I am sitting in my Mum’s house. I say ‘Mum’s’, but really it is now mine. But I don’t want to think of it that way, at least not yet.
A lot has happened in the past week and I have already entered the horrible cycle of comparison.
It started yesterday, as it was a week to the day that my Mum had her last full day alive.
And now we have today … the first week anniversary of her death.
I’ve been awake reliving every moment of 7 days ago.
How I got woken up by a phonecall from some random Chinese number at 1am.
How I got up at 5am to ensure I was at the hospital in time.
How I stopped for a McDonald’s breakfast as I was going to get to the hospital too early and they wouldn’t let me in.
How my Mum said, “I heard your voice talking to the nurses as you came in, it’s so nice to hear it” as I walked up to her bed at 6:45am.
How she told the surgeon “she was a bit anxious” when he came to see her.
How we had a wonderful chat about so many things.
How she saw her grandson on Wechat video chat.
How she said the hairdryer she’d been given was so powerful.
How the hospital orderlies came to get her at 11am.
How I walked with her to the operating theatre.
How I cried as she was wheeled through the doors.
How I waited.
Till I got the news around 6pm.
Things had gone well, but there had been “a complication” in which her heart leaked in a place they hadn’t touched and required 4 bags of blood and the surgeons steady hand to get it back under control.
How I was taken to her around 6:20pm and saw her attached to a multitude of machines.
How I spoke to her and held her hand even though she was heavily sedated.
How one of the machines started bleeping at around 6:40pm – which was the exact moment I was told I should go home and get some sleep because Mum was going to stay sedated till the morning.
How I said I was staying and rang my wife to say how scared I was.
How a nurse told me to just go to the waiting room while they “sorted Mum out”.
How the same nurse came and visited me to explaim they originally thought the bleeping was a loose connection but it was actually because my Mum’s heart had stopped and they were going to reopen her frail, little frame to see if there had been another leak.
How my best friend arrived and I fell into his arms and cried because I knew the truth.
How I held my fist to my mouth as a surgeon and nurse came to confirm the worst possible news imaginable at 7:12pm.
How everything changed forever.
In that 7 days, I have been trying to grapple between grieving and sorting things out.
I’ve been blessed with incredible support and acts of friendship but there are still so many things to do … legal things, emotional things, irrational things … all underpinned by my desire to make sure I honour my Mum in the best way possible.
And while I only have a limited amount of time to do it all, I find myself with 20 minutes to myself.
Not ‘Shanghai quiet’ … but true silence with only the faint sound of the radiators churning out heat, the gentle snoring of my son fast asleep and the odd bird chirping for company.
And this gives me the time to express what I’d really like to say to my Mum.
Because as much as I am gut wrenchingly sad, I am also incredibly sorry.
I’m sorry this operation didn’t work.
I’m sorry you didn’t get the new lease of life you deserved.
I’m sorry you didn’t get to hold your grandson in your arms.
I know the operation had to be done. I know if it hadn’t, your life would have been made slowly worse, but I’m still so, so, so, so sorry it didn’t work out for you Mum.
I know you had your suspicions, despite being told you were the ‘perfect candidate’ for the operation.
Finding you had re-done your will, written down all your commitments and put aside all your favourite verses for me to find, tells me that.
And I am grateful to you.
What you did shows you didn’t want me to have to contend with the complexities of death. It shows a level of love I can’t even comprehend … but it also shows me you were anxious and while that makes perfect sense, I am so sorry you had to contend with that as well.
You were – and are – an amazing, inspirational person.
I cannot tell you how much I am going to miss you.
The pain of your loss is incredible and will not be something that fades anytime soon. I know you wouldn’t want me to feel this way, but I would respond by saying it would be horrible if I didn’t feel such sadness.
I am just so, so, grateful I was there, you knew I was there and you didn’t suffer. If there is anything good I can take away from the painfully dark day, it’s that.
There is one last thing you should know.
We moved into the house on Saturday.
I use ‘moved in’ very specifically because while we will be moving back to Shanghai in a few weeks, we wanted the final chapter of our home to be one of family.
I know how much you wanted to hold Otis in your arms and while we didn’t manage to make that happen, the fact we are all here – living as a family – is something, I hope, you would love.
We’ve taken Otis all around the house and told him various stories about what went on here. We’ve shown him photos and paintings and even put him in your bed for a moment so I could feel you were giving him the cuddle you so desperately wanted to give him.
We’re all sleeping in my old bedroom – the one you recently redecorated because you wanted it to be “just right” – and it’s lovely.
We’ve turned the top of one of my Marshall amps into a change table. We’ve bought a special contraption to make sure Otis can’t fall out the bed and we’ve filled the fridge with food. It’s wonderful.
I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve said to Jill how much you would have loved to see this scene. And while that makes me feel incredibly sad, I can tell you that a 3 month old baby smiling and gurgling is the best way to lift the cloud of darkness.
He might be small, but he is literally filling the house with happiness and life and I know that would please you immensely.
We would have moved in sooner, but Angelo was fixing the new central heating I’d ordered so the house was a mess all last week.
The good news is he finished on time [surprise, surprise] and the house is warm and wonderful. The bad news is the [new] shower now doesn’t work so you were right when you said that “sometimes he is a bit sloppy”.
Oh Mum, I miss you so much and the next few weeks will be one of even greater turmoil but I promise you I will do everything I can to honour your views and beliefs.
I will always be eternally grateful for everything you showed me, gave me and said to me … you were and will continue to be, an enormous influence in my life and I will ensure Otis always knows how much he was adored by you.
If there is anything beautiful to come out of all this, it’s that you have given me 5 uninterupted weeks with my son … a chance to spend every minute with him while surrounded by the people I love. That is a wonderful gift and I will remember it and treasure it forever.
I love you my dear Mum.
Thank you for everything.
Especially the love.