Tuesday, 23 September 2014

What my Mom taught me

For the past 4 months and 1 day I have swung from anger to disbelief to sadness and a myriad of other emotions in between. But, most of all I think I have been stuck like a broken record, asking myself...  Why? Why my Mom? Why me? Why so soon? Why didn't I know? Why so much for one family in one year? The simple answer I suppose, is that there is no answer. If it wasn't our Mom, our family, it would have been someone else's. But that doesn't make me feel any better. My Mom, my best friend was 60 years old, and I adored her.

The one thing that struck me this morning while I was out walking, is that for my own sanity, I need to try and see the light in this very dark and bleak situation. But how? The only thing I can come up with is to try and find a purpose from the one thing that happened that I had always dreaded the most, I have to look at my Mom and her life and work out what I have learned and what I could learn from her. She isn't here any more to talk to but she is still with me in my heart and in my memories and I need to listen to her and my heart and live a life that she and I can be proud of. To do that I need to examine it all. I need to be honest about all her triumphs and her failures as well as my own. My Mom and I didn't look alike at all, but inside I believe we were very similar.

I think that my Mom was very tired of life.Things had been tough in our family for various reasons for a long time. She was taken from us by lung cancer, but I think she was tired long before the cancer took hold. The sad thing was that when she was faced with her 2 week life expectancy, she suddenly realised that even though she was so tired, there was still so much more she wanted to do. She bargained that if the diagnosis wasn't as dire as she feared, that she would do things differently. The problem was the diagnosis was dire, and far worse than we had imagined. It was too late. I think that is the biggest tragedy. When a person comes to the end of their life, and has to say 'if only I had'...

There is one thing that sticks in my mind all the time. I was sitting with my Mom while she was still in the hospital and we were chatting. She eluded to the fact that she thought she had lived a 'small' life. That it wasn't a very important life. I told her that she had led and important life! It was important to me and hugely important to her grandchildren. But still, she felt her life had been 'small'. That was her opinion. But, I know for sure, that when I get to the end of my life, I don't want to feel that I didn't contribute or make a difference. I don't want to feel small.

That is why going forward, I need to examine my life and my Mom's to see what has been good and what would benefit from change.

Then at least, there may be some sense to come out of the loss of my Mom, my best friend. It won't have all been for nothing.

Goodbye my Mom

This was the Eulogy that I gave at my Mom's memorial, a week after she died in May. I wanted to put it on my Blog to keep it safe. I am struggling with the font and spacing as it was copied and pasted directly from the original. It is not perfect and doesn't look pretty, but it is the content that matters.

Before I start, I would just like to say thank you so much on behalf of my whole family to every one of you for coming here today to honour the memory of my Mom and to show support. For those who are grieving I hope that today provides some comfort.
It took me a long time to actually sit down to write this. I think I kept putting it off because I felt the longer I did, the longer I could still hang on to the notion that the last 3 weeks was just a terrible dream and I would wake up and there my Mom would be smiling at me saying that familiar phrase 'hey my Muis!'. But there comes a time when denial needs to be put aside and acceptance needs to start to take its place.

My Mom and I had a typical mom and daughter relationship. I adored her until I was 13, she just 'didn't understand me' from age 13 to 17, and from age 17 to 19 of course I knew better than her! But, as I’ve grown older I began to understand a mothers motivation, and it all started to make sense. No time more so than when I had children of my own. I realised that the fierce adoration a child has for its parents when they are young is a gift, I am learning that a teenager will be seriously hard work but I will just have to leave them to it and love them anyway, and I know as they get older they may feel they know better but it is my job to gently guide them no matter what. I learned all that from my Mom.
My Mom and my relationship got really close the day I gave birth to my sweet girl Erin Marie, who is now almost 10 years old. My Mom adored my little girl as she was born and she started to create the most beautiful, close bond the minute they were first together. It's a bond that I think Erin will hang on to for the rest of her life. My Mom was amazing. She took on taking care of Erin nearly every day from the day I had to go back to work until she was old enough to attend nursery school. The patience, kindness, sacrifice and love will never be forgotten and always admired. Even though my Mom needed a lighter load by the time my Seany was born, she still was always available at a drop of a hat to bail me out. I could have a sick, screaming child (or 2) in the back of the car and need to be at a work meeting at 7.30 and still I could be calm. I knew that I could just pick up the phone, scream through to Douglasdale no questions asked and my Mom would make it all better. And I’d make it to my meeting pretty much on time.
Even though I now live in the UK, my Mom and I chatted nearly every day and we also had fierce online Scrabble battles (I very rarely won)! She was a whizz on her iPad and we could while away hours just bouncing messages back and forth, solving all the problems of the world and usually having a really really good laugh through it all. For those that knew my Mom well, I'm sure you knew of her wonderful humour and her hilarious sense of the ridiculous. We knew how to make each other feel better by being silly and laughing. I think often my husband Steve thought I was quite mad, sitting quietly bashing on my iPad and fairly regularly issuing a snorting laugh out of the blue. My Mom was hilarious. Right up until very close to the time when my mom left us, she maintained that sense of humour and we still laughed. It was a gift.

