’re out there, I miss you. And I could really do with a cuddle."