I promised boxes, so here’s a story about unpacking boxes…
I started writing this blog post after my first supper alone at my new house. I cooked the one and only dish I am confident at making – an omelette…and sat at my new shiny breakfast bar, with a glass of wine and a record of mum’s playing and just stared at my dining room. It was the first moment I truly felt able to ‘see’ my home. I had the most powerful sense of being totally and utterly without mum. There was a silence in the world that I couldn’t begin to explain. There I sat, in my new kitchen, looking at mums piano, mums dining room table, mums lamp, eating off her plates…and it was all in my house that she will never ever see. I felt like I had taken these things away from her. Suddenly everything looked profoundly different. Moving house is a momentous thing at any time. Moving house without your mum, and yet, because you have lost your mum is momentous in a completely different way.
I moved back to my family home – mums house – shortly before she died so that I could be there to look after her…and I stayed there with my brother and some friends from the moment she died. The first weeks following her death, the house had become such a comfort that I found it almost impossible to go outside. Selling it and moving out was heart wrenching. But it was necessary and right. The heart wrenching thing about it was that mum was so embedded in the house…she was in every nook and cranny…most of my memories of her were there…for friends and family too…so leaving that house felt like I would be leaving her behind. And I have to say in many ways I was. Of course I have realised having left the house that mum is with me wherever I go…she is in my heart and memories and words and actions…but as I have unpacked each little trinket of hers, and placed a chair she sat on in a new corner of my new house, I realise that a great part of her, my memory of her, has gone…or been left behind and I am absolutely alone now…I can no longer comfort myself with a dinner party at home imagining the times mum was there…because the place I am in now she has never seen and never will. I now exist in a place that she doesn’t know and wouldn’t recognise. Its like I have transcended her in some way, or transcended what she knows of me. I have taken the first biggest step in life without my mum and I can’t untake it, I can never go backwards. This is it. This is life. There is no solution. There is nothing that can fix it. I just have to bear it. So I am.
In other news, some of you have kindly asked for updates on Mary. Well, we’re still exploring the new territory of accepting terminal illness. She longs for the days when she was up and about all day every day, never stopping, shopping, cleaning, washing. It made me realise how much I had assumed that getting old would feel natural for everyone…that old people would be OK with the fact they can do less, would easily slide into old age and the slowness that comes with it.
Hearing Mary’s frustrations at not being able to simply get out of a chair without huge effort was a necessary reminder of how lucky I am. As she says herself, at least she’s made it to old age. Sadly, its not just old people who cant do these things. I have been reading the blog written by the most inspiring girl my age, who died on 1st May. She was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma last September and wrote a blog about her last few months alive. The last blog she wrote before she died is a great kick up the butt for us all. She talks, like Mary, about not being able to stand, or sit without aggravation, about staring at photos of her when she was young and wishing she hadn’t been so hard on herself. I urge you to read it.
As she says, “live, love and don’t be sorry.”