I hate this time of year; I always have. February is a grim month who’s only redeeming feature is the prospect of snow days – and I really dislike the snow, so go figure. It takes me back to the winter of 1994, when I was in the first year of secondary school, and dad died very suddenly. It was half term, I’d been to see Free Willy at the cinema and slept over at my friend’s house, and mum came to pick me up the next day a lot earlier than I was expecting. She drove me home and that’s when she gently broke the news.
We didn’t see a lot of dad because he was in and out of hospital with bipolar disorder, but he was still our dad. I suppose I always assumed he’d get better one day and I’d get to know him properly, and we’d have this great relationship. It was a huge shock; but while there were life-changing ramifications, our day-to-day lives resumed normal service. It’s only when I look back I realise how fortunate the four of us were to have a mother who kept calm and carried on, the way Mags did. I don’t remember much about the funeral at all, but I do remember the snowman I made in the front garden of 25 Trinity Road the day after. I was 12. I am grateful, that even under bleak circumstances, I was able to be 12.
Today, sitting in a cafe, sheltering from the snow and staring out through a frost stained window, I wish I could say thank you to Mags. There is still so much I want to thank her for. And there are painful reminders of that every day. I found this Winnie The Pooh label in my copy of Wide Sargasso Sea, when I took it out the bookshelf to lend to my friend. Battered and tea-stained, it was mum’s copy originally and it “belongs now to Martha”. Did I say thank you when she gave that to me? I’m not sure I did. Did she know it became one of my favourite novels? I don’t think I ever told her. She wouldn’t have known – she won’t ever know – how much it meant to me.
One of the hardest things about losing someone you love so much is that you’re not only plagued every day with the injustice of not being able to talk to them, you’re constantly thinking of the things you could have said to them when they were alive. This time last year, mum had been admitted to the hospice with weeks to live. Weeks to live. It’s nearly 12 months since she died and still that sentence doesn’t look right; it still doesn’t feel real at all. I am still unable to process how difficult it was in that short period – our hearts breaking, our heads swirling – to prepare to say goodbye. There wasn’t enough time; there weren’t the right words. We’re a close family who don’t shy away from emotion or affection, but even reminding myself that mum knew how much she was loved, brings little consolation, even after some supposed ‘time’ for reflection.
There are no more flowers, and no more cards or letters. There are no more silly fridge magnets or treats from M&S or cheesy photo frames. There is no more ‘thank you for being one in a million’; for everything you have done. There is no more I Love You. We don’t get to do any of that stuff this year. Mother’s Day is looming and as my sister so articulately put it: “It makes me want to vomit every time I walk past a shop.”
So yeah, I hate this time of year; I always have. I’m pretty sure I always will. I hate that in this past week I have quite possibly felt worse than I have in the last year (which feels like a strange thing to say, because I remember the day mum died like it was yesterday and it was bloody awful). I hate that everybody says time is a healer because that’s a crock of shit. I hate that the more time passes, the longer it’s been since I’ve seen her and the more I miss her. And I hate that nobody talks about that. I hate that my best friend is going through the same thing and I can’t offer her any hope or impart any wisdom, because it still hurts so much. I hate that I’m so angry and upset and mum would hate that. I hate that she’s not here and there’s a gaping big hole in our lives.