Photo: My Mother and Me, Penrith (Cumbria) 1974.
Today, 20th July 2018, marks the thirtieth anniversary of the death of my Mother. It is a date that I keep in my diary every year; and I must admit that some years now go past without me stopping to think too much about it. But I still think about her all the time, this despite the fact that for the last three years I have lived longer without her than with her.
Well I say this but what I’m reflecting on today is the question of whether I have actually lived without her all this time. I am not by nature a very sentimental person. I do not feel the need to keep things around that remind me of my parents, my Father died six years ago, and neither of them have marked graves where I can visit… and I am not sure that I would feel the need to go there anyway.
I do not have any pictures up of my Mother around the house, but I remember what she looks like… I can close my eyes and see her. Best of all I see her when she was well, and not the person of the last year who had lost lots of weight and was in a lot of pain.
My memories, then, are mostly positive and no doubt quite selective from this point of view… but why remember the negative anyway, what good does that do? Well that is a good question, and as this blog is about balance it is one that is well worth asking. Does only remembering the positive aspects of my life when growing up act as an imbalance for my future life?
I would argue that it might depend on the extent to which I have come to terms with the negative aspects. I do not want to make this too technical or passionless as this is about me remembering my Mum. So as I sit here and reflect on the relationship we had and the times we had together I think about when she died. I have such vivid memories of that first twelve hours or so. Being awoken in the hospital just before midnight to tell me she had died and giving her a final kiss goodbye.
The first time I had seen a dead body.
Then going round to a neighbours the next morning to tell them the news… the first time… the worst time. The morning of the funeral and refusing a whisky “to help me stay calm”. Seeing the devastation on my Father’s and Grandma’s faces (my Grandfather was too ill to attend and died five days later). This is all very sad to remember now, but only because I am sitting down and thinking about it, and I think… I THINK… I have worked through it.
Even though this is the case I still think that her death was one of the handful of experiences in my life that changed me. Those experiences that knock you completely for six. Thinking about it now I can only imagine, but what is clear to me that those big moments have also heralded a big change in my life too. These seemed coincidental at the time, but now I wonder whether they were. My parents dying, meeting my wife, having children and being made redundant are all moments in my life where I have changed, maybe even developed, as a person. They have steered my life off in another direction… a direction that, in retrospect, seems obvious. Looking from before the event, though, I am sure they would have seemed scary and unlikely.
The death of a loved one, especially someone you were so close to, and I was very close to my Mum, is bound to destabilise someone. It’s like an earthquake goes off in your life, and the after shocks continue to come at unexpected moments. But it also gives you an opportunity to rebuild, to take stock and to move on. That does not mean you forget, because I am sure that rebuilding process took place with my Mother’s influence.. and she is undoubtedly infused within that reconstruction, perhaps unacknowledged until now.
That’s because thirty years later I am sure that there is not a day goes by that I do not remember her, not in any regretful way or appearing as a sort of presence… I do not imagine that she is looking down on me. She is just there as part of my growing up and part of my life and experience, an unseen and ongoing influence for the good adding stability to what makes me what I am.
So do I miss her?
Well I wish she could have got to know my wife, and been a Grandma to my children, but no I do not think I do miss her any more, because she is still with me in a way that I cannot really describe, neither abstraction nor ghost… just there.