This is usually the time of year when I write my happy Christmas message. I wish with all my heart that I could.
Some of you will know that my mum had been battling esophageal cancer for over a year now. It’s one of those that show almost no symptoms til the later stages, and it was more than shock to know that one day soon I would no longer be able to pick the phone up and hear her voice. Now that day is here, and it is far harder than I thought it would be.
I regret not seeing her one last time, that after I had made the decision to fly over for Christmas I wish I had just got on a plane.
I regret not telling her a million and one things, small and stupid things that I now cannot share with her, that mean nothing to anyone else but are the things that mothers and daughters share.
I am unbelievable sad that my kids will grow up without her steady presence in their life. That they got to share such a small time with her, even though I know it was always filled to the brim with love and laughter.
I find hard to imagine that one day I will sit in a church and watch my children get married and she will not be there to hold my hand and wipe tears away with me. That there will be a thousand moments to come where I will miss her beside me. That this loss is one I will never recover from, it will settle inside me and change me forever.
But I am lucky. I am lucky we got to go over in July, that she was there for Abi’s 7th birthday, I am lucky to have had her as my mother. I am lucky to have been loved, and supported and sacrificed for all my life. There was nothing too hard, nowhere to far and nothing too much as far as Mum was concerned. That’s one lesson I hope I will never forget. She loved her children with a fierceness only a mother can know. Even in my 30s woe betide my husband if he dared say anything harsh, even in jest.
She loved her grandchildren just the same, nothing was too much. She spoilt them horribly, filled my house with toys and a never ending stream of charity shop purchases. She loved buying them clothes and all they had to do is look at something twice and it was theirs. But more important than all of that was the time she gave. The countless games of shopping she played, puzzles she did and stories she read.
I remember the first trip back to the UK after we moved. The morning after we arrived I woke up pretty happy with the kids who had apparently slept through. On the way downstairs I passed my Mum looking like death. She told me she had got up with Abi and Jack at 4am and instead of sending them back to bed had taken them downstairs to read books and play games until the sun rose. Now she was going back to bed because if she didn’t she was going to vomit.
I remember our first Christmas in our Australian home she played Santa with Abi for an hour, the most boring, repetitive game that only a child can love. Abi lined up her little creatures and Mum played Santa, asking them what they wanted for Christmas and then having to think of things to give them. Every time they finished, Abi began again. I remember walking in, Mum rolling her eyes and telling me how boring this game was and she might well shoot herself if she had to play it again. Prompting Abi to ask if she would play again, and when I said maybe Grandma could have a break, Mum shhhhed me and went back to playing the world’s most boring game with her precious granddaughter.
The second thing my mother taught me was laughter. That’s what I remember most from my mum, laughter, usually silly and hysterical.
I remember her driving us round a roundabout 3 times because we were so busy singing she couldn’t remember which exit we had to take. The day someone cut her up on the road, and in an attempt not to swear she went for the harshest curse she could think of – to hope, with real venom, that his wheels fell off. I still use that and it always makes me smile.
I remember the day she tried to explain to her 13 year old daughter had to use a tampax, through a closed bathroom door. I can still remember lying on the floor struggling to breathe through the laughter and listening to her sniggering on the other side. Or with even more laughter, and a hell of a lot more pain I persuaded her to help me try home waxing.
I think the most important thing she taught me was to be grateful for everything I had, no matter how small. To find the joy in the smallest of things. She taught me that every time she pointed out creatures in the clouds, every time she found a reason to touch me as she passed. Because most of her childhood stories were filled with laughter and funny happenings. She filled my life with possibilities and told me every day how amazing I was, even and especially on the days I wasn’t.
There will be a hundred things I will never forget.
As a child realising my Mum must be one of the cleverest women because she could just look at a dog and know what kind it was. I still remember the awe I felt when she pointed out a dog and told me it was a Labrador, while I just saw it as a big yellow dog with a long tail. Actually even now I am still pretty confused between Labradors and retrievers. I might know a few more breeds but she can beat me hands down at car license plate word games, the ones where you try and make a word using all the letters in a license plate. Sometimes she would even be able to make a word where the first and third letters of the plate was the first and last letter of the word. She would have ruled on Countdown if she had ever bothered to go.
That she loved Dirty Dancing, couldn’t watch it without speaking the words, singing the songs and dancing where she sat. It drove me nuts. Her constant need to sniff me, which completely disturbed me until I had kids. Now I smell my kids every time I cuddle them. I am not sure if this is normal or something my odd mother taught me.
I remember lots of car journeys where she would reach back her hand to me in the car seat and I would sit forward and we would hold hands as Dad drove. Even as an adult she would do this, or sometime I would reach back to her. Part of me still hopes that if I put my hand behind me in the car I will feel her fingers touch mine.
I can remember as a child being appalled when she told me if she had to choose between saving my father and me while we were drowning, she would leave my Dad to drown without a second thought. Then I had kids, mum you were completely right, Jamie some swimming practice might be in order.
I will never be able to hear the words G and T without thinking of her, or pick a lemon from our tree without remembering the summer she decimated it. I cannot imagine going home knowing she will never enjoy the extension that they built onto our house. I know I will never be able to sit on the deck with my Dad and watch the kids playing without being constantly aware that she is not there beside us.
There are so many stories I have to tell of her, so many memories that fill my heart to breaking. This world is a far worse place for her passing, there is a little less kindness in it and a lot less craziness. Although there will be a lot more gin for everyone which might even things out as far as she is concerned.
So this year I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas. That it is the best Christmas you have had in a long time. That it is filled with lots of laughter, joy, family, good memories and love. So that even if for just one day we all take a moment to realise how truly blessed we are in this world, because that is how I feel to have had her in my life. Xxxx