Today, I will be holding on. As I have done for the past year, with limited success. Ever since the worst day of my life: Thursday, the 28th of April, 2016.
This Friday was the anniversary of the day we lost our incredibly kind-hearted and loving mother.
I don’t like using the word ‘anniversary’. To me, it suggests something that should be celebrated, when this was anything but. I don’t like the word ‘lost’ either. We didn’t lose her – the hospital did. But we’re the ones who’re still trying to cope with her absence.
I can’t believe a year has passed. It still feels so raw. Certain days have been worse than others, when I had to hold on just that little bit tighter. Holding on is functioning – carrying on like everything is normal when there’s this vast hole inside. I’m told it gets less painful over time, but it hasn’t seemed that way today.
In the week after her death, there was so much to do, it was impossible to grieve. Organising the funeral, making the myriad of decisions that needed to be made, and contacting all those who needed to be contacted. It was exhausting. I held on, but all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and sob. That’s still all I want to do at times. I have days when I can’t believe she’s gone.
We were swamped with condolences. I found that the most difficult to deal with. I’m not a fan of cards, or flowers. I can appreciate the sentiments behind them, but to me, they’re not much use. I let go, many times, just to get through those days.
I’ve received so many messages, but it’s been the small, practical things which really made a difference. A friend burning a couple of songs to a CD for the Crematorium, and dropping them off somewhere easy for me to collect (that act alone probably saved my sanity). An offer of a cooked meal. Someone turning up and taking the dogs for a walk at times when I couldn’t do it myself. A friend popping around, to ensure everything was OK. The lawn being mowed. Driving me to the supermarket for groceries, so I was able to eat.
The time has passed, but normality still seems far off.
Last month, on Mothering Sunday, we were supposed to be committing my mother’s ashes. Due to my unreliable body and hospital appointments, I let my sisters down and wasn’t able to get to Wales.
As staying in the house alone would have been more painful, I went for a ride instead. I’ve been oblivious to Mothering Sunday in the past, but everywhere I looked that day, there were reminders. I held on. I saw a man of around my age, dressed in a suit holding a bunch of flowers in one hand and pulling his suitcase with the other. Going home. He had somewhere to go, and someone to go to. I held on. Other riders disappeared off early to pre-arranged dinners, to call their families. I drank more than I should have.
The tears of letting go began to fall as I cycled home. To be ecstatically greeted by the boys. Her boys – Toby and Bouncer. I love them so much, and I really don’t know what I would have done without them. In spite of everything, they’ve made me laugh more in the last year than I can remember. Play-fighting, gambolling, even seeing them run and prance around cheers me and helps me hold on. At the worst of times, they never understand when I’m hugging them and sobbing (though I try not to). And despite looking after the boys for over a year now, I know if she were to return, it’s her lap that they would be fighting to get on.
That day, I took them for their second walk, my tenuous hold slackening as the tears fell faster. And I let go completely when the boys were ferociously racing along the Thames Path, when I sat on a bench and hid my face, and when I’d cried so hard I could hardly see them wade into the stinkiest mud of the Thames. Though, my nose was blocked so badly that I couldn’t smell a thing.
I had to let go. Some days you just have to.
I have learnt another valuable lesson, one that’s been hammered into me over and over again: those you can rely on when you are desperate are true friends.
This past year, I held on when people let me down. I try not to expect much of people as I’m used to being disappointed. If I ever ask for help, it’s never a lightly considered request. Many people have said they would be there for me, but sadly been absent in practice. I don’t blame them – they don’t owe me anything. Most of the time, I’m more disappointed in myself than in them – I should know better by now.
A few friends have been steadfast and reliable, and have helped me with those practical things I’ve mentioned above. Others have had their own demons to battle, and I haven’t always been capable of helping in return, only hoping that I haven’t hindered. Plus, I can’t ask others to put aside their own grief or problems.
To everyone who has helped me, I thank you dearly. Sometimes, you won’t have even realised you’ve helped. Others, you may have thought I was ungrateful. I can assure you that’s never been the case, but holding on has taken up a lot of my energy.
Some days, I feel totally lost, like I’m adrift at sea, battered by unrelenting waves. Others, I’m becalmed, in an indifferent twilight of inaction and indecision. Or bobbing along, a steady breeze pushing me somewhere I’m not sure I want to go. And sometimes, I feel like I’m being dragged down into the depths.
I don’t know what the future holds. Who does? I’d like to become the author my mother had faith I would become, although without her support and encouragement, I’m feeling rather lost. I’d like to get my recalcitrant body back under control, but that’s proving an even bigger battle. Returning to Wales is in my future, but to where is undecided.
It’s late. Or early – I can hear birds singing and my two boys snoring. The sky is lightening but I had to finish this before I sleep. I know the signs of letting go will be visible in the morning, but there’s no one here to see me. To be honest, I don’t really care anyway. What’s a swollen visage compared to what we’ve lost?
Time will pass and memories may fade, and maybe I’ll be holding on for longer before I next let go. Maybe the loss will fade, and the hole in my soul will gradually mend itself. I doubt it though. There’s only so much time can do.