In memory…

For the first time, I’m going to use this blog in a very self-indulgent way, but it’s going to help me cope this year with the grief train that starts on this day annually and plagues me until December.

In no way do I expect anyone to read on, but if you chose to do so then thank you for sharing this personally painful moment in time with me.

The annual Grief Train starts here…

It’s a strange concept to consider grief as an annual event with a start and an end, but December to January contains the few days that are really the only time I get to diarise events that are NOT affected by the sadness of the departed. The rest of the year is pretty much a grief-free-for-all.

It’s not supposed to be funny, but if I make you laugh then that’s a good thing. It shouldn’t all be sad and morose, but it also isn’t a joke when the grief is as heavy as I feel it. Although it’s good to imagine the absence of my own smile being replaced elsewhere. A cosmic balance.

If you’re familiar with my work / socials / blog posts then you’ll also be aware that I am rarely specific about personal affairs. The privacy of my family matters an awful lot to me, so I keep some things very close to my chest. This is the first time I am going to be open with a few facts surrounding my first and incredibly difficult grief – my Mum.

Today would have been her birthday. I’m writing this on the day, but the day I post it will be different (for privacy). She wouldn’t want me to mention her age, so I’ll keep that private too, but by now she would have been happily drawing her pension and enjoying a weekly blue rinse, courtesy of a friendly hairdressing neighbour (this is a lie, she was way too cool for a blue rinse and only visited a salon for a well deserved, full throttle, balls-out, no expense spared pamper).

This celebratory day is only remembered by a couple of people, myself included. That’s one of the aspects of this grief that makes me ache. She was a truly effervescent person. Ironically she loved life. “Keep on keeping on” she’d say to me. Signalling I should keep fighting through the shit being thrown at me. That ‘shit’ feels wildly insignificant now. I had no idea what pain looked like or what worry felt like. Mum’s cancer quickly taught me both.

She spent much of her happy life surrounded by laughter and smiles that attached to her like magnets. She had something in spades that I still struggle with – social presence. The faces of those people were decidedly different when we all met together to say a final goodbye.

Hundreds gathered at her funeral to pay their respects. I was blown away by the audience when I read her eulogy. But despite that popularity, her date of birth is rarely marked. It feels bleak to contemplate how many people have forgotten her. I’d give up 1,000,000 messages from anyone for just one nod from a friend that remembered this is her day. Someone to hold a hand up and say ‘I remember with you’.

It’s no exaggeration that I miss her daily. Her picture is beside me now and she looks the way I like to remember her – busy, in her smart work clothes, smiling at the events going on around her. Relaxed. Happy. Unaware. Free from cancer.

I try desperately to teach our daughter about her, but I realise I’m forcing data onto a mind that isn’t ready. One day she’ll know and I’ll feel relieved that when I’m gone my own mum won’t be forgotten. Maybe one day she’ll show her kids the pictures and talk about what happened. How we all need to be careful. Look out for telltale signs. Don’t be afraid to speak up if something is wrong (or just doesn’t feel right).

Yes, mum left it too late. The cancer had spread and it took 9 months from diagnosis to death. She wasn’t even 60. She hadn’t retired. Her future plans were stolen and a million questions remain unanswered. Something else I don’t think I’ll ever be able to swallow.

So grief No. 1 is my own mum, who I watched drift away genuinely peacefully, while I disturbed that peace with my wails of disbelief and sorrow. I held her hand, I talked to her, I watched her fade away. It’s a haunting memory, a lasting sequence of events indelibly marked in my mind. Visions of the day, flashbacks of what I witnessed, are a regular occurrence. They are vivid and acutely painful. In 12 years that memory and the pain has never changed. In fact, I think it’s got worse.

It’s taken me years to accept I can’t undo what happened. I spent a long time thinking that there was a way to have her back, to hear her voice, to tell her I love her. But we are not immortal, despite my broken heart wishing desperately that were. The only immortality I’ve found exists in never-ending agony, infinite tears, and utter disbelief. I think of myself as being rational, but my grief is the opposite. It’s feisty, vindictive, and waiting around every happy, eventful corner.

Since she’s been gone, everything I’ve experienced has been greyed by her absence. Things she would have wanted to see or hear about. Events she would have been there for. The painful moments she would have held my hand through. My presence at her important moments, including this day, her birthday, when I would have sent her a card filled with glitter. The never-ending hoovering she had to endure to eradicate the carpet of sparkles made her laugh and frown in equal measure. I’d never send her a spec of glitter again if it meant she came back. For just 5 minutes.

That’s all I can say for now, but I wanted to leave a lasting message to her. A letter that will (hopefully) exist infinitely through the wonder of the thing she never got her head around – ‘the interweb’. 😂

One small note – be gentle with me over the poem – I am NOT a poet, I understand little about the form and have few ideas how to create anything that sounds profound and doesn’t rhyme. I realise it’s probably crass. I am learning about it and hope to improve, but for now, a limerick style ditty is all I could create. I know I’m not Keats, Wordsworth, or Kipling, but I also know she’d love that I tried. So here goes…

**********

To Mum,

I miss you and remember to love you every single day. My heart is still broken. My brain is still stuck. My future is blurred without you in it.

Luckily the stars ⭐⭐are still shining and they help me keep going.

Your granddaughter sends you her enormous heart ❤ with a kiss 💋. We talked about you at the weekend and I tried to explain things she didn’t quite get. But at the end of the conversation, when my heart and faith were both sagging and the weight of the incoming grief felt heavier than ever…she said she’d like to meet you, and managed to remember your name. We hugged and I held back tears, telling her she’d done a great job and made me incredibly happy.

I asked her, if she met a new Nana, what she’d like to say….and I was told, very precisely, to pass on the following…

“Hello, Bonjour, Konnichiwa. This is my house and this is my dog called Pepper.”

They are words and sentences she’s managed to learn at school. I’m proud she had a message for you and that I can pass it on in this way.

I wish you’d met her. You’re somewhere in the ether wishing the same, I know.

**********

A daughter’s message…

For many years, I caused you pain,
My career and skill, drunk down the drain,
From afar, you watched me grow,
Never knowing, my life of woe,
We grew apart, but never parted,
Long-distance love, is what we started,
Sunday evenings, my ear you chewed,
And I was nothing, short of rude,
But cancer made, my focus clear,
It became important, that we were near,
For months I helped, in desperation,
To pay you back, for the past frustration,
I didn’t know, and didn’t ask,
Your warmth and smile, was my only task,
One day you woke, your memory gone,
The stars didn’t shine, the days were too long,
I sat by your side, I held your hand,
I wish I’d done, a task more grand,
Your dying days, seemed very short,
But extra time, could not be brought,
I’ll not forget, but I’ll still cry,
I’ll struggle to remember, I’ll wonder why,
But most of all, awake at night,
The way you left, still gives me fright,
Our times gone by, should not feel sad,
So I repeat and share, the love we had,
My family now, you never met,
A daughter, a hunk, and our family pet,
Through my daughter, we both live on,
Our history, will not be gone,
So I love them dearly, to make you proud,
Replicating your love, as you watch from your cloud.

S Clark, 2022 – A daughter’s message

**********

If you got this far – congratulations and thank you. I just want to talk about the picture I’ve drawn here. I didn’t know how to memorialise this event with my Apple Pencil. In the end, I went with a style I love with some little nods to our history and happy lives together. I deliberately fixed every hidden mistake because I wish it was something I’d done for her while she was still on earth – clean up the messes I made. All of which I still feel terrible about.

Thank you for reading, thank you for persevering to this point, and thank you for being here, virtually, while I start shedding the annual tears. ❤👼

Published by stephc2021

Hi! I'm Steph, an amateur writer and illustrator specialising in Mental Health and being a self-confessed Spoonie. My website is home to any successful fiction I create, with stories that have won so far covering difficult subjects such as baby loss and mental health in grief as well as some funny and heart-warming tales when I get the inspiration. Every drawing and picture on my website was created by me. I spend a lot of time coming up with illustrations to accompany all of my posts and pages. I try to create original content across all of my channels, whether I'm writing about my own fiction or just generally musing on mental health or my own issues. I want to be part of the change because I believe the understanding of MH in the UK is getting better, but has a very long way to go. By being honest about my own struggles and symptoms I think others will relate and hopefully it will encourage them to talk to someone and get the help and support they need. Long term my goal is to help children too, help them understand their own mental health and how to help with the mental health of those around them. I live in the UK with my partner, daughter and dog, I swear frequently and I adore a well made, traditional, gooey, chocolatey, delicious brownie.

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