“Are you sitting down?” came the voice from the other end of the phone. That’s when I found out my mum died the day after New Years Day. It’s a blur to remember what my dad and I said. I sat in my cluttered little office for a few minutes after hanging up. Shock. Dream-like. So many questions. A haze.
Then I made my way downstairs to carry on with preparing for my son’s birthday party.
Death and life both shared that day.
Do we really ever deal with death? I’m not sure. I think we cope. We have to. But I don’t know if we really deal with it.
I’m not very open with my feelings. I am awful with any attention – I sweat, my freaking eye twitches, my heart pumps so hard you can see my shirt moving. I rapidly make a silly joke to hopefully move the attention away from me. For as long as I can remember, I think that other people have much worse problems than me, so I feel uncomfortable talking about myself. I don’t know if that’s a good thing. Maybe that’s why I enjoy writing; it’s a way to express things I otherwise wouldn’t say.
That’s how I cope. I don’t talk about it. I find things to do. Keep myself busy. Try not to stop. Make sure my little ones are happy, secure and loved. I try to be there for my three brothers and two sisters who are each coping their own way.
I do feel guilty. Guilty I didn’t call more often. Guilty I didn’t visit more. Guilty I didn’t write. Guilty I never once said ‘I love you’. My parents lived a 5 hour drive away, but that’s no excuse.
Life is so short. It can be taken away in an instant. Without warning.
My mum had a heart attack in the early hours of the morning. She was only in her late 60s. Seven children. Five grandchildren. She was a very kind, thoughtful, and funny woman; traits I hope I have inherited.
Despite coping, there are triggers that snap you back to the fact that that person has gone. The sound of a television programme. The smell of my favourite dish: goulash. Oh, garlic, lots of garlic. Your own birthday. Their birthday.
In the UK today is Mother’s Day. A little gimmicky, like all these ‘special’ days are, but it’s a day to celebrate and appreciate all the incredible hard work mothers do for all their families. I don’t think that only applies to the living.
It is a huge thing to lose a parent. Many people have lost their mother. Some at really early ages. Coping is the easy part. We can talk to those who are close to us. We can keep ourselves busy. We learn to cope. Time does help. (I am in no way dismissing how difficult it is to cope. Every individual person will cope in their own way. And they will find a way to cope which works for them.)
Dealing with such a loss is harder. It might even be impossible. Do we have to deal with death? Really?
Perhaps we don’t.
Sharing our memories, our stories, no matter how small, keeps them alive. These are real things that helps them to live on. Even though they are gone, they will always be close to us. Because they will always be alive in our hearts.
For my two children, she won’t be forgotten. Her quirks, her kindness, her life will be told through stories. Memories shared: defying death.