All Real Talk
Joe Bartholomew  

Unexpectedly Facing Grief

Trigger Warning – This post talks frankly about losing my mum

It’s mum’s birthday today and this always comes with such a mix of emotions.  Most years I try to ignore it and stay away from socials in case anyone posts any pictures, but today feels different for some reason… possibly as I’ve got a stinking cold and am in a complicated season of life.  I watch close relatives celebrate their loved ones who are no longer with them, but I’ve never been able to do this.  I lost someone unexpectedly when I was young and maybe this is why I find it hard to mark anniversaries in this way.  I love the idea of choosing flowers to honour those I’ve lost, but I know it’s beyond me… and that’s okay.  I forgive myself for being peculiar.

Thankfully there is no graveside to visit as we still have mum with us in Ascot, soon to be coming to the lake house.  I’ve never been able to let her go – maybe one day if I ever go to Hawaii I’ll feel compelled to scatter her ashes as that was the one place on earth she was desperate to visit but never took the opportunity… but maybe not even then.  Thankfully Debbie has accepted this weirdness of mine and understands that something broke in me when we lost mum, and that break needs to remain protected for now.  If it hadn’t been for Debbie taking control I don’t think we’d have had a funeral – I couldn’t even read the order of service, never mind contribute to it  – although I’m hoping she’s forgiven me for walking out of the first funeral home appointment we attended!  And producing a huge knife from a box at the council offices when we went to file a certificate will continue to be a highlight, how the Police weren’t called I’ll never know… we both have a dark sense of humour and can laugh about this moment now!

Mum was not the best parent to me, she’d be the first to admit it, but my goodness she was the best granny to Faith.  When Faith was born, the minute she set eyes on her, she fell in love and a part of her previously hidden was brought to life.  She adored Faith.  I remember her telling me it was like she was having a love affair she loved her so much.  She needed to see her every day, just see her, and then she’d be happy, she’d have got her dose of love.  She hugged Faith tight and told her she was loved, every time she was with her.

I promised I would never raise our daughter the way I was raised, and I’ve kept to that, but I’ve made multiple mistakes along the way in trying to do it better.  I hope Faith doesn’t have to stand in a card shop trying to find one that doesn’t say ‘You are the best mum I could have wished for’… yes, that was me every year, hard as it is to admit now.  But if there was a card that said ‘loved beyond measure’ or ‘to a mum who is loved dearly’, that would have been snapped up.  Not for a second did we have to hover at the’ Best Granny in the world’ cards, there was never one that was good enough or expressed as much as we felt, so she would often get two cards from us on her birthday.

Within a year of Faith being born mum suffered a medical accident while doctors saved her life from heart failure, an overdose of warfarin, which caused her to develop multiple open ulcers on her legs… the pain of which she suffered with from that day on.  I believe she would not have made it past that year if she hadn’t loved Faith the way she did.  The desire to be with Faith kept her with us for another ten years.  The love mum and I shared for each other those last years was profound and I’ll be forever grateful to have loved, cared for and laughed with, such a wonderful person.

Today I’m allowing myself to open the box of memories just a chink, more than that is too painful as I’ve never dealt with the trauma of losing her the way we did, but I’ve sat for a few hours now and looked at pictures and videos (that was hard) and remembered who she became to me and how blessed I was to have experienced her as a whole, complete, loving person.

It brings me peace to imagine mum in heaven today, in a well body, having a few whisky and cokes with Betty, Ann and Olive, fighting over the mic at karaoke and having a jive.

She was a complicated woman, and blimey I know I take after her in that way, but mum knew how much her family loved her – she knew she would always be loved and looked after, and that fills me with peace.

Quite why I feel the need now, many years later, to write this publicly I have no idea.  Maybe I’m healing, although it doesn’t feel like it.  Or maybe someone reading needs to know that some mother/child relationships can have a bad start and yet, somehow, a beautiful ending. 

Happy birthday mum – I love you still x

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