Eleven years ago today the unbelievable happened. My Mam died. Obviously, to the average person, the thought of someone dying isn't unbelievable. On the contrary, it's the one certainty that awaits us all (like, happy clappy hoooray!) But when it's your own mam - a person who has gone through life with barely a sniffle, let alone anything serious - and you're suddenly told that she's got cancer before dying four weeks later - then it's unbelievable. And that's how it remains in my head. Unbelievable. I've had eleven years to get my head around the fact that I'm a motherless child and still it fails to stick. When the unthinkable happened, at 8.30am on a dull and damp Friday morning of September 8th, 2000, I was living 100 miles away from home. In the immediate aftermath of her passing, I didn't have to confront it in the same way that the rest of my family did - my daily routine wasn't disrupted. I didn't have daily reminders like the rest of my family did - so I simply chose not to.
Sure, my life suddenly had a mother-shaped hole gaping through the middle of it, but I was able to deny it. I brushed it aside and elected to ignore the issue (a fatal trait, ironically inherited from my Mam herself.) For the first two years I went around in a strange kind of emotional fug. Now and again it would hit me. I'd be walking in the street, minding my own business and thinking about something completely unrelated to Mam when the cold, hard fact that she was dead would hit me and I'd suddenly be left reeling. There were other times I'd forget that she was dead at all. I'd see an advert for a TV programme that I thought she'd like and I would go to ring her to tell her. It would only be as Dad answered the phone that the crushing reality would hit me and no, I wouldn't be able to talk to her.
I tried to plug the gaps with instantly doomed relationships that temporarily staved off and then exacerbated all the negative feelings associated with death: longing, anger, guilt. And obviously, I got pissed quite a lot. When I finally addressed the issue, I spent another two years in a kind of hermit-like state, only to emerge the other side erroneously thinking that I was 'better' - but no. I tried to plug the gap yet again - this time with another relationship that proved to be my undoing in more ways than one. Grief had a pernicious effect: I'd have good days and bad days but even when the good days started to outweigh the bad, I could always feel it lurking in the background.
For me, death isn't something you get over. It's something that you get used to. Eleven years later I can say I've made my peace with her death, but it still hurts. It's not as raw as it was, but now and again it hits me like a bolt of lightning and the sudden realistion floors me. In trying to understand her death, I stumbled on a more spiritual side of my character that I didn't realise was there. I still don't subscribe to any of the religions that humanity offers, but I believe in a life (probably the wrong word for it) after death, I believe we go somewhere else. I think the universe is too fantastically planned to be a happy coincidence and science doesn't explain everything. I'm not sure what I believe, but I believe - I know - that I'll see Mam again, that there will be a reunification of some sort. Until that time comes, I'll carry on smiling at her memory and being grateful for the fact that she was my Mam. I'll continue to miss her gentleness, her kindness, her laugh, her beauty, her unrelenting, uncompromising love. And not to mention her dinners. Absolutely legendary!
Love you Mam. Hope you're sleeping tight. x