Five years on

me and mum and dad at NMS

It’s five years to the day since my mum was suddenly ripped away from us, just like that, literally overnight. Day before planning holidays with dad, buying new luggage, looking forward to the break, the two of them about to enjoy their retirement together. Next day (or more accurately the small, dark hours of the night) and our world was pulled down around us shattering dad and I. I find it so hard to believe it is five years since I heard my mum’s voice, held her hand, had a kiss and a hug. Time heals all, as the dreadfully banal and bloody meaningless phrase goes. No, it doesn’t, not even close. You don’t get over events like that, ever. You try and get on, every day life – work, bills, illnesses – distract, friends help, my darling kitties were a great morale booster for me when I was in the dark places (alas no more though, all gone too), but it is always at the back of your mind, every single day and always will be.

Been home spending the day with my dear old dad, we took flowers up to mum’s grave, very upsetting for both of us, but we perked up later in the day then on the way to drop me off at the station to go home we visited my cousin’s home deliver chocolate eggs for his adorable girls, and we got plenty of hugs from them and lovely wee handmade Easter cards from the eldest and I felt much better.

Sadly some of that better mood evaporated just five minutes from home when three very young women stopped me in the street wanting to ask me something. I paused assuming they needed directions somewhere but oh no, it was the God-botherer squad asking me about coming to their meeting to accept the love of Jesus into my life. I said no rather curtly and tried to move on only to have them ask again – these idiots are so blinded by how right they and their mission is they can’t accept a no or leave alone (indeed so arrogant they assume it is fine to go up to total strangers about such matters). And my patience snapped and I rounded on them, told them I had just returned from laying flowers on my mother’s grave on the fifth anniversary of her being suddenly taken from us, that she was a believer but their bloody god didn’t seem to care about taking her before her time, so frankly their god, if by some incredibly unlikely eventually he did exist, can kiss my arse because he is clearly a swine and no friend to me.

They started with sorry and we didn’t know sort of lines missing the point – they stop complete strangers in the street and they don’t know what is in that person’s head, they could be approaching someone who is grieving deeply, someone who is devoutly Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or any other faith who would be deeply offended by some 19 year old smilingly telling them why they know better than they what they should believe, they could even be stopping someone who has been abused by a member of the clergy (certainly enough of those) and for whom religious questions bring up dreadful memories. And yet they are so blindly arrogant in their belief and how right they are and that they should tell everyone else that they stop us in the street and even come round uninvited to our homes. I saw them return to the American style church that set near me a few years back, I’ve had these arrogant sods round knocking on all the doors in our blocks with this nonsense too and it never occurs to them they may be wrong, that someone else may know their own mind better. I don’t go into their gathering place to explain why I think their beliefs are silly, or point out that a little historical reading shows many components of their ‘word of god’ were borrowed from other, much older belief systems and that other parts of this supposedly sacred text were edited out in early church history so how can you trust any of it? No, I leave them to it, it’s their lives and beliefs, I have no problem with them pursuing it, but I do object to this blind arrogance that compels them to keep trying to tell others – uninvited and unwanted, I should add – that they should be believing as they.

Normally I just walk away from such idiots, but when they wouldn’t accept no I really couldn’t hold my tongue and frankly I think they deserve someone they stop asking them where the hell their god was when my mum needed him? And unlike me she did believe. Maybe they should consider why good, loving people get taken too early and uncaring, vile people get to live to a ripe old age so often, instead of just spouting what they have been told without actually considering it properly. Then again these evangelicals aren’t much on questioning… I object to these people stopping me in the streets of my own neighbourhood or coming around uninvited to my front door at any time, but today of all days I was in no mood for their unthinking, self righteous fairy tale nonsense. Perhaps those girls will think twice next time they approach someone – should we do it, we don’t know what that person is going through, perhaps we might upset them rather than help them – but I fear they won’t, because they are so sure they are on a sacred mission. And anything they do for that mission that upsets others as they upset me at a very emotional time is okay, they will be forgiven because it was for the Good and therefore they bear no moral responsibility for it.

I did feel like saying this is Easter so why doesn’t your god perform the resurrection miracle once more and give me back my mother, knowing they have no answer to that, but I was tired and upset by them by then and instead I just walked away.

