Its exactly one year today from the worst day of my life. Is it really a year? How can it be a whole year that my wonderful mum’s not been in this world with us? I’ve not felt this year go past; I know as we get older we all say how quickly time seems to pass, but this was different, it went past, much of it acting on autpilot. I miss her so much it hurts every day, its like the phantom ache of a lost limb. I hurt more thinking about my dad and how much it hurts him. I see bad people on the news every night and wonder why they get to live when she was taken away so early from us. She and dad should be enjoying their retirement time together, hand in hand. Life just seems a lot emptier and colder now and I feel permanently scared, something I never felt before. I’m worried and scared all the time, waiting for something else to happen, constantly worried about my dad. Losing anyone is so very hard but losing them suddenly can leave you in an even more vulnerable place, it shocks your sensibilities to see how swiftly someone so precious to you can just be taken away, it leaves you wondering what next and why you struggle to get through each day, what the point is.
And I know its also selfish – its so easy to be wrapped up in your own grief that you forget others are going through it. Mum already has far too many new neighbours by her plot, some family is going through that pain every single day. Some of my very dear, lifelong friends are coping with seriously ill parents right now. And I know in a perverse way that the grief and pain is almost an indicator of good fortune – its in direct response to the love my mum brought us and I know there are some who don’t feel this pain and despite appearances I know actually I’m still luckier than them because they never had this love to lose and how horrible that must be never to have known what that’s like, to be completely enveloped by love and warmth like that. I had that and there are too many who never did, there are too many kids who never get that love and care to grow up with.
The minister who gave the service spent quite a bit of time with the family listening to us to get a sense of mum. A few days before the service I wrote to him about her. The words weren’t meant to be read out, it was just maybe to help him for the funeral service, but in the event he decided to read it all out in the church. I don’t know where the words came from, I really don’t know how I even managed to think or type that dreadful week and looking at it now its not what I’d have chosen to be read out, I’d have done more to it if I could, but perhaps that’s the point, that I didn’t re-write and edit and polish it, its just words pouring out, so to honour mum I’m reprinting it here:
“We’ve all, friends and family, been talking endlessly about my mum in the last few days and among some memories which made us laugh, even at this time, the one aspect of her which came up constantly was that she always tried to be there for everyone, whether it was nursing my papa, Michael or taking care of some of newest members of our extended family to let the new parents catch a breath. And every one of us could give a catalogue of times she was there to support us, from physically taking care of us when we needed it to the simple wee touch of a phone call before a big college exam saying good luck and I love you. But the single biggest thing my mum did for any of us was also the simplest – she hugged us and loved us. Of all the many ways people have to communicate to each other the simplest is touch – a hand held, a pair of arms holding you. Its the simplest but its the most powerful and its the most wonderful; there isn’t a member of our family from child to adult who hasn’t benefited from a hug from Pat Gordon when they needed it. And not just the family, I know there are plenty of friends here today who have had those arms wrapped round them in their lives. That simple act is remarkable – another person touching you, holding you, their warmth enfolds you, you feel their heart beating and know it is just like yours. You know they can’t wave a magic wand and make all the bad things in life go away, but you also know that as they hold you they’re saying I can give you shelter from those bad things, if only for a few moments my arms will be a harbour you can rest in. That simple act is saying something very, very precious in our world – its saying someone cares about others. We’ve been so lucky to have that all our lives and even now that love expressed so readily is holding us up when we feel like we’re going to fall.
Our family has always embraced it – I know some folks aren’t so comfortable with it, but we all are and its part of what keeps us going and keeps us together. Its a simple act but when we do it we show we care and when we do that we do something astonishing, we make the world just a little better. In my mum’s name and in my dad’s because I can’t think on one without the other, I’d like to ask you to do one thing for her now, before we leave. Would you please turn to the people next to you, family, friend or someone you don’t know, and give them a wee hug. Because its one of the most wonderful things in the whole, wide world we can do for each other and because I know she would want us all to.”
I keep trying to remember her warmth and love and how it made me feel. They say that all of life is a desperate need to go back to the warmth and security of the womb, but really, who remembers that? I can’t speak for others, but for me its always been more that magical feeling of being a very young boy, walking between your mum and dad, holding your hands and just knowing at some deep level that you were utterly loved and at that age there was no problem big enough that your mum and dad couldn’t solve it. The boy in me still remembers that warmth, the man in me misses it terribly but is sadly happy to have had that warm childhood and all the other years. Then you grow up and often they say that’s a hard time when you realise that your parents aren’t heroes and magical, they’re just ordinary folks who make mistakes just like you. I never really felt that; actually realising they were fallible human beings just like me but they did so much within those human flaws to make me better, to make our family better, that made me love them even more. I’m trying hard to remember that, but far too much of life looks very grim and frightening now and its difficult to find reasons to keep moving on when you don’t feel like there’s much to look forward to. And that ‘time heals all’ phrase, that’s nonsense, it doesn’t heal anything, it doesn’t make anything easier, it just means you are older and wondering why.
I wish I could put it more eloquently, I wish I could phrase what’s inside me with more care, but what it really, simply comes down to is I love her and I want my mum. And I don’t get that ever again and that just doesn’t stop hurting. Her name’s on a bloody stone and I hate it, she should be here with us and I still don’t understand why she isn’t, I still don’t know why the world took her away from us like that.