Yes, it's that day again. The anniversary of my Mum's death. The 20th to be precise. Twenty whole years. Two decades. Almost 3/4 of my entire life. Woah that's a lot.
I want it to be known that I'm not writing this to gain your sympathy or to be all woe is me. I'm writing this because I like to mark these things. Being a bit weird and anal and not missing these sorts of days brings me an odd sense of calm.
Twenty years is such a long time, a long enough time to get over something. It's long enough for my Dad to re-marry, my Aunties to form better bonds with their other sisters and for my Mum's friend's to loose touch. Occasionally one of them will bring her up in a conversation or make reference to her, but I feel like if I encourage this and really think properly about the loss I feel on a day to day basis, that I'll spiral into a terribly dark hole and not climb out again. I suppose you could call that normal grief but I'm not prepared to wallow in it or spend vasts amount of time feeling it, so back under the rug it goes. How very healthy.
On days like this I always talk about the lovely woman my Mum was. I always try and portray that even though people always say passed away relatives were special, she really was. She was the type that would lend a hand whenever it was needed (seriously, once a bus crashed by our house and before the emergency services arrived, mum had gotten most the passengers off the bus and laid them in our house. Our carpets were ruined with blood but she was given an award from the regional police), laugh when everyone needed a pick-me-up and make even the lowest people feel up again.
She had a steely determination and a wicked sense of humour. When we moved to Northampton, my Mum wanted an older house with character and era appropriate features. My Dad wanted a modern new build full of gadgets and mod-cons. As usual, my Dad won, but just to make her point, Mum filled it to the new build rafters with victorian-esque furniture and dark wood. It was rather a strange mix but demonstrated her, 'Ha! Take That'-ness to a tee.
I miss her everyday. Twenty years is such a long time to think about someone every single day. Sometimes I just see something that reminds me of her, or hear someone shout, 'Jane' and I look round. Other times I feel overwhelmed with heavy sadness, like a cloud passing over a mountain top until it's invisible and feel like I can't take another step forward.
I was in Euston station a few weeks ago, standing on the forcourt waiting for my train's platform to be announced. I was standing there after a really productive day and I thought to myself, 'I would love to ring Mum and tell her the things I have accomplished today and tell her how proud of myself I am'. And then it hit me. It doesn't matter that I did something really well or clever that day. The last time we had contact I was a child. I was in lower school and my biggest worry was having my bookbag ready for the next day. She would never know that I grew up, started doing things on my own, take myself off to big cities, having meetings with interesting people and sustain my little life. She never saw me pack my own bookbag.
There will always be the people who say, 'I'm sure she's looking down on you'. I'm sure she is too but to be very brutal, it brings me little to no comfort and I think the people who say it feel obliged to say something comforting- I do it myself to people in the same positions! One day I'll say to them, 'Yeah, it's really shitty and I feel for you. I wish I could take the ache away but I can't. I'm sorry' and be done with it. Seems a little harsh though doesn't it?
It's raining today and I told myself I would go to the cemetery to say Hello and lay some flowers. I say this every year and never manage it. It makes me so angry to have to go to a florist to choose the nicest flowers I can find, knowing all I'm going to do is lay them on a bit of grass that has my own mother's bones beneath it. It shouldn't be. Flowers should be in vases, being adored or cherished or photographed (that's the blogger in me). I hate that my flowers have to say, 'I'm sad you're dead but to show how much I care I spent the most I could on flowers that I'll put by your headstone and leave there until the grave keeper comes and removes them and chucks them in a skip, but I love you'. It's not right.
When I get to the cemetery I freak out. I have a phobia of ghosts (don't laugh), so for me, a graveyard is horrific. I get there, park and think, 'Just get out the car and go'. The problem is, to get to her site I have to walk past about 70 other headstones. It's always eerily quiet. You might call it peaceful but I find it unnerving. On top of that, I have this fear that when I get there, I'll cry. Obviously, crying is fine and good for you and a release, but I fear that if I cry there I'll never stop. I'll just sit on the ground feeling angry that rather than looking at my Mum's lovely healthy face, I'm looking at a piece of marble with her name etched into it. It reminds me of her in hospital looking grey and with a turban on to hide the fact that her beautiful hair had all gone. It reminds me that she had hoped so desperately to have a private nurse look after her at home for just one day at Christmas so we could have those memories and that it never happened. It reminds me that I never got to say a proper goodbye and that now I'm sat, 20 years older with a Daughter of my own and I'm starring at a piece of cold marble and wondering how I will ever overcome this.
I will just learn to live with a Mum shaped hole in my life and will get on.
I'm going to mark today, acknowledge it and accept it as being totally shit. Then tomorrow, I will get up, put on nice makeup and be glad it's nearly Christmas and that I'm healthy and that I have a great Husband and Daughter and family and amazing friends. Two of my friends actually offered to come with me to the grave (knowing my fear of ghosts) and I was incredibly touched. If you're reading, 'tang'. :)
If you have a Mum, go and tell her what she means to you, or just give her the hug I'd like to give mine.
Diana Jane Pentland 1955-1992
PS- This post has not been re-read through or spell checked. I just wrote it as I thought it and that will do. I may well take it down in a few days, but it was therapeutic to pour it all out onto paper (screen).