I was very privileged to be able to spend the last 2 weeks of my Mom’s time on earth with her. It was one of the hardest and most painful times I have ever endured, but at the same time so precious. We managed to have some wonderful chats and in one of the more heartfelt conversations she said something that really stuck with me. She said something like 'you know Muis, I do worry that I have led such a small life'. Well my Mom, I hope you can see all the people that are here today and all those that couldn't be here but who are with us in thought to honour you. You led a much bigger life than you realised. I think every person you ever met was touched by your soft presence, your ladylike way, your humour and the wonderful sparkle in your eye. People felt welcome and at home with you.
I have said it much over the past few weeks, but I was in awe of the way my Mom conducted herself over the last few weeks. Her immense bravery, fierce dignity and ever present humour was an inspiration. And through all of it, all she could really think of was to make sure everyone else was going to be ok. I know that if I can go forward and live my life trying to be even a quarter of who she was and express my Mom’s qualities, especially as they shone through in the last weeks of her life with us, I know I will be doing a very good job.
I'm learning that grief is an intensely personal road. There is no wrong or right way. And some people get on that highway and get straight to their destination, others go the back route and get lost a bit and need a few pit stops.
I'm still struggling to understand why this had to happen. But out of something truly terrible, there is usually something good. And I just have to say that I am immensely proud of my brave, funny Dad; my strong brothers who both came forward and did EXACTLY what was needed when it was needed; my wonderful husband who through his own grief has kept everything going at home in the UK and been a wonderful support; my sister in law Lee who also through immense sadness has just been a constant helping hand, all the grandchildren who loved her so much and are being so brave and all the other extended family members and friends who know who they are for all their support and love. My Mom’s illness and passing has brought us all much much closer than before. We all seem to have found each other again, for this I am so grateful to my Mom. And because of that fact, my Dad, I know in my heart that you will be ok in the end. You have all of these people here today, and all of the rest of us just a plane ride away to be there for you. Never forget that. You will not be alone.
I will miss my Mom more than words can describe, and I think the reality of this all will possibly only hit home when I return to the UK on Saturday. But, I know with absolute certainty that she is not gone. She is with me all the time, and she keeps telling me.... 'Hey my Muis! I'm ok!'.
Fly with the angels my mom x

Friday, 22 August 2014

Memories and beetroot...

Beetroot cake just to prove a point!

My wonderful Mom has been gone 3 months today. It is amazing to me how fast time can go but so very slow at the same time.

A few months ago my Mom and I were chatting madly on iMessage as we did daily, about my parents 40th wedding anniversary trip (which would have been this week), it would have included a stop to spend some time with us in our new home. Somehow the conversation got around to beetroot (???!!!! - our chats were often very random and usually utterly ridiculous)... My Mom wasn't a big fan of the humble root veg and was 'horrified' at the thought of a beetroot cake. I swore then that I was going to bake my parents one for their anniversary celebration supper, just to prove a point... Well, here it is. And guess what Mom? I was right! It is delicious.

I used Lorraine Pascale's recipe 'Really tasty fudgy orange beetroot cake' from her book 'A lighter way to bake'. It is an indulgent mix of good quality dark chocolate and LOADS of eggs. But it is really worth a try. I left mine in slightly too long (I blame a new oven and not my tendency to get distracted...) and in hindsight should have followed her recipe and taken it out a little earlier so it had a more gooey texture. But, nothing a good dollop of whipped cream couldn't rectify! It goes against the title of the recipe book really... But, hey! Some days require a little more comfort food than others.