Happy birthday, mum

mum and dad at NMS

I’m trying very hard not to think how today I should be hearing my mother’s delighted voice, so happy with the flowers I always got her for her birthday. What mum doesn’t like getting flowers from her wee boy, even if that wee boy is a little larger these days? Passage of time doesn’t really make it any easier – the old addage of time healing all wounds is a fiction. You find yourself distracted increasingly by the day to day of mundane life but you never forget and the pain never really leaves you, especially when you didn’t just lose someone but had them taken from you so suddenly. And of course certain dates are harder to bear than others – like the birthday of a loved one you lost, anniversaries, the date you lost them on. And Christmas doesn’t bloody help either. It should be mum’s birthday today, then Christmas, then my birthday, then New Year and each of those dates hammers in the fact that she isn’t here with us where she should be and it’s oh so bloody hard for me and I know even harder for my dear dad. Happy birthday, mum, we love you so much and miss you more than I can put into words.

me and mum and dad at NMS

That evil day

Sad to say but today marks the third anniversary of my wonderful mum being so suddenly ripped away from us, just like that. How can it be three years already? How can you have been gone three year, mum? I’ve been doing my best to try not to dwell on it all day, not helped by losing my lovely wee Dizzy cat earlier just this week and my gorgeous big Pandora puss a few weeks back – my furry girls have been a very important part in keeping me going and keeping my morale up since this vile day burned itself into my life and twisted the way I view the world ever after and losing them just makes it that bit harder to deal with it. If indeed you ever really do deal with this kind of thing, I don’t think most of us do, we get buried into the complexities of everyday life so it lies at the back of our minds rather than dominating it as it did when fresh, but we never really deal with, never really accept it.

Dad was through with my Uncle Evan today, they often make use of their free bus passes to go galavanting around Scotland each week so today they came through to Edinburgh and as it was windy and rainy we went off to go around the National Museum of Scotland – amazingly my uncle had never been to it. As luck would have it we caught the last few days of the Lighthouses exhibition they had on – I had been meaning to go along to it for ages and clean forgot about it with recent events, so it was good to catch it before it ended, fascinating history. Among the exhibits were several huge Fresnel lenses, which have always fascinated me since I was a boy (and indeed lighthouses too, always amazed me how they could build such things in the teeth of huge waves and storms), beautiful engineering in light and glass to pierce the dark night. I think it did dad and I both good to be out and about on this day, helped us a bit and hey, I even got an interesting photo out of it – if you look closely you can even see both me and dad reflected in this gigantic representation of the prism:

reflections and refractions 01

Happy birthday, mum

It should be my mum’s birthday today. She should be here with us and delighting in the flowers I always arranged to have delivered to her. I’m trying my best not to dwell on it, but it’s bloody hard. She should be with us and she’s not, she was ripped away from us. I don’t think I’ll ever really come to terms with that. I miss her every day and I worry about hard it must be for my dad.

I’m trying not to dwell on it, but of course it wells up. I’ve planned ahead a little and made sure I don’t need to spend free time doing extra work as I often do of an evening. And I’ve picked up one of my favourite films cheap recently and kept it aside especially for tonight: Singing in the Rain. It’s very difficult for the Black Dog of depression and despair to get it’s foul smelling fangs into you when you have Gene Kelly singing and dancing with that wonderful, big smile of his. I think I’m going to try and ignore most everything else and go and watch my film.

Happy birthday, mum, I love you, always.

Anniversary

Today should be mum and dad’s anniversary. It’s peculiar and quite depressing how a date once wrapped in happier memories becomes a slow, heavy weight on your heart as time goes on. Switched on the TV to try and distract myself a bit and what’s on but a Buffy repeat and it just happens to be the one where she is coping with the sudden death of her mother. Oh thank you, universe, that’s really what I needed to see this morning. Couple of things I can do later so I think I will take myself out to do something. I love you both so much, mum and dad, always.

a damned date

I’ve been trying my best all day to distract myself with music, comedies on the radio and work, trying to keep my mind off the damned date. I’ve grown to loathe this date, I’d cut it from every calendar on the planet if it would make a difference, but it wouldn’t. It’s exactly two years since mum was ripped away from us, just like that and nothing’s really felt right since.

