Inevitable as it is and many times more expected the older we get, it still takes us by surprise doesn’t it. Even as Mum prepared us in the years before by telling us, if we saw she was losing her mind we were to ‘hit her on the head with a hammer’, we laughed. Even as we saw her struggles in the last few years and we knew her time was close, we just couldn’t imagine it….and even though we knew it was to be, and we wanted it for her… we selfishly didn’t want it for us.
Their passing, one moment in time, takes us back over our years together. Our childhood, our teenage years and our new parenthood. When we understood for the very first time what it was like to be a Mother or Father. OUR Mother or Father, and here at this point, it is that we stop seeing them as Mum or Dad, but as an adult. An adult with dreams and schemes and coping with marriage, families and finance, good health or bad, whatever life threw at them. Hopefully at this point we judge them less harsh as we appreciate that they coped with life’s challenges in the best way they knew how, just as we must.
I couldn’t have imagined the gaping great hole Mum left and yet am so thankful that we had her for so long, into our own grandparent hood. That she was a strong figure in our children’s lives. That she was such a positive and fun loving person and we got to share that as adults. That she kept pretty well for most of that time and that she got to choose her time to go, with dignity, which was one of her biggest fears.
November, the anniversary of Mum’s passing, is such a lovely time in the garden and so much of what I see here as I wander, is because of Mum. I see the cuttings, that were nothing more than three dried up sticks, now flourishing hydrangea bushes. The fushia tree that ‘pops’ up everywhere, she gave me as the birds love it. The brick paving she surprised me with one day as she planted it in Mondo grass. The rhubarb came from her. Hang, even things she didn’t plant she took credit for. “Look Tricia, the carpet roses I gave you are doing so well!” Ummm I bought those.
And what about the cordyline terminalis that I have almost dug to China to get to the bottom of I can’t get rid of it. “Can I plant this anywhere Mum?” I asked. “Yes, by the pond would be lovely”, she said. When later it was threatening to engulf the pond she swore she never said that! Or the white climbing Rose that shreds me at pruning time with its huge thorns, that I thought I sliced through at ground level and somehow the thing keeps growing. She delighted in every aspect of the garden and whenever we visited we had to do a garden tour, no matter how busy we were, or uninterested. No matter where I walk here, there is a piece of her in every part. I marvel too at how much I learn’t from her and what a great gift that knowledge and joy of gardening is. She celebrated every success, no matter how small.
Perhaps death makes us realise our own vulnerability. After Dad’s passing when I was just 19, I used to avoid funerals like the plague as I became so distraught. Not necessarily over the person who had died, but my own loss previous. It was embarrassing to be sobbing uncontrollably when I may not even have met the person who had passed. Perhaps I just have a well tuned empathy response. I make an effort now I am older and wiser and know how comforting those words are, to be surrounded and to feel a sharing of the loss. I am still an embarrassing cry baby however.
In the last year people who are special to me have lost their parents, and I feel so sad for them, that over the next few months they will go to make a phone call and then remember they are no longer there. They will pick up something they were given and remember the giving, but hardest of all they will feel the finality of that life. They will feel that gaping hole. Hopefully soon they will also feel a special warmth that comes with those memories and the time they had.