It’s 8 years today, since I last heard Mummy’s voice.
The 1st of March 2011: I remember every single last detail of that day as if it were yesterday. The saddest day, followed by the 2nd which would be the worst day of my family’s life.
The day started badly and ended horrifically, ironically it started with me being involved in a car crash when someone drove into us on our way to work. Then of course, as always, a shit storm was already brewing around a product launch and I ran into the office in a fluster, late at 7.30am.
The day couldn’t quite get any worse I thought. How wrong one could be? I got up that morning not knowing that when I’d finally next crawl into bed, our lives would have changed forever, a gaping hole would be left behind, Dad would be left wifeless and us 6 children (though all adults ranging at the time from 18 to 29) without our beloved Mother.
A number of hushed calls from my one of my brothers and sisters followed throughout the day, a Monday. In the days leading up, Mum had had an infection (always dangerous on chemo), and hadn’t been well, but somehow had managed to cook a roast dinner the day before. Very quickly, Mummy became very poorly and Dad had to force her into hospital.
“Pete, don’t force me, if I go in, I’ll never come out.”
Jesus, did Mummy know then?
Of course, Dad forced Mum in and true to Mummy’s prophecy, she’d never return home..
After a number of tearful phone calls, I realised I needed to be with my family (I had no idea at this point just how poorly Mummy was) and I’d arranged with my boss Mark, to take some time off that day. The plan was to work the week out, tie loose ends up, complete a handover and take some compassionate leave – take as long as you need, Mark had said….
Why didn’t I leave there and then? I should’ve just left: Christ I don’t save lives for a living, it could have waited. It should’ve waited. But I didn’t.
Something that’ll haunt me forever. Little did I know that the egg timer had been flipped over, time was running out and Mummy was ebbing away.
I got the call at 10.45pm that night (I’d not headed home as I had a terrible cold and didn’t want to pass to Mummy who was already vulnerable) and was told to come home to Doncaster immediately. The worst drive of my life.
Upon getting to hospital, I was ushered into a room where Mummy was “being made comfortable.” You never want to hear those words.
“Jen, darling, what’re you doing here? You’ve work tomorrow.”
These would be the last words Mummy would ever say to me: her journey had began from this life to the next, in pain and likely knowing what was coming, my darling Mother’s final thoughts weren’t about herself, but about her children.
I can’t even begin to comprehend what must’ve been going through her mind.
Mummy was an amazing individual; everyone I met growing up would comment on her – she’d light up a room with her flame red hair and her laugh, well she was quite literally, the life and soul.
Mummy was patient, thoughtful and most of all, kind. I remember as a child, she’d be pushing the push chair with one of “the little ones” (as she affectionately referred to my siblings), it’d be bitterly freezing and me being me, would’ve lost a glove, “Here you go love, take mine” she’d say and then end up with severely chapped and bleeding hands.
Even though Mummy was only 51 upon passing, she’d been brought up with a very traditional outlook. Gosh, you’d never see Mummy ordering a drink at the bar, good god, ladies didn’t do that!
And whilst Mummy had always been a housewife and had the least bit of interest entering into the world of work, she was so proud of us all and what we were beginning to achieve in the world of work.
Mummy saw working for a bank and flying to Ireland every week as glamorous and exciting, “Oh Mother” I’d sigh, “It really isn’t. It’s rather dull discussing the launch of the latest current account to be be honest”. And she’d laugh, mega proud that as the next generation, her daughters were making their small, but indeed a mark nevertheless, in the world.
You never know how much time you have.
How much you have, or how little of it you have. I wish desperately Mummy could’ve met my husband and my son. I wish I’d told her I loved her more, I wish I could sit and discuss the latest beauty line with her: she was forever buying me and my sisters the latest lotions and potions in a quest to keep us forever young.
When we were sorting Mummy’s stuff out afterwards, my sisters and I found thousands of pounds worth of boxed up beauty products – Elemis, Estée Lauder, Clarins, you name it, Mummy had bought it. The thing was, was that she’d brought 3 of everything. One of everything for my two sisters and I … again, stockpiling for us … almost like she knew and this was her way of reminding us that she was always there and of course, not to abandon our much taught beauty regimes!
It’s 8 years tomorrow since I last heard Mummy’s voice. 8 years since I heard her singing along to Tina Turner and 8 bloody long years since I heard her laugh.
I always find today harder than tomorrow. Tomorrow maybe the anniversary of her passing, but today, well, today marks the last time we were a ‘full’ family. And that’s the heartbreaking part. Mummy very desperately didn’t want to leave us.
Each year, on my birthday, she’d playfully remind me that so many years ago today, I nearly killed her giving her birth. I used to hate that. Now I’d do anything to hear her playfully remind me (now my best friend Em does instead – what a girl).
People mean well when you lose a loved one. “You’re only young, you’ll get over it” … Hmmm get over your Mother? I don’t think so. You learn to live with that gaping hole that you never knew just how much your Mother filled.
Suddenly you’re on your own. Really on your own. I’ve never been depressed so I don’t know what that feels like: but I can tell you what loneliness feels like. That awful empty feeling, you feel neither sad or angry – you feel nothing. That’s the worst feeling in the world.
The early days when family and friends would stay away. Not out of malice, but because they didn’t know what to say. It’s the saying nothing that hits the hardest. Keeping Mummy’s memory alive is important and a part of her lives on in 6 very different children and 4 very differing (and charming!) grandchildren.
People deal with death and grief in very differing ways. Some believe there’s life after death, some that once you’re gone, you’re gone and some don’t know what to think. None of its wrong – none of us know after all, but the thing that keeps me going is hope. Hope that one day, I’ll hear my Mother’s voice again and feel her warm embrace.
A number of people have commented how as a family, we’re so positive. Don’t be fooled, we all have our moments – it took me 18 months for my grief to hit and then when it did, it hit me like a freight train. However, Mummy was always optimistic and happy. A glass type full type of person if you will. And that’s why we live our lives to the full, try and look at life the way Mummy did – “You’ve one life Jenny Lou, go and live it” she’d say. And whilst I may not be sunning myself up on a yacht in the Bahamas with my sugar daddy, I’m living my “best life” – hopefully a life that Mummy is looking down on, a darling husband and a little ray of sunshine that’s Harry (who she’d adored) proudly beaming “that’s my girl.”
Today, we’ve learnt to live without our shining star, the bedrock to our family. The sensible voice of reason. Still an empty place at the dinner table, absent from the many family photos but Ive always the feeling Mummy is close by. I always feel like she’s stood outside the window, looking in on us all.
No longer do I wait. I get a call about Dad and I’m off. I’m still ultra conscious when it comes to work, however, family comes first. I stupidly made a decision that I can never ever reverse but remember, that clock is always ticking…
Life may end, but love, nah, that my friend, that shit lasts forever.
Until we meet again at those pearly gates Mummy, love Jenny Lou ❤️