You’re walking down the street, smiling, happy, enjoying your day, when out from nowhere it springs on you, launching a fresh attack that leaves you gasping for air.
It’s been nine months today since Mum died. Long enough to incubate a baby from start to finish. Enough time for an entirely new life – one that didn’t even exist before Mum was here – to be created and brought into the world. How can that be?
I dream about her all the time. At first the dreams were that she was alive, but not back to her usual self. Indeed, my reaction in all of these dreams was one of terror: “But…if she’s alive, then why have we been wasting all this time and energy on grieving? Oh god, and now we have to go through all of that, the dying, the death, the grief, ALL OVER AGAIN.” My boyfriend pointed out to me that in fact, I wasn’t dreaming that she was living again, but dying again. I’ve had dreams where I’m carrying her naked dying body on my shoulders, trying to get somewhere that I can’t seem to find. If that ain’t a perfect picture of grief then I don’t know what is.
But now the dreams are changing. Maybe I’m moving between grief stages? I don’t know. But last week I had one that was so beautiful, so loving and where she was saying such beautiful things, a dream where, I suppose, she was LIVING. And I woke up sobbing.
I miss her terribly. Whenever I’m in my sister’s house – where we brought Mum home to be with her in her final weeks – I consider myself high risk of dissolving back into the throes of terrible, fresh grief. Angie’s bathroom gets me the most. It’s where Mum and I shared our most intimate moments, when she was so vulnerable, so naked in every way, so humbled and needing me to be her everything.
It’s where I sat with her and kissed her forehead while she tried desperately to push out what wouldn’t come.
It’s where I showered her after she’d soiled herself in bed, lying there for two hours in her own filth because she felt guilty about waking me when we’d already had a long night together.
It’s where I held the warm water over her head as she loved so much, and she, in her ever-skinnier, ever-weaker body, sat on her shower stool with the water lacquering her beautiful but thinning cotton wool hair and chanted “oh, that’s lovely. Oh, that’s lovely.”
It’s where, after she died, I shut myself so I could bury my head in her dressing gown, inhaling it to try to bring her back to me.
That bathroom kills me.
So I try to stay away from it, full of ninjas as it is. But sometimes I can’t help myself. I have to go in there and face the ninjas; not to fight them, but to let them have their way with me, to beat me, spit on me and leave me breathless, to go through the pain so that afterwards, I can feel my lungs the fuller for it.
It is necessary pain.
I imagine Mum’s voice all the time. Her thoughts on things, her opinions, her advice…and I know her so well, even better than I ever could have imagined, after that last intense few months together. She will never meet my Jon, the love of my life. And while that does suck, it hugely comforts me to remember that I don’t really need her to. I know exactly what she’d think of him. I know exactly what she’d say about him. I know how over the moon she would be. I know her.
And in that way, regardless of what anybody believes, she really is still with me.