It’s been 454 days, or 1 year 2 months 27 days, since I last saw my mum. Today isn’t a special occasion; not an anniversary or birthday, or worst of them all, Mother’s Day. No, today is an ordinary day and it’s on ordinary days that I miss my mummabear the most.
I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve attempted to make myself sit down to write about my feelings and thoughts about last year. I didn’t want to lose these in the myriad of life’s memories; in all the bad and good experiences that I’ve made in her absence, wishing she was here for me to tell them to. I haven’t been able to write anything remotely close to the topic until today. After all, writing about death is hard.
If you asked me to write about the 6 weeks in-between finding out that she had cancer to that last day in hospital where she waited for me and my dad to arrive before passing after having been in a coma and non-responsive for the past 5 days – if you asked me to write about this and everything in between, I don’t think I could. To be honest, given my memory, I thought I would have forgotten how those 6 weeks felt by now. The fear, the hope, the anger, the guilt, the anxiety; oh god, the anxiety of not knowing when your mother was going to stop breathing – wishing the pain you knew she was experiencing but not showing was yours instead, not understanding why she wouldn’t talk anymore. Anxiety was by far the worst feeling to have because it lasted the longest. Those 6 weeks tested every fibre of my being and I don’t think I can ever forget how it felt.
I have an innate ability to control my emotions. It’s been conditioned by my personal experiences, my tolerance, my character of always wanting to be there for my friends during their highs and lows but preferring not to exude anything other than positivity around others. Bad memories get internalised, stored in a far away place and eventually forgotten. In other words, I’m stubborn and avoid giving the time of day to things that upset me. It irritates those close to me sometimes and fascinates those not so close to me. I guess it’s just how I deal, and there’s not much I can do to change that because it works for me.
I think I cried more when I broke up with one of my ex-boyfriends years ago than when my mum passed. This, of course, isn’t a testament of the extent to how much I loved those individuals but how much I’ve grown up since. I’ve never been much of a crier, but even less so now. I remember coming home that night after a long drive back, going straight to my room and sitting at my desk with a box of tissues attempting to suppress my wailing to pathetic whimpers to not wake my parents. Alas, mum’s seem to have a sixth sense of knowing when you’re lying or when something is wrong so she came into my room, saw the blubbering mess that I was and proceeded to hug me, wipe my tears away and tell me that everything would be ok. These are the kind of memories that I have with my mum, because she’s not defined by the last 6 weeks of her life. She is going to be defined as being the toughest, most caring and generous woman that I am so proud to have grown up with. She carried a beautiful reassuring aura that attracted flocks of people towards her. She’s not perfect but she loved me perfectly.
You know how they say traumatic events in your life change you? Make you a better person, maybe, or give you a newfound purpose like some enlightening? That didn’t happen for me. Other than feeling numb and a bit reckless for a while, I don’t think I changed. I’m still trying to be a better person everyday; a better daughter, a better friend, a better fighter, a better companion. The path doesn’t just split once something bad happens, it widens and presents more opportunities with your broader range of perception and mindset.
Last year after the event it made me uncomfortable for people to tiptoe around me and watch their words. Now, it makes me uncomfortable at the awkwardness that eventuates after someone asks me a question about my family, finds out, and says “I’m sorry about your mum”. I know it’s the ‘right thing’ to say under the circumstances, but instead of zooming past the topic like the plague, ask about her. Ask how she influenced my life, ask about how much I used to annoy her, ask about how much she annoyed me when I took her on a holiday to Japan and Korea, ask about how she always hugged me but I didn’t return them properly because I was too ‘grown up’ (so stupid), ask about the last 6 weeks, ask about anything. I seldom talk about my mum, but if we’ve stumbled across it somehow then let’s stay there for a little while. Saying sorry is sympathetic, but it doesn’t really translate as sympathy when it’s left at that.
It keeps her alive for me.
I miss her, she was my best friend and I wish everyday that the last time I saw her wasn’t when I was reading her eulogy. But, I am okay and I will continue to be. Move past sorry.