I started writing this blog with one person in mind. Blogs are a good way to keep in touch with others around the world. I pretty much would write this blog to my mum and hope that others found it interesting too. My heart was broken four weeks ago when my mum passed away. She had always been my biggest fan, my reason for staying positive and the first person I turned to.
It has of course been awful. But what makes it difficult is that Mum and I always lived a few hours apart, so it is very normal to go a few days without talking and a month or two without seeing each other. A lot of days seem perfectly ok, I’m generally just feeling sad. Then as I catch myself about to text her, I remember she’s not here anymore. Every day brings a new miserable realisation of never-agains.
Mum had been ill for a few months but we didn’t realise how bad it had got, so it was absolutely a shock, however there was an element of release when it finally happened. I think I had been waiting for it for a long time. Also in the final weeks, Mum was really suffering, so as my way of coping I keep thinking how grateful I am that that period didn’t drag on as long as it can for other poor souls.
My main reaction, as well as deep sadness, is anxiety. Not in terms of over thinking, but the physical reactions to grief feel like anxiety. For example, I get periods of trembling all over, palpitations and restlessness. I have been keeping so busy and can’t settle for a minute until next I crash and then I can’t even get my head off the sofa. Keeping going with daily life has been incredibly difficult.
I made a dress to wear to mums funeral, I didn’t want to wear black and so I thought I’d dress up for her instead. I made a teal shift dress and wore yellow shoes, as a nod to mums favourite yellow flowers. I dressed Hazel in a blue flowery dress too. Yes, desperately sad day, but not sad to see an end to the unbearable pain my mum was in. So I wanted our outfits to reflect that.
Making the dress was tough. It wasn’t one I’d made before and the pattern was a free simplicity one from a sewing magazine. It was odd how many simple mistakes I made, my concentration just wasn’t good. However, it not only kept me busy, but it gave me something to do while I processed my thoughts about Mum. Sewing has always made me feel connected to mum and her mum, so it felt like a good place to hang out in.
This is part of what I read out at Mums funeral:
Mum had the sharpest of minds. She was absolutely hilarious, a bit lewd at times and belly-achingly witty. Laughing until we hurt was common in our house and we were both dreadful for getting the giggles for no logical reason. The kind of giggles where it hurts because you can’t breathe, but you just can’t stop! Mum could speak French, German, Latin and a bit of Italian and was a chief inspector of the Grammar Police. She did regular crosswords and would pass the time watching TV quiz shows. Mum would easily catch the chaser if she’d had the chance, but she’d be more interested in appearing on Only Connect, the gameshow that I can’t even understand how you play. She was a great artist and writer. Mum’s brain was a treasure and, in the end, even the cancer couldn’t touch it.
Anyone who knew Mum knows that she is your first thought when you need someone to talk to. Mum was kind. She put everyone before herself, even when she should have given herself more kindness. So many people have turned to my mum for help and advice throughout her life. It’s one of my strongest childhood memories, people visiting for a coffee, a very long coffee. Mum was the agony aunt of all that met her. Even random strangers on a dog walk would tell my mum all kinds. She was an excellent listener, but also had good advice. I know that she enjoyed the regular visits from her neighbouring friends in recent years who she found very supportive through her illness. We would rarely talk for less than an hour on the phone and when I visited, my husband would normally go off for a nap while me and mum (while mum and I) put the world to rights drinking pints of tea.
Thankfully, Mum was very computer savvy, which gave kept her connected to the world as she became more confined to her chair. Mum reconnected with her school friends and distant relatives via the internet and rekindled those close bonds. Despite them living all over the world, mums childhood and university friends became just as close again, supporting each other and sharing stories about their children and the glory days. Mum used to watch videos of her grandchildren throughout the night when she couldn’t sleep and would always be connected to us via WhatsApp or Facebook. She was a frequent poster on a few fan groups too, gaining many accolades from strangers for her thoughts and amusing comments. I used to film my dog walks in the country so she could join me virtually. It comes to something when the highlight of your day is a trip to Sidcup high street, but for the last few years that was all mum could manage on her “motorbike” as Hazel called it, mobility scooter to the rest of us.
I’ve been thinking about what mum has taught me, what has she passed on to me and my sister. Mum was never pleased that we both found joy with domestic goddess-hood such as knitting and baking for my sister and sewing and cleaning for me. But it was from her that we learned to be creative and use our free time to do something that we enjoy. Of course, as much as it pained her for us to feel so passionate about hobbies she could not abide, she was desperately proud and would share photos and stories of our creations. She was the number one fan of my sewing blog and I am lost without someone to send my progress photos to now. Mum taught us to be good mothers ourselves, she gave us a wonderful childhood, her parties and treasure hunts in the garden were the stuff of legend. Mum ferried us around to various clubs, dance and music lessons making sure we never went without. I am often reminded of times with my mum as I recreate the same scenes with my daughter of baking, painting and generally goofing around. Mum passed on her inability to navigate roundabouts to me, I didn’t hear mum swear much growing up, but roundabouts caused the most expletives as I remember. Throwing is a skill neither mum nor I share and every time I throw a stick for my dog, I think about the near-misses mum used to have throwing sticks for Charlie and narrowly missing small children.
As heart wrenching as it is to lose my mum, I am so grateful that she is finally relieved of her pain. She had chronic back, neck and leg pain for most of her adult life which became increasingly debilitating in the last 20 years. But I have fond memories of the superwoman moments, when she would be able to scoop a grandchild onto her knee without hesitation. The children will probably remember Mum sitting in her arm chair always ready to cuddle with one arm and share a storybook with the other. It was a cruel twist of fate for mum to develop cancer on top of all the other difficulties she had. But she fought as best she could and managed to see her 3 grandchildren settled into school and her daughters onto new and better paths. I imagine Mum now as a twenty something, pain-free and reunited with her own mother, who she missed terribly throughout her life. Around her feet are the numerous pets that came and went, with Herc, Eric and Charlie probably being the most favoured. I expect she is watching us now, with her mum, arms linked together, making each other giggle. Mum will certainly be shouting to get her photo and artwork off the screen! But as much as she would never let us give her praise, we are all as proud of her as she was of us.