Anywhoo...no wit and charm today. My mum died 13 years ago today. As is always the case when someone dies young, there were so many things I never got to say to her. I write this for me....because I need to put words to it. No offense taken if you choose not to read.
Thirteen years ago today I held your hand as you took your last breaths. You were 56, I was 23. You were too young to die and I was too young to lose my mother, but such is the way of this wonderful thing we call life. Sometimes it seems like yesterday, other times, I have trouble remembering the sound of your laugh, and it makes me incredibly sad. After thirteen years, I still miss you so much it sometimes stops me in my tracks and takes my breath away. Only sometimes, I know you wouldn’t want me to be sad and I’m not.
Your last days on this earth were horrific, and I know if you could take the memories of those days out of my mind, you would. You would take them and leave me only with the happy memories. I try not to dwell on your last days. It does no good. It’s very difficult sometimes, to forget that I had to tell the doctors to let you die, that it was what you would want. I still doubt my decision; no 23 year old should ever have to make that type of decision. It’s difficult to remember the tears rolling down your face, even though your body was shutting down and you hadn’t opened your eyes in seven days. It’s difficult to believe the doctors were right when they said the tears were from pain. I think they were tears of sorrow, I think you knew you were dying, and you didn’t want to go. I didn’t want you to go either.Oh how I raged against the doctors, I fought and screamed and pleaded with them to do something, anything. You would have been very proud of your obstinate daughter. In the end, there was nothing any one could do. I hope you knew that I was there, you weren't alone Mum. I held you as you died, I kissed your forehead, I laid my head on your chest and whispered that I loved you, that I would miss you, but that it was ok to go. I told you I would look after J, my brother, I told you not to worry, I told you over and over again that I loved you. I hope you heard me.
I’m sorry for so many things Mum. I’m sorry for being a shit face asshole teenager. I’m sorry I never had the time with you to truly learn to appreciate every sacrifice you made for me. I’m sorry I’ll never have the chance to tell you that you were oh so very right when you used to say to me "some day you'll understand". You were right. I understand that "because I said so" is indeed a valid argument, even though it used to drive me batshit crazy. I’m sorry you’ll never be here when I find myself saying things that you used to say, things that made me so angry I just wanted to spit at you, things that I swore I would never say to my own kids. You were the best Mom and I’m sorry.
I would give all the riches in the world to hear you say, "I should have eaten you while your bones were soft” just one more time. You believed in yelling to get your point across. You would scoff at the way people parent children today. You laughed from the very pit of your stomach when something tickled your funny bone. You believed all life’s woes could be cured with a home cooked meal, made with love. When we made you proud you would try so very hard not to cry, but the tears of joy would be brimming in your eyes, but never falling, because you believed you had to be strong for us. You told us always to be honest, at the very least with ourselves. You taught me that reading was the easiest way to travel the world, without leaving home. You taught me to be good, and if I couldn't be good, to damn well enjoy being bad because there would always be repercussions for my actions.
You had your faults, I know that. It would piss you off to no end to be put on a pedestal in your death. You had a temper that was ferocious to watch. You never laid a hand on your children, but we loathed being the cause of that temper rearing its head. You were stubborn as a mule and proud to a fault.
I look at my children sometimes, and I think of how very much you would love them. The fact that you have five grandchildren that will never know you breaks my heart. Their lives are less without you even though they don’t know it. Your first grandson remembers you even though he was not quite four when you died. He remembers laying in your bed when he had sleepovers with Nanny and watching Power Rangers with you. He remembers making blueberry muffins with you, when you would give him the bowel filled with batter and a spoon, letting him have at it. I would get so mad at you when I went to pick him up, to discover him covered in blueberry batter. He remembers that still after all these years. I tell him often that he was your boy. I tell him that you loved him beyond reason. Coadie was just over a year, he has no memories of you even though he spent your last Christmas with you in your hospital room. My daughter was not even a twinkle in my eye when you died. Oh how you would love her Mum. She is her mother’s daughter and so very much like you and I. You would dance with glee over the fact that she will probably drive me as crazy as I drove you. Just deserts...you would say.
I like to think that you would be proud of the woman I’ve become; the woman that you helped shape. My strength comes from you, of that I have no doubt. I have conversations with you in my head sometimes. At 23 I was only just starting to appreciate you for a person, outside of your role as my mother. I know that we would be great friends if you were still here. I smile when I think of subjecting anyone to our combined sarcasm. I sometimes long for your words of wisdom and your support.
I remember the week before you died, you couldn’t talk, but we knew you were still in there. You kept picking up that damn Chicken Soup for the Soul book, every time I sat near you you would reach for the book. I wanted to throw the damn book out the window because I couldn’t understand why you wanted it. Three weeks after you died I finally found the strength to sort through your things from the hospital and the book was among the items. I found the story you had marked Mum. I hope you know that I found your bookmark. I sat and read the story, proof of your last days of life surrounded me, and I read about the woman who bought the red dress, hanging it in her closet to save for a special occasion. I read the story about that woman dying before ever having worn the red dress she loved so much. I sobbed as I realized that the story was about your regrets, for things you hadn’t done. You were trying to tell me to live. I laughed through the tears because even in death you managed to get your point across. I promise you, with everything that I am Mum, I will always wear the red dress.
I love you Mum forever and always.
In loving memory...
Velma Noreen Birt
March 28, 1941 - January 19, 1997