A Letter

Hi mom,

I haven’t written to you since you died, and it suddenly seemed like an important thing to do. I spend time with you in dreams, I think and talk about you all the time, but I don’t talk to you anymore. I don’t have any idea what I want to say, I just thought I would start writing and see what appeared on the screen.

I’m sick, ma, and you were always so amazing at looking after me when I wasn’t well (which was fairly often). Luckily I have a husband who is good at looking after me too, though running around after two energetic little boys at the same time doesn’t make it easy. Yesterday, on my hands and knees vomiting repeatedly into the toilet, with a debilitating headache and intense bands of pain across my neck and back, I had this bizarre hopeless feeling that there was something terribly wrong with me and I was going to die. Now you of course know that I’ve been sick a lot in my life, and I’ve had a few life-threatening ilnesses, but I’ve never before believed I might actually die. Your death, and all the other awful things that have happened this year, have shaken my faith in life. I feel like I keep waiting for the next terrible thing to happen; first I became paranoid about Clive dying, then that he would leave me, then suddenly the spectre of my own death loomed large.

Of course it’s nothing so serious. The doctor’s suspect a migraine (which I’ve never had before) and want to do ‘further monitoring’, and in the mean time have dosed me up with plenty of Diclofenac and Co-Codamol, which take the edge off a little but not enough to enable me to stand or sit. Lying on my back is getting a little boring after a day and a half, but I am trying to remember what you told me about managing pain and boredom after your back operation, and I will try get more focused on using the time positively rather than feeling so disappointed about missing the 10km race today I have been so looking forward to running.

I miss you, ma. Sometimes it feels as simple as that. Some days, I don’t even feel sad. I have got used to living far away from you these past six years, so I am well practised at having you with me as a comfortable, disembodied presence in my daily routine. In that way, nothing has really changed – you have always, and will always, be part of me. I have internalised you. On other days the reality of never seeing you again, or of you not being out there in the world, sucks the breath out of me and turns the world upside down. Sometimes I smile, seeing something beautiful I know you would have loved, and other times everything feels empty and pointless because you will never see it. Never. Ever.

I wear your clothes and jewellery almost every day. I sometimes wonder what I ever wore before! I get a lot of compliments on your necklaces, dresses and shirts, and I always smile and say, ‘Thanks, it was my mother’s’. I like being able to keep you with me like that, it always feels comforting rather than sad.

I know you would be worried about me if you were alive – not because of this ill health, but because of the edges of depression and the desperate struggle to keep going – but that you would have complete confidence that I would come through all of it not okay, but having learnt a huge amount. I have such admiration for your incredible ability to fully acknowledge pain, and offer genuine hope. I suppose the latter came partly from the former – you never pretended that things were going to be easy, or glossed over discomfort, and thus when you said ‘It is going to be bloody difficult, but you’ll cope’, it felt far more reassuring than someone saying ‘Life’s not really so bad, everything will be okay’.

I love you, ma.

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13 thoughts on “A Letter

  1. Beautifully put. So much that you said rang true for me too having lived away from dad for many years and going through the same see-saw of okay and really not okay. Wishing we could sit at your kitchen tables and talk and cry and frustrated with having just words to reach out from here…

    1. Thank you, and I’m glad it echoed for you too. Today, you reached out with flowers – thank you so much! You are amazing. In hospital tonight but can’t wait to get home to see my lovely flowers 🙂 Also can’t wait to see you again xx

  2. Hi, laurel

    It is amazing how you find such moving clarity through your shifting emotions. You don’t know what you will write, and then this amazing letter appears.

    I’m so sorry you’ve been ill – I hope you’re on the mend.

  3. I’m so sorry to hear about this awful sickness. I hope your body feels well soon, and that it’s not serious.

    This is a beautiful letter.

    Big hugs,
    Ruth

  4. I’m really sorry that you are poorly at the moment. Having said that the love and connection you has with your mother shines through the post and is lovely to read. I hope you get better soon. Being sick like that is really frustrating and depressing but you seem to have plenty of guts and I applaud you for that

  5. Dear Laurel…I hope by the time I am finally reading and commenting on this piece you are feeling at least a little better. Reading your post, I could feel the coldness of your pain but also a loving warmth running through me.

    What especially warmed me was how you wear your mother’s clothes and jewelry, how you embrace yourself with her, how you keep her nurturing with you, but also her resilience…’when you said ‘It is going to be bloody difficult, but you’ll cope’, it felt far more reassuring than someone saying ‘Life’s not really so bad, everything will be okay’.

    I think that is so true…it means that someone is engaged in what we are feeling and not speaking to relieve themselves of any involvement.

    1. Hi Diane,
      By the time I finally read your comment, I was feeling somewhat better (though only comparatively), though you would have gathered that I wasn’t when you wrote it.

      Thank you, as always, for really listening and engaging in what I am feeling. You have a warm and comforting heart.

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