Happy birthday, mum

Today should be my mum’s birthday. I should be hearing her delight at the flowers I always get her for her birthday, instead on a cold, misty winter day dad and I are taking flowers to her grave. I still don’t understand why she isn’t here, I don’t understand how someone you love so much can be ripped away from you just like that. Why is her name on a bloody cold stone?? The world without her I don’t care for; it feels like nothing has really gone well since we lost her, just seems to be one thing after another, more strain, more bad things, even someone who was so important to me letting me down very badly and always just under the surface the raw hurt of having her taken from us. There are honestly some days when if it weren’t for dad and taking care of the mogs I really wouldn’t care if I went to sleep and never woke up again. I don’t see anything in the future to inspire me or encourage me and it feels like just waiting for the next bad thing to happen all the time and that really isn’t much reason to keep going on, makes you wonder why bother.

is that a year?

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.

ahhh, Paris je t’aime

This time exactly a year ago I would have been sitting at pavement table in a brasserie in the Latin Quarter of beautiful Paris. I think that was the last time I can remember being really happy, blissfully unaware of what was waiting for me just a few weeks down the road. I don’t mean I’ve been sitting around in sackcloth and ashes since we lost mum, I’ve gone out, I’ve done things and even laughed, but its all like little distractions and the great, dark centre is always there waiting and not a day goes past that it doesn’t hit me like a hammer a dozen times and I don’t feel like I’m really me anymore or will be again, just someone who looks like I used to, going through the motions. And Paris has become larger in my head, not just because I love the city and its culture (of the two places I would most like to live in the whole world one is Paris, the other is right here in Edinburgh) but because it is that last time when I felt so freely happy and with what happened so soon afterwards Paris has come to mean something more to me emotionally, a precious space where everything was still alright. Which probably sounds daft but its what I feel. Oh to be back not only in Paris but in that happy space instead of feeling like I’m going to fall apart endlessly through each, long day.

Rue Vavin and brasserie

birthdays

Its my birthday today, my age clicking over in time with the ending of the year. I’ve never cared much for my birthday, always feels sort of squeezed in there as everyone darts around getting ready for New Year and this year I can be bothered even less with it. Dad warned me that my card was one mum picked up ages ago – she had the habit of seeing something she thought perfect for someone for a birthday, Christmas etc and she’d get it then and put it aside, often months and months in advance (or even years – one of my cousins doesn’t know it but she had put aside a certain something for her to be given on an upcoming special occasion, its just sitting there ready). So I opened the card today and there it is signed love mum and dad. And I felt as if someone hit me in the chest with a sledgehammer and that was me out of it for quite a while. I’d much rather have it than not, of course, but it was still bloody hard and I was struggling already (birthday is bad enough but New Year is often depressing at the best of times). The last birthday card I will ever have signed by both my wonderful parents. Goodbye 2008 – you started so well, with the promise of a trip to Paris and I was very happy. Then you became the worst year of my life and I don’t even remember half of it going past because even when I think I am functioning okay I don’t think I am and am still running on autopilot a lot of the time. Go away 2008, you’re not welcome here anymore, although somehow I doubt 2009 will make me feel any better. I no longer want the future.

Christmas

Its been a pretty mixed Christmas for me and dad this year, as you can imagine. The normal opening of the presents on Christmas morning was pretty subdued without mum being there. Even little things like signing Christmas cards had been especially hard for my dad; I knew that before he said, as soon as I opened my card from him the other week there I felt a terrible pang because I knew right away how much it would have hurt him to be signing those cards from him and not from him and mum. Life is full of once absolutely normal activities and rituals like signing cards that are now tipped with barbs which dig in and remind us sharply of our loss and its worse for my dear dad. We took up Christmas wreaths to the cemetery for mum and also to her brother, the Comrade, which was terribly hard.

I know some folks say don’t put yourselves through the wringer like that, but its impossible not to go. We did our best though and dad made a huge effort in the kitchen, with my cousin and her hubby over for dinner as they usually are. Obviously not on a par with the cooking and baking mum created (which was outstanding) but we did our best and had a good meal and a decent afternoon and evening drinking and chatting away. Very mixed day, as I say, it wasn’t all sadness, we had good moments, but everyday there’s something which gets us and at this time of year its far more pronounced.

Christmas

I don’t think I have ever looked forward to a Christmas less than I do this year, it drives further home the stark fact that mum isn’t there with us. Its not hard to see why so many people suffer depression at this time of year.