Letter to my Mother on the Anniversary of her Death

CNV00030Dear Mom

Here you are with your daughters. Today it’s been three years exactly since we lost you – you left us on the 10th of October 2010.

Us humans will try and find symbolism and meaning in every loss which is why I like to think that the date was significant. A perfectly matched set of numbers on what was my darkest day: 10.10.10

So much has happened since you died:

  • The granddaughter we placed in your arms when you were ill has grown from a squidgy baby to a confident, kind and articulate 3-year-old. She has my eyes and her father’s hair and I’m so proud of her. I wish you could see her.
  • We bought a house. You always told me to save, even in my early twenties when it was the last thing I wanted to do. You stayed with us in our tiny London flat and listened to me as I moaned about sharing a house with flatmates even after I was married.
  • But it was all worth it because now we have a house. If you were here I would be calling you up about my roses and you’d be making curtains for my kitchen and telling me the best way to get rid of ants. It is an old house and we still don’t have a lot of furniture in it, but it is a house full of love.
  • I’ve started writing. For real this time. I left my job in book publishing and now write for a living, as well as for fun on this blog. Every time I get something published on a website or in a magazine I want to send it to you, for YOUR approval because you are still what I measure everything against, my successes and my failures.
  • I’ve started my own company with a friend. And even though we’re only just over a year old, we seem to be making a success of it.  Every time we get a big contract or sign up a new client, I want to call and tell you all about it. We always knew that the written word was my particular skill and I regret that you never got to see me thrive as a writer.
  • I’ve had a son. I once told you how I thought I was more of a “boy” mom and you said you could picture me with a son one day. Well, now he is here and I love him with every piece of my heart. You would too.

Your absence is still felt every day. When I see other grandmothers picking up their grandkids from Rachel’s nursery school. When I see a mother and daughter shopping together and sharing a joke. When I’m lying in bed sick and it feels as though no one is as concerned about me as you used to be. A mother is your champion in the corner, the person who always has your back. I miss that most of all.

On the day of your funeral I sat on the verandah of the new house you’d built with Dad. The house with a view of the sea, the house you had just retired to. I sat there and felt such emptiness – I needed a sign that you were still with me. I kept reciting the poem we were going to read at your funeral, like a mantra over and over in my head because it was the only thing to bring me comfort:

Do not stand at my grave and weep; I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamond glint on snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain. I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush, I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft stars at night

Do not stand at my grave and weep;

I am not there, I do not sleep.*

And as I said those words to myself, a gigantic heron rose up from the long wet grass, not metres from where I was sitting and spread its graceful wings and soared into the sky. It was the “swift uplifting rush” that I’d been searching for. It was the sign I so needed.

I have tried to find meaning in your death and meaning I have found in abundance. But I have also begun to realise that the world is not ordered and not just and your death was just the start of that. Ultimately, I suppose I lost my innocence on the day you died too.

So today we will mourn the loss of you, but I will also mourn the loss of the girl I once was. I miss you Mom and my heart is heavy with loss today but also heavy with so much love.

All my love,

Your oldest daughter xxx

*Poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye