Today is a hard day for me because today would have been my beloved Mum’s 83rd birthday.
Instead, it’s the first birthday since she died earlier this year.
In the 8 months or so since she’s gone, I’ve had a bunch of ups and downs.
Without doubt, I feel I have been handling things better than when I lost my Dad but if I’m being honest, that’s only because I now have my wonderful son to keep me occupied.
The reason I know this, is that over these past 8 months, I’ve been hit randomly by tidal waves of grief.
Some of these were set off by things you’d expect.
Correspondence from Mum’s lawyers about her will.
Reading the posts I wrote at my hour of need.
Experiencing – like today – anniversaries where we were together.
But there’s been other moments that seemingly came out from the blue.
Hearing sad situations that my friends are going through … from family members to pets.
Watching programs that shows someone doing good for the less fortunate.
Seeing Otis do something new and then realising I can’t ring Mum to tell her the news.
As much as I feel I am handling the grieving process as well as can be expected, I know that I have packed a lot of it up and hidden it somewhere deep inside.
The thought of going back to England scares me.
Part of me desperately wants to visit, the other part is petrified.
I want to see Mum’s house.
We had it completely renovated so the young family we wanted to help, could move in to somewhere special.
And it is special.
It’s like a totally new house.
And that’s both good and bad.
At first, I didn’t want to have it renovated. I didn’t want anyone to move in. I wanted to hire a security guard and just have them protect the house.
My house. My family home. The place where my history resides.
But then I realised Mum wouldn’t want me to do that. Not just because we could help a family who needed it, but because it would otherwise trap me in grief.
And – as usual – she was right.
By renovating the house, I was allowing a new chapter to begin.
Not just for the house, but for me.
That doesn’t mean what lived there has gone – it’s just taken a back seat, living amongst the particles that fill the house with life and love.
It took me a while to realise how important it was to do this – not just for me, but for the family who are now living there – because to have them stay in a house that felt like it still belonged to me, would stop them making their own precious memories and that would be wrong.
By taking this step, we all win.
The young family who has can have a fresh start – physically and metaphorically – in a beautiful house, in a beautiful place.
My Mum, whose name I hopefully have honoured by doing all this.
And me, because I get to keep the home that will forever be a foundational part of my history.
This all makes me feel good.
But as much as I want to see it … honour it … I am also nervous to see it.
To see the change.
To experience the familiarity but also feel a sense of disconnection.
To be a stranger in a place that has always been my home and – in some ways – still is.
And then I remember only 8 months have passed.
In some ways it feels like years and then, when I think of it, it feels like minutes … so this confliction isn’t too unexpected. Or at least I hope it isn’t.
That said, there are 2 things that really bite.
The first, as I mentioned, is when I get correspondence from the lawyer.
Any day now, I am expecting confirmation all the legal matters have been finalised.
I’m dreading it.
It means it’s done. Over.
Of course I know memories will live on, but the thought that my Mum will – legally and publically – cease to exist, rips me apart.
Her journey from being in the present to the past, will be complete.
I know this sounds strange for someone who has been gone for 8 months, but it’s how I feel.
The other thing is feeling I’m now on my own.
Yes, I have my wonderful wife, son and friends … but there is a very weird feeling when you realise you are the only one left from your original family.
You feel alone. Unsettled. Vulnerable.
But I know I am lucky.
I had amazing parents. I have an amazing family and I am surrounded with people I love.
But I miss my Mum.
So very, very much.
I would love to tell her so many things.
Things I told her a million times before and things I never said.
So if you will forgive me this last moment of indulgence, I want to say this to my Mum.
Mum. I miss you.
I miss you in a million ways.
I miss your gentle voice … your beautiful face … your kindness … your thoughts … everything.
I think about you every day. Every single day.
I wish with all my heart things were different.
I wish everything had turned out as it was supposed to turn out.
But I take solace in the fact you didn’t suffer and you knew I was with you at the end.
I take solace that you knew Otis was here and that he filled you with so much joy in your final few months.
And I take solace that you knew how much I love you.
I won’t let any of the things you taught me to go to waste, but I must admit I probably will still wear Birkenstocks in unclimate weather.
Happy birthday my dearest Mum.
I hope you’re holding hands with Dad and laughing.