However, today (6 days before Mother’s Day) is a less celebratory day, as it is 6 years to the day since my Mum passed away.
6 years! Where has the time gone?!
I still remember the telephone call from my sister, phoning to tell me that Mum was dead (my poor sister, what a horrible call to have to make). It came completely out of the blue to us all. Sure, Mum was getting on, but she was still mobile, still getting around fine, she seemed as though she had years left in her yet. Alas it was not to be. Although mercifully she was, in a way, lucky. She was found lying in her bed with a book on her lap, reading glasses still on; seems that she had just drifted off to sleep (something she always used to do when reading in bed!) and never woke up. You know, if I could chose the manner of my passing, it would be just that – drifting off reading a book in my own bed, in my own house, with my beloved pets around me, photos of my loved-ones on the walls, while I still had my faculties about me.
So off I headed the 600 mile journey Back Home. I broke it (as I still often do) at the gorgeous Westmorland Hotel (pretty much half-way). I remember that evening wandering round the local area, always peaceful and quiet, when I happened upon a field with 2 small Shetland Ponies in it. “Oh, I must take some photos and tell Mum about this” I thought automatically, Mum having loved horses all her life. Ah, no, there’ll be no telling her about these horses… (They are the two in the picture above – if I can’t share the photo with Mum, then I’ll just have to share it with you, dear reader).
The following day, I was nearing Aberdeen when, for the first time ever when I’ve driven that way, we were diverted through some back roads near to Peterculter where Mum’s Dad lived at one point when I was young. And the drive took us over a bridge which I immediately realised was the self-same bridge Mum and I watched being built when we visited Grandad nearly 25 years earlier, a bridge I’d never before (nor since) been on. “I must tell Mum about the bridge…” Oh.
Yes, there have been a lot of those “I must tell Mum… oh” moments over the ensuing 6 years. I used to phone Mum pretty much every weekend for a chat ever since the day I left to go to University; we’d always exchange any gossip we had, have a good old natter about what we’d been up to, put the world to rights, that sort of thing. And I’d often during the week spot things and think “I must tell Mum about that”. An old habit that took some breaking!
Anyway, so came the funeral. Mum had always said she wanted a very private service, nobody (not even family) to attend the cremation – she had no truck with big services full of people you’d not seen from one year to the next saying how wonderful you were; if they couldn’t be bothered to say it while you were alive, what’s the point in them saying it when you were dead? So naturally we respected her wishes. No service. A few days later we scattered her ashes, just me, my sister and her husband, and my father. Again, Mum wanted to fuss, no gravestone or anything else to mark the spot (she did not believe in any afterlife or any other such thing and didn’t want the whole gravestone etc stuff as she was no longer there). So we went to a favourite beach where she used to love walking the dogs and found a quiet but unremarkable spot to spread her ashes. Of course, when my sister and I started to pour them, a gust of wind blew some straight back at us – I couldn’t help but smile quietly to myself, “You’re an awkward bugger to the last, Mum!”; it’s what she’d have said 🙂
No wake afterwards, and to be honest, I was extremely grateful – having gone through what we did, I have absolutely no idea how people manage to cope with wakes; we got back to my sister’s, and I went to my room and cried for a good hour or more solid.
So here we are, 6 years later on.
I still sometimes think about Mum, not in any maudlin way, just remembering this kind woman who’d been the one person who gave me unconditional love from the day I was born to the day she died. I still miss her, always will, but the pain has gone, leaving only fond memories in their place.
I think my one regret was something I never got round to doing while she was alive. She was an only child (true of both my parents), and so there were no aunts and uncles or similar around. As a result I thought, a year or so earlier, that it would be good to start talking to Mum about her life, getting all her memories down on tape to preserve them lest they die with her. “No rush”, I thought, “Mum’ll be around for a long time to come”.
Yes, I think that’s my one regret, but it’s a small one in comparison with the many happy memories I have. I’m very proud that we remained friends and kept in touch to the end. That is something I shall always treasure.
I never did “come out” to Mum, had no particular reason to. She was not exactly “gay-friendly”, but I wonder how she’d have reacted? I suspect probably the issue would have been quietly ignored and nothing more said. I’ll never know.
But what I do know is that I love my Mum and she loved me, and that, when you get right down to it, is all that matters.
I sometimes wonder if I made her proud which what I’ve done with my life. I like to think I did – at least, as far as I know, I’ve done nothing to make her ashamed, and that’s all I can hope for, really.
One strange thing, the Christmas of 2003 (Mum’s last Christmas). I drove up to see her, as I did every year, and to cook Christmas dinner for us both and spend a few days together. That year she seemed to take an undue interest in reminding me of where everything was, who was to get what, etc. Did she somehow subconsciously “know”? Nah. That doesn’t happen, does it. Then again, I still remember to this day the feeling I got as we waved goodbye to each other, Mum standing outside the front door waving as I drove of. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was never going to see her again. Silly feeling, where’d that come from? What nonsense.
And then, barely 10 weeks later, I got that phone call from my sister…
Makes you think, doesn’t it?