My mother is dead. This is not an announcement. I did all that on Facebook, which seemed appropriate at the time. I couldn’t possibly keep all the people who needed to know informed without using social media. There’s no instruction manual for how to navigate a potentially fatal illness in the 21st century, but I did my best. My posts went from cheerful to stoic to bleak, and ultimately became eulogy.
This is not about that. This is about me trying to make sense of it.
Mostly I loved my mother. Sometimes I hated my mother. My mother is dead. She is presently in the hospital mortuary. On Saturday I will fly back to Manchester, and on Tuesday I will go and see her in the Chapel of Rest. She will be wearing the clothes my father and I picked out for her–an outfit she liked to wear for fancy occasions–and she will have a teddy bear we chose to be with her (“Wounded William”–my mum loved teddy bears) and she will be dead.
I am older, but I’m okay. I was there for it all, the whole horrible yet at times joyful rollercoaster of her final four weeks on this planet. I was there when she patted me on the thigh and said, “This girl is proof that horrible teenagers can become good people.” I was there just after they put the oxygen tube in, and I was there when they took it out.
I loved my mother. I’m ashamed that at times I hated my mother. I have daughters too. But this is how life works. She wouldn’t want me to pretend that we had a relationship that was all rainbows and kittens. I read her Winnie-the-Pooh, and then, once the toxic confusion was under control, I read her U.A. Fanthorpe’s poetry. I wouldn’t give those memories up for anything, even though I wept a little while I read.
I am 46. She was 73. I’m trying to get used to talking about her in the past tense. It’s funny that, even though technically I made the decision to cease life support (agreed with my father and brother, but I was the the one in the room) I still have trouble thinking about her not being a present tense phenomenon. My mum is…no my mum was an exceptional human being.
I don’t know how to conclude this ramble. I teach Composition and so I should know, but I don’t. Oddly, I’m considering getting a tattoo, which is something I’ve always been 100% against, but I need to do something symbolic, so I’m thinking of getting a rose, for Rosie. I want the pain, and I want the symbol. My mother is dead. It hurts.
Thank you, Anna. I am sorry for your loss, for the pain but rejoice in the wholeness of the experience.
I lost my mom October 2013…at 43, and she had just turned 76. So much of this piece resonates with me. And, I too was a terrible teenager that has become a good person (it’s all grace). Sending you and Rosie and family love.
What a beautiful post Anna. I’m so sorry for your loss. I remember swimming at the lake during our VCCA residency, talking about our mothers. Oh, ambivalence and love and struggle and love. Thanks for sharing this.