I saw your face this morning on my Facebook News Feed – once again I was blind-sided and melted into tears. It’s a face I miss seeing so much. Your smile with your sparkling eyes – knowing I can’t catch it ‘live’ again, ever, hits me in the gut each time I see your image.
It’s that one of you and Jacob – taken at our house when we were actually in Italy and all the rest of you were celebrating Hannah’s 21st birthday. Jacob is such a sweetie and you were always at your sunniest with a baby on your knee. And they seemed to love you, didn’t they? I’m thinking of that other one of you watching Jess and Izzy opening the sweets you’d given them. I miss how they loved to search in that wardrobe drawer for the chocolate you kept there for them. Just a couple of months ago, our Ali fancied some chocolate and was half way up the stairs before she remembered there was no chocolate there any more, because there was no wardrobe, because there was no you.
No you. I don’t seem to be any closer accepting it. I ache today with the missing of you – the absence of you. It’s not that I ache all the time – or at least I’m not aware of the pain. It’s that it keeps washing over me like waves of desolation that leave me trying to right myself up because they’ve knocked me off my feet once again. Turned the ground beneath me to sand that slips and slides when I’m trying to stride out. I have a feeling striding out is not going to be possible for a good while.
I missed you today as Ronnie started High School and Sammy started a new job. You’d have loved seeing him in his smart uniform. Sammy will have a uniform too. I’m so proud of her. You’d be delighted in her and in my pride. And Hannah’s birthday tomorrow. A whole year since that party. You’d have bought your card weeks ago. And slipped her extra pocket money for her Vegas holiday.
I missed you in the garden centre a few weeks ago. I just wanted a rhododendron. I simply wanted to go in, pick one, come home and plant it. All to make a corner of the garden a little brighter – cheerier. Even as I parked up I knew it would start. I could feel that now familiar tightening of stomach muscles and I started to brace myself for it. I put on this brusque demeanour and strode purposefully away from the threat of grief, through the displays of cards, gloves, ornaments and bags – but it caught up with me as I entered the plant display area. I looked at the roses and just knew it was with me; I hadn’t left anything. It wrapped its arms around me and the tears spilled all down my face so I couldn’t even see the bloody roses! I just felt you at my side telling me how beautiful they were. And probably urging me to pick one – because you know I love roses, don’t you? Then there was this incredible display of cottage garden perennials and I know you would have gasped at it, “Oh, just look at those” and you’d want to stop and smell and have a look at the labels. How many times have we meandered round a garden centre, Mum? How many times have we filled our trolleys with a dozen plants neither of us planned to buy?
Then I realized why I’d found the garden a difficult place this summer. It wasn’t just time and lack of it. It was because out there, I have to think of you. I might have gone weeks without talking to you sometimes, but always, always something about the garden or about plants, would be in our conversation when we spoke. It’s what you were about. And it makes me ache with the emptiness of your absence whenever I’m in my own garden or in a nursery or something. Just looking at someone else’s place too can bring me down. Like when the Magnolia flowered this Spring. You knew, I’m sure of it, that you’d never see it bloom. I loved that it was a “Stellar” – my star of a mother shining away. You’d have loved it – and it has pride of place down by the Mountain Ash that you loved in our garden (once we’d agreed that that’s what it was!). It flowered only for a few weeks, but it was stunning in its beautiful simplicity. White blooms, so pure and bright against the deep green of the Laurel. But not lasting long. Reminding me that none of us do. We’re all only here for a very short time.
It’s perfectly natural to lose your Mum when you’re in your sixties. Eighty-nine is a great age – and you lived life well and full. You had an incredibly positive impact on so many lives and so many people loved you. So we have much to be thankful for. I get all that and I’m content that you are with our Lord in eternity – though I’ve yet to grasp what that means. For now, I simply accept that somewhere, in some time, you live on and you are now fulfilled and happier than you ever were and that we will see you again.
That sort of helps, in the longer-term. But in the right here-and-now-term, it doesn’t help one bit! Because it’s now, today, in the garden; at the end of the phone; active on Facebook; sitting by me in the car; nattering away in my kitchen; talking my ears off as we trundle round shops – that’s when I want you and need you. I don’t want to wait till I leave this earth and join you in everlasting glory.
I cannot bear to think too hard about Christmas. I didn’t even have it on my radar till I saw that I was down to preach on the 16th December. The weekend we plan to inter your ashes with Dad’s. I felt sick at the thought. I realised that, in the background of my mind, the dread of meeting the one year milestone had been building. Confronted with the reality of something I clearly would not be able to do, hit me hard. I think that set me off. Reminded me that I had never travelled far from the place of broken-heartedness that losing me you had put me in. I can’t even bear to think of decorating the Church – something I’ve done for last three years. I used to tell you what we were planning and you were so great at helping me with ideas. You loved hearing about it all. You loved all that was going on in our lives.
You’ll be pleased to know we’re clinging on to one another. Me and the other girls. We see our bro too from time to time. We’re planning a holiday to commemorate what would have been your 90th birthday. It will be such a hoot. Over in Bridlington. Didn’t we have some good times over on the East coast the last few years? That picture of you nearly blowing away in Scarborough is one I treasure.
I missed you when Lou and I walked on Flamborough Head. I thought about how you used to sit in the car and read while we went off walking. Remember Cayton Bay? And you’re not there now – pretending you hadn’t been asleep. “Just resting my eyes a little” And you’re not anywhere to be found.
You’re not here to advise me. Counsel me. To listen to my moans and groans. To tell me what you’ve been up to. To play that confounded Word game with! To laugh at the tales of what Jess and Isabella have been up to. I want to tell you how Cat is in another play. I’d like to show you photos of how her children are growing up so fast. I want to tell you all about New Wine this summer. I want to see you smile. I really need to see your smile. And I want you here to believe in me. No one has ever believed in me like you. My greatest cheer-leader. The one who urged me on. My fiercely proud mum. Where the bloody hell are you?
I want you here. Now. I want this aching of heart and soul to go away. I don’t want to keep crying in garden centres. I want to lift the deep sadness that has settled on me and push it away. Yet I’m afraid that if I do, I’ll lose you completely– you won’t be there at all. The absence of you is all that I have of you – like an indentation in a seat or a crumpled cushion. The pain of you not being here comforts me because it reminds me you were here. I’m therefore left with something that is not a nothingness. I’d rather cry than not remember. At least aching is feeling.
I do miss you, Mum.
Love and hugs,
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