I’m glad I waited until today to write this, with our rapidly changing environment, we can’t be sure where the next 24 hours will take us. I have spent the last couple of months being reminded, everywhere I go, that this day was looming. It’s hard to ignore when businesses are cashing in on the long established tradition (not that i’m criticising anyone for this). Today is my third Mother’s Day as a mum and my first without a mum. Whilst a beautiful home made card and a little recognition of what I do instinctively is appreciated – I can’t help but feel deep sadness. The build up to this day has already brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion – and what a strange build up it has been to this point. Until recently, no-one could have foretold the situation we would all find ourselves in this Mother’s Day. Socially distancing from the most vulnerable, the very structure of how we live altered. I am slightly worried, not least because I have ‘at risk’ family members – including my grieving Dad – I also have a small business that supports the livelihood of not just my own family but some of my best friends and a toddler who is now missing out on spending time with her friends and family. On Thursday evening, we had to call 111 for Ruby (unrelated to the corona virus) and we couldn’t get through, of all the things that have worried me, this certainly caused the most concern.
Ruby and I have been enjoying our days together throughout these strange times in all the ways we usually do; reading, gardening, painting, having tea parties, playing doctors….the list goes on. There really is so much you can do at home, especially now the sunshine is out. We even did Ruby’s Saturday morning ballet class online yesterday and plan to do lots more online classes over the coming weeks. I am so grateful for the strong characters propping us up during these unprecedented times – NHS staff, carers, delivery workers, exhausted supermarket shelf stackers and public services. We must look out too, for businesses of character, your local independent gems that bring vibrancy to your town or city. How are they coping and how can we help? Whilst we slow down, our planet takes a deep breath. If we can take anything positive from all of this, I hope we all learn how to slow our pace a little, live more sustainably and mindfully – connected to our community.
If Mum had been alive now, these would most likely have been her last weeks, what a blessing it turned out to be, losing her in January. She would have been incredibly high risk and certainly isolated from her family and friends at an already impossibly heartbreaking time. She would have also been devastated that she couldn’t help the elderly clients that she cared for so fiercely in life. Being unable to offer that unquestioning hand of kindness would have been unbearable for her. It gives me faith to trust the process. Life is cyclical and we are most helpful when we are in a calm and submissive state. Worry is a way of projecting problems into the future and is ultimately pointless. I am learning (slowly) to live more presently and understand that there is no use at all in worry, notice your concerns and plan accordingly, don’t go down that neurotic route of examination that leads to a toxic relationship with life itself. Mum chose not to have treatment for her late stage of cancer, a decision that not only spared her months of additional suffering in hospital, but also saved her from suffering through these unparalleled times that are hitting the most vulnerable the hardest. I think from the day of diagnosis, deep down that was always Mum’s decision, don’t second guess your gut.
Mum died aged 56, decades before ‘her time’. She didn’t deserve to go through what she did but she did it with her family by her side. If I could speak to Mum today, I would want her to know one thing – how unbelievably loved she was and always will be. She is desperately missed and my heart aches when I think of her six grandchildren that will now miss out. I know this is what caused her the most pain. She had displayed subtle physical symptoms that something might not be quite right for years, from coffee not tasting right and terrible heartburn and lethargy after food, to more serious symptoms later down the line that were continually dismissed by doctors – a strange taste in her mouth, sickness, stomach pains and even a swollen liver. Over time she made lifestyle changes in a bid to improve these issues, like quitting caffeine and going vegetarian among other things. Mum was such a selfless person, a perfect example of always putting others first and I think she papered over the cracks, continuing to live as she always had – looking after others, both professionally and in her personal life. If she can teach me one thing that lasts, let it be forgiveness both for others and myself. We can be so hard on ourselves, even while we care for others and when I look at Mum’s life I see that pattern.
Before Mum died I didn’t really consider what made me truly happy. What my path might be – on a deeper level. Where was the conscious me meant to be heading in this form? Yes, I am aware that losing Mum has turned me into quite the ‘hippy’ – but so too has motherhood in honesty. These new connections to myself and others have been a vital part of this early healing process and in Mum’s own words “anything worth while doing, takes time to perfect.” I find this especially true on my journey towards self awareness. Cancer is so cruel but Mum never let it dampen her spirits completely and tried her best to not let it dampen ours. If I can impart half as much strength to Ruby as Mum did to us then I will have succeeded in that role. I see the same strength in my siblings and it is no coincidence. I’d like to think that after everything we have been through, we are quite prepared for life’s trials. I am reminded of a quote I read in India (I later found out it is from American evangelist, Billy Graham) – “When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.” Sometimes it is easy to feel like a part of us is missing – but even though Mum is gone in her physical form, part of her will always be within us and I feel an unbreakable connection to her.
Occasionally, I hear a song that reminds me of Mum – allowing for a moment of reflection, absorbing how it makes me feel and not hiding from it. This is how I will spend today. You spend so long disguising your sadness that sometimes you need a trigger to help you let go, even for just a few minutes before remembering that just because there are days that seem hopeless, it doesn’t mean all hope is gone. Sometimes, I just need to remind myself – I am anxious, my Mum died, I have a toddler who depends on me, a business and we are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. Nothing is certain. If ever it were normal to feel slightly over whelmed then this would probably be the time! Before going to bed last night, I looked at a picture Ruby had done for me and as the colours jumped from the page it really brightened my mood. That is love, finding inspiration in the smallest things, in human relationships, caring for one another, feeling brighter because for a few seconds in your day you looked outside of yourself – and it wasn’t all black.