Last year my estranged mother died. She died in the house of a man she’d known for 2 years in a country we were surprised to find her in. She died of smoking related issues but wasn’t expected to die imminently.
I’ve written about the confusion and anger I felt at the time. The realisation that I was never going to have that apology that I’d hoped I’d get, never get that explanation of why what happened happened and the sudden realisation that this was it: her book had closed after the last words in her final chapter.
I didn’t cry at her funeral. The priest comforted a non-related person to my mother but just shook mine and my brothers’ hand. A hymn that was played at her mother’s funeral made me more sad than the coffin with the picture in front of me.
Walking out to see the sum total of her tributes was 1 tiny florist’s arrangement and a garage bought (still with price on) bunch of flowers.
That was huge.
That smacked me in the face.
To have only people who you’ve known for 2 years at your funeral, to not have your sisters, sister in law, nieces and nephews (or any friends) and to have your 3 children smartly dressed not even shed a tear really does show what kind of a person you were when living.
How do you get over that?
Or at the very least how do you come through it?
How do you drive home with your brother and have the most enormous hugs from your children – her grandchildren who’ve never met her – knowing what she gave up and what she walked away from.
It’s been a hard year certainly.
So how am I able to be sitting on my sofa with my snoring border terrier next to me feeling that it’s actually okay?
What I’ve learned is that you can’t hold grudges, keep the nastiness within or you can take a deep breath and exhale all of the badness of the situation. I cannot change what has happened and, if I’m honest, I wouldn’t have changed a thing in the past. I am here because she is who she was and because of the choices she made.
I choose not to make those same choices. I choose not to drink, not to leave my family and to not put any man first above my children. I choose to stick it out no matter how hard some days are. I choose to be honest and open about her. I answer the questions my children have and I accept that my daughter will never say the word ‘Grandma’ with love.
I choose to not pass her bitterness down through the generations. My children know of her and the reasons as to why she wasn’t in their life (they knew before she died too). I explained she had chosen a different path and that I and my brothers were not part of her decisions. My children were confused as that’s not what Mummies do.
Getting a copy of her Will was the final moment for me. This was her last conversation with those she would leave behind. I thought there would maybe be letters for my brothers and me but no, nothing. She left a simple will with simple instructions that made me snigger. After all her last expenses were paid any money left over was to go to Great Ormon Street hospital.
Her final gift was to look after children.
Which, when you think about it, is kind of ironic as she didn’t want to look after her own.
Still, it’s the final words in the final chapter of her book.
I forgive you, mum.
But I will learn from you and be a better mother.
It’s okay really, I understand some relationships are just not meant to be…