Over the last 3 months I have found that the thought of an event or day is actually worse than the actual event or days itself. It would have been my Mom's birthday last month and for the weeks leading up to it, I was just dreading it. She loved birthdays and always made such a fuss of us. The thought of hers coming around with her not being here to celebrate it any more was utterly awful to me. But, I woke up the morning of her birthday and realised that it was just a day. Pretty much the same as all the ones before. I also realised that my Mom would have been so mad at me for using her as an excuse to be so very very sad. All she ever wanted was for me to be happy. 

So, every day is different. Some days are harder than others, and need a little extra whipped cream to make me smile. But I will do my best to be happy and remember the good memories and beetroot.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Starting at the beginning from the end.

Mom's shirts
I have started and stopped and deleted posts on this blog so many times, and it has been hanging around unused for ages. But, time for me to pick it up and start it properly, because I now have a use for it.

The motivation for me to start it has come from an ending.

Tomorrow, my wonderful Mom, my best friend, will have been gone 3 months to the day. I still can't quite believe it. She was only 60 years old and snatched away from us in what seemed like a heartbeat. One day my life was normal and ticking over like it did every day, and the next day I received a phone call from my Dad to let me know that my Mom was dying, and she wouldn't be with us for much longer than another 2 weeks. The shock of it still hasn't really sunk in. I lived over 10 000km away from my Mom, but I spoke to her nearly every day, we chatted on iMessage or email, Skype or the phone. Not once did I ever suspect that she was feeling so awful. She never said a word. My brave, special Mom.

I have found that many people are afraid of grief. People actively go out of their way to avoid it. So, it is very hard to deal with the emotions by sharing them with others. I don't blame them at all, I was the same until I had to face my own grief straight in the eye. Writing has always been my way of expressing my emotion. I get tongue tied and confuse myself if I have to deal with an emotional issue verbally. But, I can always write it down, it is a cathartic process. So, for me, this blog is the start of me being able to put my feelings in to words and deal with them.

I seem to have inherited my Mom's love of collecting craft items, but like her, the excitement is in the sourcing of the item, but once I have got it, I get bored and don't know what to do with it! After my Mom died I had to get all of her things together for my Dad so that he could have it away from his direct line of sight and so that he could go through it in his own time when he is ready. By the time I was done I had a very large bedroom stuffed to the brim with drawers, cupboards, crates and bags full of craft stuff. Most of it never even unwrapped. I certainly don't have an entire room filled to the brim, but I have a fair few items that I have either used half heartedly or never even used at all. As I was sitting on the floor cross legged in my parents home, feeling totally overwhelmed and stunned at the extent of my Mum's craft collecting addiction, I promised to kick my own hoarding tendencies to the kerb. So, my plan is to go through all of my items and use everything up and see what I can create without spending much more money unless I really have to, to finish the project. And, I will blog about it too.

The first project I am starting is one that I think will be the very hardest of the lot. Because I live so far away from where I was born, getting things back home can be a costly experience. I desperately wanted to have a few of my Mom's things after she died. We were very different sizes... She was barely just over 5 feet and I am significantly taller than that! But, I inexplicably felt the need to bring some of her shirts home with me. I didn't know why because they certainly don't fit me but they were easy to pack and not very heavy, and they were so very 'her'. I stuffed them into my bedside cupboard when I got back and it is only recently I remembered them and realised I was ready to look at them. I want to be able to look at them all the time. I stumbled on an idea on Pinterest where baby clothes are used to make a quilt. I am going to make a memory quilt from my Mom's shirts. Yes, maybe it is morbid to some, but to me once it is done, I know that having those shirts in a quilt will be the closest thing I will ever have to getting one more hug from my Mom when I wrap it around myself. I don't actually know how to make a quilt, but with the help of the internet, books and my Mom's ancient old Elna sewing machine I am hoping that it will turn out ok.

The 'no more dieting' diet.

I think it is safe to say that I have tried every diet under the sun. Probably twice. I have wanted to be Ella, at one point Dr Atkins ...