Had she not died from a rare cancer of the ear (who knew such things existed?), my mother would have turned 80 today. Perhaps something else would have got her, but her father lived to his mid 80s and her mother into her late 90s. Certainly we all thought she probably go on to be a 100 or more, and possibly out live us all.
So it was more than a little shock when she died at the age of 65, less than a year on from her diagnosis.
People who have not been through the loss of someone close tend to assume you’ll grieve for a while, then get over it. But the truth is you never do.
You shatter into a million fragments and then spend the next few years trying to gather them up and stick them back together again. Inevitably some bits are missing, or damaged beyond repair, so you fill the gaps with other bits, and slowly you recreate a version of yourself that is able to live in the world without the loved one.
To the outside world you may even appear to be the same person you were before. But you’re not, and you never will be.
This isn’t to say that after 14 years and a couple of months I don’t go days, or even weeks without thinking about my mother, but periodically it whallops me deep in my chest and for a few moments the pain is as excrutiating as the day I lost her.
Sometimes it’s triggered by something one of the children have achieved, and I think of how proud she would have been, and how sad it is she isn’t around to experience it. Other times, like today, it can be a particular date. I completed a Sudoku puzzle over a cup of tea after my breakfast and scribbled the date in the margin (I don’t really know why I do this, but I always have). And as I wrote out 30/04/17 I remembered today was her birthday, and then realised she would have been 80. And the tears welled up.
What I have learned to do on these occasions is give her a hug, hold her tight and remember her love for me.
A mother’s love is unlike any other – it is completely unconditional. I could have murdered someone and, while she would have been deeply saddened and upset, she would still have loved me.
That complete, total, unconditional love that is there whenever we want it, is something we don’t fully appreciate until it’s gone. Like the air we breathe, until we experience its absence we don’t truly understand just how vital it is to our being.
My daughter, Meg, is away today with the café she works part time with, who are providing catering for an event a few miles the other side of Dumfries, so I won’t see her until tonight.
But when she does come home I will steal a cuddle from my amazing daughter who still gives herself to my hugs with total commitment. No matter how bad I feel about myself or the world, in her eyes I can do no wrong. From Meg I also get complete unconditional love, and I know I am an extraordinarily fortunate man.