This week would have been your 61st birthday (although you never looked anything like your age), and I can’t believe it marks almost two whole years without you. It seems like such a long time in many ways, and I’m often confused at how Dad, Greg and I have managed to simply live our lives since then; how we’ve just carried on with the day-to-day things, managed to smile, have fun – without you. I don’t really know how. I think of everything in terms of before and after you now.
Dad is doing well, all things considered, and don’t worry – I’m looking after him; making sure he doesn’t go in the garden in his new slippers or out of the house with food down his shirt (you know Dad, it’s sometimes a losing battle in the food-on-clothes department! We’ve always been such a clumsy family haven’t we.). Beth the cat keeps him company; she misses her brother Charlie but I think he just missed you too much in the end. Greg is doing well too; he and Hazel are a proper little family now, with their own house and their dog, Kim – she’s hilarious, you’d love her. Auntie Rosie visits often and we carry on our tradition of loving awful TV; Anne and Keith still keep us entertained with their stories of the super six.
When you died, somebody said to me that eventually the good memories would outweigh the bad ones – and I am finding that to be true, slowly but surely. I surround myself with photos of you before you became ill; photos of the real you. I still dream about you all the time, but now, more often than not, in the dreams you’re healthy again. I still hear your wonderful laugh, the warmth in your voice and how you’d call me ‘darling’ or ‘love’. How I wish I could hear it again now, for real.
I remember billions of wonderful times with you, and I’ll be forever grateful for each and every second we had together. It’s hard to define even a few moments, and I feel like I can never do you justice, because you were always just a constant in my life: there after school or at the end of the phone every single day – always with a warm hug and all the time in the world for your family. Always with a story to tell about one of the girls at work or something that happened at the gym; the only person who I could chat with for hours about completely mundane, irrelevant things (although Dad does a sterling job nowadays!). Dad used to laugh at the way we loved to gossip, how we used to try and make suppositions about everything, to work out what the couple sitting in the corner of the restaurant were talking about, why that woman across the road was looking cross. We were the same; I guess you’d call it nosy!
You were always so thoughtful, always thinking of fun things for us to do, planning days out, finding different meals to cook or buying thoughtful little gifts; Greg and I never wanted for anything. You loved to have a dance around the kitchen, to sing along to the new music Greg would play for you. You were the glue amongst your different friendship groups; always the one to instigate a get-together, jumping at the chance to try somewhere new. Dad still sees the girls now; they were so touched when he asked each of them to choose a piece of your jewellery to keep (don’t worry I had all the Swarovski!). Everybody misses you so much.
As I grew up, we only grew closer. Remember when we tried to wax our legs at home?! I don’t think we even managed one strip each, the pain was so great and we were laughing too much. Shopping was our thing: a proper day out with Costa coffee on arrival, then hours walking around the shops, treating ourselves, convincing each other that every purchase was essential; followed by lunch, more shopping, then home to parade our new wares in front of Dad and Greg. We had some great days out in London, theatre trips, dinners, spa days, so many nights in front of the TV together. That one year we got obsessed with Big Brother and used to watch the catch up at breakfast time over big bowls of Rice Crispies and ice cold milk. And remember when we accidentally knocked the wing mirror off Dad’s car and couldn’t stop laughing?! So much to remember, I’m not sure there’s space for it all in my brain. You were my best friend.
I was overwhelmed by all the cards and messages of support we received when you died; you would have loved all the flowers (except for the lilies of course – you could never stand the smell). One colleague sent me a poem by Bishop Charles Henry Brent that was read at her sister’s funeral, and we chose to read it at yours too (your lovely friend Annette read it):
A ship sails and I stand watching
till she fades on the horizon,
and someone at my side
says, “She is gone”.
Gone where? Gone from my sight,
that is all; she is just as
large as when I saw her…
the diminished size and total
loss of sight is in me, not in her,
and just at the moment
when someone at my side
says “she is gone”, there are others
who are watching her coming,
and other voices take up the glad shout,
“there she comes!” …and that is dying.
I love that poem. I think about you reunited with Grandma and Grandad, Auntie Kath and Uncle Ron, how overjoyed they will have been to see you again (perhaps you even waved to Cilla Black, who died the day after you!). I write about you so much; perhaps it’s a subconscious way of dealing with things. I just want to keep you in the present forever.
“If you know someone who has lost a very important person in their life, and you’re afraid to mention them because you think you may make them sad by reminding them that they died – you’re not reminding them, they didn’t forget they died. What you’re reminding them of is that you remembered they lived. And that is a great, great gift.”
I hope it’s wonderful up there Mum; I hope they have the best jacket potatoes and an endless supply of liquorice. I hope they play all your favourite music and that you can have a dance whenever you want to. I hope the sun’s just right for your fair skin, and that you have a lovely bubble bath every evening like you used to. That you can see as many shows as you like and always find the right colour of nail varnish. I hope it’s full of people who love you just as much as we do.
Happy birthday Mum, I’m so grateful for the time we had and I love you and miss you every single day. Love you forever Mum.
All my love,