Firstly, where have the past seven weeks gone, since I sat in Sue Ryder with her watching her slip away, going in peace to be with my father and her parents, safe in the knowledge that my sister and I would be ok.
Since then, hand on heart, I can say that I have been functioning rather like a robot on auto pilot. From putting on a wash of those items lying around to creating the museum in her home and then the formalities began. From registering the death, visiting the funeral parlour, organising the cremation to the memorial service six weeks later, which just happened, it was a full time project.
Nobody prepares you for this journey not even having had experience from losing my father almost 12 years ago to Multiple Sclerosis, but Cancer is so evil, it causes so much pain to those all around and in our case it was a short illness, just a mere four months.
One has moments when you pinch yourself to check that it is not a dream and that maybe they are on holiday and then moments when all you do is sit and stare, vacantly and reflect on what you said and what you didn’t say.
During the last seven weeks, I have not really let down the barriers of Sarah, the organiser, as I had a ‘project’ to ensure my mother’s send off was to her standard and I think I can certainly say we pulled it off.
Firstly, it was the cremation with immediate family which was a happy occasion if you can say that, as our vicar made it so light hearted including my niece and nephew, both under 10. I read and when I wobbled, I took a deep breath and looked to my Mum’s coffin and said to myself ‘for goodness sake, pull yourself together’ a favourite line of hers. This was a very special day as it was the first time in twenty years that all her siblings’ children, our cousins had been together in one place and we marked it with a picture.
Also, followed by a picture of three generations, something very special to our only Uncle.
Then, we embarked on the reading of the Will but that is not for this and this will be a challenge and a separate journey, where I just hope at the end as only two of us left , that we can still keep a legacy alive for our family.
It certainly hasn’t all been smiles and cups of tea and cucumber sandwiches as some believe. As you can well imagine in a situation like this, the clearing of the house is always an interesting discussion and when it should be done? In my eyes when ready but one day it became apparent that it was to be pushed upon me and that my mother’s room would become like a jumble sale and all I can say is OMG did that create a meltdown? It was the first time, I had cracked and fortunately it was with my sister with a lot of shouting and screaming and home truths shared. But one think I have learnt is, that carrying all your emotions inside doesn’t help, so take my advice and let it out whatever means you can.
There were challenges with family and what we should do and what we (sister and I) wanted but we badgered on and I hope that on Thursday 6th November we made our mother proud at her memorial service at Dorchester Abbey. Over 700 people came to show their respects and it was overwhelming to see so many people whose personality and kindness she had touched whether wearing her hat as a friend, a tennis partner or as a Rotarian, a farmer’s wife or as her role as a Councillor and Leader of South Oxfordshire. She had touched so many people and it was something we can treasure for years to come. Not only that, but Boris Johnson gave her political tribute which was a real honour for us too.
I have not only lost my mother but I have lost my best friend but something I have gained in the last seven weeks is ‘peace’. Peace that I can live in our family home and not be scared as the creaks and weird noises of an old house have gone for the time being. This may sound bizarre but it is the first time in forty odd years that I have been able to stay in the house alone.
Now, I start a different journey in this grieving process and as many of my friends and others will have taken or, be taking, where I need to find what ‘I’ want out of life and more importantly I need to live for me. I changed twelve years ago when my father died and stopped living in the past well now, I need to move forward and take my mother’s legacy and continue to make her proud so, watch this space for the next achievement / challenges that I will embark on.
Death is natural and it is never the right time but as everyone says as one person dies another is born and for me, I must cherish the memories and for a while just have the strength to put one foot in front of the other.
During my journey, I learnt of a friend’s loss of her husband, a life cut cruelly short and I didn’t realise just how hard it hit me, so my heart goes out to them in this hard time and anyone else grieving. And, I hope like my friends have helped me that I can help them carry you through the sad time and be there when the formalities are out of the way.
Thank you everyone for your support over the past few months when my mother was sick and now and as I try to pick up the pieces and get back on the bicycle of life.