There are times I miss my mother so intensely I feel destabilised. I close my eyes just to see again her familiar gestures and expressions. I am amazed how simply the fact of her existence in the world used to be such a great comfort, even when we hadn’t spoken in weeks, living continents apart. Mostly, these days, the fact that she once existed is enough to bring me joy, but there are times when my chest tightens and I weep with the aching desire deep in my chest to hear her voice, access her wisdom, and most of all, to wrap myself into the warmth of her comfort.

My son’s Kindergarten teacher tonight expressed surprise and regret when I told her of my mother’s death. “But I remember her so full of life! So vividly!” she exclaimed, even though it has been more than two decades since she last saw her. “Yes,” I thought but did not say, “Indeed. But now she is dead and gone and has no more life in her.”

I spoke only to say, “Yes; right until then end.”

Then the conversation moved to children’s perception and direct engagement with death, and how they like to bury dead animals with great love and gentleness but also a simple acceptance of death. And that reminded me of a poem I added to my collection as a teenager, by Amelia Blossom Pegram:


dear God
i didn’t kill the butterfly
i only buried it
in the foilwrapped matchbox
i wanted it still to be pretty
for you.
i sang one hymn
cried a little
i found the dead sparrow
i buried it
in the redcrepewrapped shoebox
‘all things bright and beautiful’
i sang again
dear God
it’s not because i love burials
i don’t need
five or ten daily
i don’t know what to sing
those children of Dimbaza had no time
to be bright and beautiful
i have run out of hymns
i cannot cry all day.

6 thoughts on “Missing

  1. I know exactly how you feel. I miss both my parents so much. Especially now we are insecure as we have just moved back to SA and trying to find somewhere to settle and build an income.

    Although 34, it still matters to me that I am no one’s child. I have two of my own and huge responsibilities to provide and support my own lovely family.

    My extended family, as lovely as they are, have their own children and I will never be one of them.

    There are positives to this, to learning how to manage your self and understanding there is no financial or emotional bungee cord certainly makes you much more careful. But it is not something I want my children to ever have to experience.

    1. It amazes me how comforting it is to hear the words “I know exactly how you feel”, genuinely said.

      I have been thinking lately about how difficult I would find my father’s death. There is something so… final. It was the dead of my last grandparent – also the one I had the closest relationship with – last year that brought home the shock of that entire generation of my immediate family being gone. GONE. ALL of them. I wasn’t prepared for that to feel great than the loss of each one of them alone. So too I imagine the death of a second parent has it’s own additional nuances and layers of grieving. And your words, “it still matters to me that I am no one’s child”, feel so full of humanity and inexpressible loneliness (even when surrounded by the love of your family). They hold so much truth about the depth of parent-child relationships, meanings, complexities.

      There is learning and growth wherever we look for them, certainly. And depths of compassion and humanity that could not otherwise easily be accessed, and for which I am truly, deeply grateful. We wish so much to protection our children from pain, yet our journey I think is to a large extent accepting that pain is an inevitable part of life, and we cannot predict what form it will take or how it will manifest. We can only do our best to provide them with the internal tools to accept life as it is, and be grateful for each moment.

      Moving back to South Africa was one of the most unexpectedly tough things I have done. It was totally unprepared for how difficult and lonely the first couple of years would be; slowly slowly slowly we found our feet, our grounding, my balance. Rebuilding a social network, a stable home, new activities and engagements and work relationships… these things are far more challenging with children, somehow, than I anticipated. Sending you much love x

  2. Those who truly love us are not many in number, but make all the difference between being known and valued and unknown, so her absence from your daily life is hard in a way I understand, but what I understand also is how proud of you she must have been, and a joy to behold during her life. That was your gift to her, and it is priceless.

    1. Oh, Peter, you have left me quite tearful – but with gratitude as well as sorrow 🙂 Your words, “Those who truly love us are not many in number, but make all the difference between being known and valued and unknown” struck deep chords, and clearly also came from deep truth within your own heart.

  3. You wrote:

    “but there are times when my chest tightens and I weep with the aching desire deep in my chest to hear her voice, access her wisdom, and most of all, to wrap myself into the warmth of her comfort.”

    I know that pain and desire you describe, I could have written these words myself – these feelings are so familiar to me. So many times I wish I could pick up the phone and call my mom, just to say hi or to get so much needed advice. My mom has been gone for over 6 years and I still need her.

    I was fortunate enough to reconnect with a family member a few weeks ago. He is my grandfather’s cousin and they grew up together, got together as adults, and lived in the same retirement community. It had been 12 years since I last saw him. At 102 years old, he is amazing. We talked for hours about family. It brought back many memories of my grandparents and my mom. It was nice, but now I miss them even more. The pain of losing 5 family members in 8 years stays with me.

    Thank you for sharing your feelings. I can really relate to what you wrote. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish that pancreatic cancer had never entered our lives and taken my mom from her family.

    Take care,


    1. Oh Kathy, we both resonated with each other today, as so often before. Our grief so unique, yet the feeling of loss so universal.

      It is interesting how these connections, and speaking of those loved and lost, can be both healing and freshen the pain.

      Much love,

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