Tuesday, 27 May 2014

One year on from everything changing

My sister, Mum and me
backstage at Plumpton Pantomime 
Dave pointed out this morning that today is the one year anniversary of us buying our caravan, the second momentous event in a very short space of time last May that led to Dave and I completely changing our lives. The first, as you may or may not already know, was my Mum dying as a result of lung cancer just the week before. I don't remember much about this time last year. Although we were all well prepared and it was a relief to know her suffering had ended, I must still have been in shock for a lot of the time.

The 18th of May was the anniversary of Mum's death. My sister, her husband and I commemorated the day by going to +Blackberry Farm with my niece and her young friend, and a couple of adult friends, one of whom has a young son. It was nice to be all together and the Farm is the perfect place for kids, especially as it was a hot sunny day, but I didn't really feel any connection to Mum. She would have enjoyed the family day out, but we had never been there with her.

By sad coincidence, Mum's birthday is the 25th of May, just a week later. I found the day this year more emotional than the anniversary and had a couple of wobbly moments. I texted my sister and my Dad, and Dave was very supportive when I needed him to just be there. My sister had said that at least we'd already coped with The Birthday last year and I suppose I did but it's more a blank than a memory. I do remember one year when, as children, we had excitedly gone off for a Whitsun week half-term holiday with our grandparents. We returned to an upset Mum because we had completely forgotten her birthday fell during the week. Thank goodness we had at least brought her a holiday present home!

I was chatting with a friend over brunch a few weeks ago. She had recently lost her grandfather and spoke about her comfort at knowing he is still somewhere watching over her. I don't follow this belief and, for me, Mum is simply gone. She did her time watching over us while she was alive and isn't hanging around anymore. It's interesting that, despite the myriad different belief systems in the world, many of them maintain that our ancestors stick around. I would love to know how this originated but it must have been so long ago that, even if the story of the first person to have the thought is still told, it will be hopelessly swirled in myth by now. I do remember feeling sudden lightness a couple of months after Mum had died when I was feeling guilty about something I had or hadn't said to her. Knowing me, it was probably something I had said but should have kept quiet! I realised that it doesn't matter anymore. Yes, I might have been stupid and selfish at the time, but it doesn't hurt her now. I can't change it anymore so there's no point in dwelling on the 'might have beens'. This simple realisation was so powerful that even writing about it is bringing back the sense of relief. I know this isn't a traditional attitude, but it was one of my big turning points in dealing with my grief.

The other thought that has been immensely helpful came from the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in his book Death by Black Hole. I'm paraphrasing wildly, but the gist of his words was that everything on this planet and in this universe is effectively recreated stardust. He and I agree that while there's no evidence for spiritual reincarnation, there certainly is for the physical variety. Mum's ashes were spread in her ancestral home village of Dovaston in Shropshire and by now she's going to be part of many things there, maybe in a daisy flower and a hen chick and a puddle for a kid to splash about. In a hundred years she might have travelled thousands of miles and be a brick in a school wall and the page of a book and a rare tree whose wood will make a concert piano. She might even be a Mum again. I like this way of thinking. Given enough time, we really can be absolutely anything!

I think years of looking forward to the 25th as a date to celebrate will take a lot of overcoming. Thoughts of Mum still jump into my head every day and probably always will. However, for commemoration, a Birth Day signifies what is to come in a life, not what has already gone so I shall try and let the 18th fade in favour of the 25th. 

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