I miss my Mum. I miss her so much. A death you would think. No, my Mum hasn’t passed away, but she’s had a severe stroke and has been in the hospital for nearly three months now. I miss her presence in my life – she was always there to talk to when I had problems with my children growing up and always in these later years when I’ve been battling with my mental heath.
She used to support me through everything and as the years ticked by, I was the one supporting her (and rightly so). We would talk on the phone for many hours, putting the world to rights and putting each other to rights. We rarely had a cross word.
I have to confess, there have been times when it’s felt a bit of a chore to have to phone my Mum every day, sometimes twice a day in more recent years. I would, perhaps, think, “I want to spend more time with friends” on that particular night or “I’d like to spend the time writing my blog”. Worse still, I’d be keen to text a good friend for a heart-to-heart or get that email written that I’ve been meaning to do for days.
Now, the evenings come, and I find myself thinking, “I’ll just phone to see how ……….” – My sentence is cut short by the stark realisation that my Mum is not occupying the same space as she used to do. Something else is in her place – a horrible silence broken only by memories of how our relationship used to be.
Gone are our chats, our shared laughter and our mutual support. There are no long discussions about what she had planted in her garden that day with the full expectation of seeing her little seedlings and shoots develop into strong, tall plants. She’d tell me how she’d tied them up with green, garden twine against bamboo canes and watch them develop and bloom.
She won’t go back to that house again, nor her beloved garden that was her sanctuary, her escape from the world when life got difficult – not now. She could never manage the stairs, feed herself or live without 24-hour care and yet she’d managed independently since her separation from my father. She had lived in our family home for over sixty years. And to think the grass was being cut by her only two weeks before she had her stroke.
The damage to her brain is so extensive that she’s still unable to communicate verbally or in any other way, and any hope of further improvements is met with serious doubt by the doctors and consultants. The physios, the OTs and the speech and language therapists are not hopeful either. I try to talk to her on the phone when I can’t get there – hoping to get a response but my questions always have the same replies – nothing – it’s heartbreaking.
I’m still travelling up to the City by train to see her at least once a week. The journey is always tough, fraught with difficulties and exhausting but I need to be there. I need to retain that little bit of hope. However, she isn’t even able to acknowledge that I’m there and I wonder where she has gone inside that broken shell of a body.
I feel I should not be grieving as she is still present with me. But I am – I’m grieving the loss of the person that my Mum once was; her presence in my life, her faded personality and her love, care and affection. She is no longer there. But grieving when she is still alive; is that right? Is that acceptable? It is simply grief without death.