Losing Mum

Ferry-to-LarneExactly a year ago today at 3.15pm, I was on the Ferry to Larne, going home to visit my sick mother, when I received a call to say that she had passed away.

How to tell the children, who looked at me knowing the news was not good?

It was an opportune moment as the ferry pulled in, so I explained that just as the departing passengers had travelled from one place to another, so my mother likewise had finally disembarked from this life to the next.

We’ve always sought to talk to the children about issues openly and naturally, especially death, having so many elderly people in our immediate family circle. Indeed, over the following fortnight we actually encountered 4 deaths, 4 wakes and 4 funerals in our family, not entirely unexpected. Then there was the meeting of a huge circle of relatives and the wider community. A peculiarly rich experience for all concerned including my children who had never realised just how large my family circle is – 56 cousins!

The loss of a mother. Does it mean as much to a son as to a daughter? Do sisters struggle more than the men in a family? And what of the house – to be sold or to be kept, with all its memories for children and grandchildren. We all move at a different pace through the cycle of grief. People need time, especially with regard to dealing with place, property and effects. Tensions can appear, surprising attitudes can surface. It is a time to be very careful in family. But it also can be a very rich time in remembering, cherishing and valuing the heritage passed on.

Talking all this through with my children, who have lost their last grandparent, is very rewarding and helpful for them as they deal with loss. As is often the case, it is in the unexpected moments that we remember.

It was an opportune moment as the ferry pulled in, so I explained that just as the departing passengers had travelled from one place to another, so my mother likewise had finally disembarked from this life to the next.

We’ve always sought to talk to the children about issues openly and naturally, especially death, having so many elderly people in our immediate family circle. Indeed, over the following fortnight we actually encountered 4 deaths, 4 wakes and 4 funerals in our family, not entirely unexpected. Then there was the meeting of a huge circle of relatives and the wider community. A peculiarly rich experience for all concerned including my children who had never realised just how large my family circle is – 56 cousins!

The loss of a mother. Does it mean as much to a son as to a daughter? Do sisters struggle more than the men in a family? And what of the house – to be sold or to be kept, with all its memories for children and grandchildren. We all move at a different pace through the cycle of grief. People need time, especially with regard to dealing with place, property and effects. Tensions can appear, surprising attitudes can surface. It is a time to be very careful in family. But it also can be a very rich time in remembering, cherishing and valuing the heritage passed on.

Talking all this through with my children, who have lost their last grandparent, is very rewarding and helpful for them as they deal with loss. As is often the case, it is in the unexpected moments that we remember.

Every Old Woman

Every old woman I see being chaperoned
Arm in arm by a middle-aged son and
Daughter-in-law around a garden centre
Reminds me of Mum when she was still
In love with life.

Slow walking from car to coffee shop
Glancing at ‘Cards for all Occasions’
The bewildering selection of plants
And DVDs, 1 for 5.99, 2 for 10. The Thornbirds
A History of Brands HatchThe 300 Spartans.

Nothing purchased, but picking up
The Cafe tab – Grandma’s treat, 3
Ribenas, 5 Cakes, 2 Teas, 1 Latte
The parents nervous about children’s manners,
Hoping the outside play area is open.

I stare at the vacant place
Imagining you stir in 2 sugars, struggling
To finish the slab of shortbread.
Your world expanded
Ours permanently diminished.

Every old woman I see being chaperoned
Arm in arm by a middle-aged son and
Daughter-in-law around a garden centre
Reminds me of Mum when she was still
In love with life.

Slow walking from car to coffee shop
Glancing at ‘Cards for all Occasions’
The bewildering selection of plants
And DVDs, 1 for 5.99, 2 for 10. The Thornbirds
A History of Brands Hatch, The 300 Spartans.

Nothing purchased, but picking up
The Cafe tab – Grandma’s treat, 3
Ribenas, 5 Cakes, 2 Teas, 1 Latte
The parents nervous about children’s manners,
Hoping the outside play area is open.

I stare at the vacant place
Imagining you stir in 2 sugars, struggling
To finish the slab of shortbread.
Your world expanded
Ours permanently diminished.