I wrote this about a month before my mum left us. I wrote it when we knew as a family that cancer was claiming her. It was my final roar at this disease, before I knew I’d have to say goodbye to her. You are never ready to, no matter what anyone says.
Cancer eventually took her on 05 June at about 5am. That was four years ago, today.
This year, I actively staved off writing this, because I didn’t feel like i had the words. Until this morning, when I realised I’d already written it, I just needed to address it to something else. If you read the link above, you’ll see what I mean. It’s a reworking of the above mentioned letter. Because I realise now that, even though cancer took my mom and my dad, it’s Time that tries to be the ultimate remover. And it fails.
Just like my mom would laugh about her years in Italy, or tell her stories about when she was a young ballet dancer…time didn’t fade those stories. The light in her eyes and the sparkle of those funny times would shine right through her, as I’d listen, entranced. Or when she’d talk of how I and my siblings were when we were babies, and she could accurately recollect the most precious of moments with us. When she’d throw her arm over her head and laugh “like a drain”, she’d say, the life in her eyes shone straight into the future. It still shines on us today.
Time does not fade her stories. Time does not fade my mother.
It turns out, Mum, you’re indelible after all.
You’ve stolen my mother from me for four years now. Just two weeks before her first grandchild turned five, you decided to stop her clock. Since then, that grandchild has grown and blossomed. And she’s turning nine in two weeks.
Dear Time, I don’t think you’ve quite met my family yet. You can remove my parents from the family dinners and the birthday parties, the celebrations and the lazy Sunday mornings, but you cannot steal my mother. You’ve not been able to steal our mother or father. And you never will.
You see, Time, you’re not the first thing that’s tried to break us. Trust me. You’re not the first entity that’s tried to eat away at the fibre that holds us together. You’re not the first thing we’ve had to confront. You’re most definitely not the first to try and scare us.
You see, my dad. My beloved, affectionately known as Dadadad. “They” tried to get him once, twice, a few times. He challenged them and he said “thanks for the extra hour”. Heh. Funny thing is, even when cancer came to get him, and you, Time, kept him from us, he got that extra hour.
He got it when he got to sit next to me whilst I was in labour, and again when he peered over my shoulder to look into the eyes of his first grandchild. He still gets it today when I look at my daughter’s hands and see his hand shape. I see him in the set of my brother’s chin and my sister’s eyes. I see him in my nieces. He still gets that extra hour when I look at my squiggly signature and the slant of my handwriting.
You see, my mom. “They” tried to steal everything from her. She worked, very hard, to help people who had their lives, their homes, their families stolen from them. And she won. She won through, every time.
When cancer came calling for her the first time, now eight years ago, she said “Take it. I don’t need my breast anymore. I have my children already”. She wrote cancer a letter of farewell and kicked it, right to the kerb. Cancer came again in 2010, and that time, it took her.
But, Time, you still haven’t stolen her. I can see her every time I look in the mirror.
You see, Time, my siblings and I. We roll with the punches, take on our own life challenges and do it without fear of you. We know, because life has taught us, that time is the one thing we cannot recreate, but we do know we can enjoy it when it’s here.
Time, you can roll the years by. You can tick tock through the minutes, but you still cannot steal my mother.
Why is this? It’s simple. It is because she continues in spite of you.
She’s in the lilt of our voices and the framing of our thoughts. She’s in the difficult parts of life where I have to discern rubbish from truth, to understand a purpose…and she’s in the laughter we cackle out loud when someone makes a joke.
I was looking at my daughter’s feet the other night, as she grows and lengthens. As she blossoms into the big girl she is and, I see my mother in her feet. Elongated, high-arched and strong. I see those same feet on my nieces.
You see, Time, my mother continues in my child’s feet. My mother’s feet may not walk this planet anymore, but her grandchildren’s do.
So, dear Time. You can do your best, do your worst, whatever. But you cannot break the faith that runs in the blood of everyone who bears a significant resemblance to me. Life’s already tested it, numerous times, and lost. So, if it’s distance from the day we last held our mother you’re bringing, you still won’t steal her from us.
She is here, even when you try to put the years between us.
UM, I miss you at the dinner table, on the telephone and I miss you in the noise of life. I miss you in the quiet of a day, and I miss you in the coffee breaks. I miss you in the moments I am scared, and the moments I am not. I miss you right now as I write this, and I miss you so much, each time I wish for you. I wish for you on the good days, the bad days, the in betweens, the beginnings and the endings.
I miss you, but you are not gone from me.