This month has been hard in the lead-up to the first anniversary of my mum’s death. It’s been a strange year too.
The void is wide, the memories keep me going but I miss her more than the following words could ever adequately express.
I decided to write a letter to Mum as it helps me to write freely. This is also a letter for all those who no longer have their mums around. It’s a unique and painful club to be part of. The price of membership is far too high.
A Letter to Mum on the First Anniversary of Her Death
It’s such a cliché to ask where the time has gone, especially as a writer, and yet, I ask it. Never has a year felt so slow and so fast at the same time.
Each day that passes takes you further away as a once living being. Each day that passes strengthens the very best memories I have of you. It’s a kind of trade-off, not the one I’d choose, but cancer gave me no choice.
From the moment that bastard thing took over your life, it tried to prise us apart. It didn’t reckon on dealing with the fighter in you. I am so proud of you for looking cancer square in the eye and telling it that you weren’t going down without a fight.
Battle, you most certainly did. Thank you for holding on so long. I saw what it was costing you towards the end when you became frail.
I am bursting with pride knowing my mum was so courageous. When I feel scared or worried I always think of you and how you fought. You give me the strength to keep on keeping on, particularly through this grief.
The world is different now. Reminders of mothers are everywhere. Mother’s Day just about did me in. I guess the firsts of anything after you’re gone will do that. That’s why today, 15th July, is so hard.
I don’t feel guilty about carrying on with life. I know you’d have hated for me to give up. You saw me in some of my worst times and I know it hurt you. For you to know that your death caused me to stop taking part in life would pain you.
I realise it’s not a coincidence that I started writing my novel two months after you died. That novel has felt like a love letter to you. It’s not that it’s about you, although you were my original council estate mum and provided me with enough material to write many books.
I wrote it, revised, edited, sent it to beta readers, and am getting it in place for publication as a dedication to you. Your death showed me that time is never on our side. We need to grasp opportunities while we can.
Life has changed in some ways. When changes have happened, such as moving into a new house, my heart hurts a little to think you’ll never see it. With each new thing that comes along I’m reminded that you will never know about it.
There have been times, even recently, when I’ve thought to call you to tell you about something. The sudden realisation that I will never speak to you again makes me feel like you’ve died all over again. I feel like I cannot breathe for the incredible squeezing grip upon my heart.
There is a mum-shaped hole in my life. There have been things that I have needed to talk to you about. Sometimes only your mum will understand or relate. Those are the times when I wonder if I can keep going. For you, I do.
Grief is a strange business. It’s no longer feral and raw but when it hits, it hits hard. Little things hit me. Recently, I was sorting through my wardrobe and found a cardigan you gave me. It still smelt of you. The smell brought me literally to my knees. I hugged that cardigan as if I would feel it hugging me back. I wanted you to fill that empty cardigan again. Tears came and I never thought they would stop.
Thank goodness for the husband. I know you found peace knowing I have him. It took me some time to get there but I found a good one and you knew it.
I’m so glad you spent time with him too. It’s important to me that he knew who you were and had a relationship with you. It makes it easier to talk about you and for him to soothe me in the tougher moments.
I sometimes look at the picture of us where I’m sitting on your knee and you’ve got your arms around me. I must be about five-years-old. You hated that picture because you were at your heaviest. I don’t see a large woman. I see someone who protected, loved, and had my back, even when I didn’t realise it. I look at that photo and the smile on my face shows that I was right where I wanted to be; with my mum.
We had some hard times. We are/were both stubborn and that sometimes brought out the worst in us.
I have regrets and feel guilt for some things. I have questions I wish I could ask you. There’s no way of doing that now. We built a bridge of forgiveness anyway. I’m so glad of it now and wish I hadn’t spent so much time away from you when I was younger and thought I knew best.
I still don’t quite know how to negotiate the world without you in it. You were a mainstay who has disappeared and set me adrift. I thought when you died I’d fall away too, for the sheer pain. Somehow I remained. I guess I’m more like you than I thought.
My heart hurts as I write this letter to you. Nothing I say feels like it’s even close to expressing how wretched I feel inside at you not being here. I know none of us can make sense of death but this is a confusing blow.
The dynamics around me have altered and some things have changed beyond recognition. I wish you were still here so I’d know the familiarity of that old life. I don’t know where I fit in now that former existence has gone. You were the linchpin and a force to be reckoned with.
Thank you for loving me in your way. Thank you for being you. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of that fight against cancer, right from the fears before the first diagnosis. It was a privilege to do so and witness what true bravery is. I wish I’d had the ability to annihilate it for you.
Remember how I held your hand even beyond your last breath? It almost destroyed me to walk out of that room and never see you again but now I know I haven’t let go. That hand may not be resting in mine, but Mum, you have a hold on my heart no-one could wrench free.
I’ll always hold on to you.
Your heartbroken but so very proud daughter, Lisa xxxx