I stood in the kitchen in my dressing gown waiting for the kettle to boil. As the water bubbled and burst its way to a crescendo I noticed a light sensation on my cheek: an eyelash that had decided to make a break for it during the night. I picked it up idly with my index finger, held it to my lips and blew, setting it free.
‘I wish that Mum gets better’
A moment later – less than that – the horrible realisation, again, that Mum isn’t going to get better. Mum has gone. She’s never coming back.
These past few months have been beyond difficult. Trying to come to terms with such a strong, energetic, youthful and special person being ill was bad enough. No-one wants to see someone they love face major surgery; to visit them afterwards and see them bandaged and bruised but trying with all their might to be brave. No-one wants to experience the trauma of radiotherapy, either first hand or at the side of someone they adore. They warn you of the side-effects, of course, and how it may be, but nothing can really prepare you. But you face all this, go through all this, hoping beyond hope that it will all make a difference and that it will make them better. Back to normal. And life can go back to normal.
But sometimes it doesn’t work out like that. They’re gone – she’s gone – but life goes on. Children need feeding and entertaining, employers reach the end of their sympathy quota and contact from concerned friends and extended family starts to wane. They’re busy – I understand that – and there’s nothing to say that hasn’t already been said a thousand times.
It’s been three months now, and we’re adjusting to the new normal, if not graciously accepting it. Life without her in our lives is hard. It’s the small things that affect me most, like when Little Boy outgrows a top she bought for him and I know that she will never buy any other clothes for him (something she loved to do). I want to tell her that he’s learning to read and write, that he’s got some new jokes and that he was so kind to the new girl at nursery the other day. I want her to see Little Girl with her hair in a ponytail, to watch her dancing around the kitchen and chatting away to her brother like a child six months older. She’d be so proud.
There’s a jar of jam that she made for me that sits in my fridge, unfinished. It’s plum and walnut with a little orange peel. It’s absolutely delicious and there’s only enough left to brighten up a single slice of toast. I don’t think I will ever bring myself to eat it because I know that there is no more where that came from. It’s too sad to contemplate.
I haven’t visited her grave yet. Somehow I can’t bring myself to, even though I’m often less than a five-minute walk from it. I don’t need to be there to feel close to her because I feel close to her all the time and think about her constantly. She may not be here, but I can hear her sometimes, advising me and pointing me in the right direction. Every time I’m contemplating missing out a key ingredient in a recipe, thinking about whether to buy something new for the kids or wondering whether to do some more work or take a break, I know exactly what she would say. Don’t miss out the ingredient, do buy them something and give yourself a rest. She’d also tell me to learn to make the jam myself. And if I follow her guidance, and her recipes, I can’t go far wrong.