Tuesday, 20 September 2022

A - Z Challenge - L: Love

I've a feeling that this blog post might be a short one, but it's one of the biggest I've ever tried to write. I could have called it 'Loss' or 'Lost' or 'Lonely' or 'Lament', or any number of words beginning with L that signify the sad, broken feeling that permeates life at the moment. Ha. Maybe I should just have called it 'Life'. 

The last few years have been hideous for our family. On top of the strains and stresses of a global pandemic which knocked everyone for six and the disaster that is Brexit that ruined the family business, we have had other serious stuff that's not my story to tell, my job only to try and help others through. All this is ongoing. Then, on 16 April, Easter Saturday, my Mum (90) fell in her bathroom and hit her head on the floor. 

We thought she was getting better to start with - she was remarkably alert despite the trauma and the blood loss, and the doctors and nurses checking her over and dressing her wounds were optimistic that she would be back on her feet in a few days. To cut a long, painful, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute story very short, she never did get back on her feet. 

My Mum died on 21 May 2022 at 10.25pm. Oh, God, I miss her. 

I was there at the end. We had time to sit around her bed and play her favourite music and hold her hand and tell her how much she was loved and what a wonderful Mum she'd been. I hope she could hear us. 

I hope she knew who we were, because latterly there were times when she didn't know us at all. My heart broke over and over as she slipped further from us into confusion and I did everything I could to comfort and reassure her, but I wish it had been more. It was exhausting and devastating and although I know that I was not capable of anything else, I am tortured by the idea that she was anxious and I was not there, and I am haunted at the memory of every moment of panic when she did not recognise her surroundings. 

But I was there all that day, all evening and at the very end, when her breathing slowed, and then there was a long, long pause. I leaned my forehead on her shoulder and wept. She took one more deep breath, sighed, and she was gone. Just like that.

I thought in my youth that when I finally lost my Mum I would be self sufficient with a family of my own and I wouldn't feel the devastation I contemplated when I was a kid. I thought that having taken care of her for twelve years since my Dad died and having felt the strain of being a full time carer in recent years, that there might even have been an element of relief. I thought that because by the end we knew that she wasn't going to get better, I might have been a bit prepared for the day when she left me. 

On all counts, I was wrong. 

Yes, she was 91 years old, yes, she was frail and struggling and the subdural haemorrhage that was the final straw could not be treated. Yes, I'm in late middle age myself and my husband is the best of all of them and my two daughters are the lights of my life. But, oh, Lord God, I want my Mum. 

I thought I'd tell you about her. Maybe share some stories about walking on the beach together, about sharing Sherbet Fountains, about laughing when her ice cream melted everywhere on holiday last year. About our shared inability to go for a coffee at a garden centre cafe without coming home with rockery plants. About her delight in her grandchildren, her pride in her family. About how badly she missed my Dad after his death in 2005. 

I don't think I can do it. 

She was my Mum. My biggest ally; nobody is ever as completely on your side as your mum, are they? If the whole world was against me, she would still be in my corner. Even in her last months I would go in and flop down on her sofa and tell her the things that were bothering me. She would listen, she would sympathies, she would give me a hug. 

I remember one time; I didn't even need to say anything. Mum was drying dishes at her kitchen sink and I came into the room. She took one look at my face and put her arms around me. As I hugged her back she felt so small, so slight, so fragile. I kissed the top of her head and helped her to her chair before she got tired or lost her balance. I put the kettle on. 

I go in there now and she's not there. Her chair is empty. I've sorted out some of her clothes and given them to charity shops, and I've cleaned out cupboards and put them to new uses but there are some things that I can't tidy away. Her favourite cardigan still hangs in the wardrobe because I can't let go of it. Her glasses are still on her chest of drawers by the mirror. The book she was reading still has her bookmark in it.

And I can't tidy away the love that I still have for my Mum that now has nowhere to go. I've looked after her for the last few years but she looked after me for my whole life. I sometimes think that I was more of a worry to her as an adult than I ever was as a teenager. Every day I think of things I want to tell her. I see things that I know would make her laugh, bits of gossip about people I see at the shops. I looked through a photo album I'd never seen before and I need to ask her who some of these people are. 

Who else knows what to say when I ask, 'Have a grape'? (the answer is 'I don't want a grape, either!', and then we both laugh - it's a long story). 

Nobody holds up the other end of our shared jokes any more. 

Watching all the pomp and ceremony regarding the death of Queen Elizabeth these last couple of weeks has been like scratching off a scab on a wound that is still painful. Mum was an ardent Royal supporter. She would have been so sad that the Queen was dead and also fascinated at the splendour of the funeral and loving the glimpses of the Royal Family. We would have watched it together with a packet of biscuits and lots of cups of coffee. It would have been another shared experience. 

Mum's funeral was not much like the Queen's, as you can imagine. We all had Covid at the time, so hardly anyone came, even though the funeral directors were very skilful in keeping the poorly people away from the healthy ones. It was over in half an hour without any need for gun carriages or orbs or sceptres. On the night they came to take Mum's body away I took off her wedding ring, grown loose as she became more and more frail, and I slid it on the ring finger of my right hand where it's stayed ever since. Her ashes have been scattered in the same place as my Dad's. We planted roses. 'Peace' and 'Remembrance'.

She's gone, and it really hurts. I don't know what death is, really. I know what Jesus told us about it, and I hang onto the things that I believe to be true. I hope that on that night in May when she left here she found my Dad waiting for her. I hope that maybe she was part of the reception committee for the Queen when she arrived a few months later. I hope that she's okay. 

I hope she knows how much I loved her. 

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A - Z Challenge - L: Love

I've a feeling that this blog post might be a short one, but it's one of the biggest I've ever tried to write. I could have call...