The death of my mother

Forgive the tone of this message but I am on my own for the first time in well over a month, so I am taking fingertips to keyboard in a process of complete purgation.

I have never suffered from depression (I don’t think so anyway) but if the sensation can be described in the following way: – where the world is grey – like you’re in a film which alternates to the dark grey tones to emphasise the bleakness of the message in the movie; if it’s where people you love around you aren’t the same as they used to be; almost intangibly, like a little piece of them has died too; when you distinctly remember the exact moment when the colour drained from their faces –  when the smile that once represented true happiness and an optimistic outlook is suddenly replaced by a forced smile which says “I am just doing ok”, where their shoulders look like a ton-weight has been placed upon them, and, finally, if you visualise the experience as looking at a balloon which has deflated, wondering when you can muster the strength to blow it back up again, then I am pretty sure this could be it. And it’s a true test of character, I tell you.

Many things trigger this sensation. Sometimes it is looking at pictures of mam when she was young, or looking at her picture from the funeral with George pointing and saying “Nanny Bate”, and then I realise I’m doing such a thing to reflect on a person who we buried a month ago today, with the unforgettable memory of watching my 2.5 year old throwing roses onto her coffin, not really understanding why he is doing so.

Tonight this sensation was triggered by listening to a voicemail I’ve saved by my mother which says “she loves me too son” in response to a call to her previously, which then led me to view a couple of videos of George where you can hear her voice clearly, which then made me spend so long browsing her Facebook or her Twitter, looking for evidence of where she laughed, cried and despaired when she was still here. Looking at the comments on my pictures, knowing those pictures kept her going.

In turn, this temporarily makes me forget she’s gone. That I can expect to receive a call on my phone saying “Mammy”, or that I can still send her an inane WhatsApp of George, that I can expect to see her shuffle in in her own imitable way in the kitchen when I get back home, that I can expect to see a like on Facebook followed by a loud exclamation of the joy she got from looking from pictures of her grandkids. That I still reach to the iPad when George is in the bath so I can show Mam on Skype. That she will give me a stern word about something when I’ve done something wrong. That I can still rely on her to be my moral compass, the check and balance of my behaviour, the source of my moral fibre – reflecting back to when the regular words she used to utter: “watch what you’re doing, and not too late” or “if a girl says no, she means no” when I was a young man going out for the first time. Or that I can still rely on her to be proud of me in everything that I do. Or that I realise that she was the glue that held a lot of things together.

Then, when I wake out of this dream, I realise she isn’t here anymore. I replay the awful moment I found out she took ill and I recall the horrible experiences I felt in that week between her death and the funeral. Sometimes it feels like I am watching that entire week outside of my own body looking in, wondering when the reality of it all will set in. It all seems terribly unfair. I remember watching my little brother and father in ways I have never seen before and wish that all those things never happened. But they did. It’s a natural consequence of life, and everything must go through it.

And when it does happen to someone you love, in ways you didn’t wish upon anyone, then if there are things that you did or did not do before someone’s death regardless of timing, then this generates the most intense feeling of what I consider to be the most destructive emotional force I have ever felt in my entire life. Guilt.

For me this is the guilt of not returning her calls, or not going into her bedroom when she asked for company, or not being able to help when I remember her face when she burst into tears frustrated and in severe pain. The guilt which makes me think it was me that set the chain of events which led to her taking ill. Or the terrible guilt which makes me feel especially awful because I never understood the depths to which my mam felt following the loss of her brother who she looked after growing up. She was never the same person after that day in 2007 and I wish I could have helped to do avoid what was to come. I should have done so much but I didn’t.

This depressive feeling intensified after the 13th January this year and leads me to write this a month after her funeral. This is the evening that mam was supposed to be at the Adam Lambert/Queen concert. The interaction I have had with the “Glamily” – her friends on social media – has been a genuine source of comfort over these last few weeks and this built up to mine and my brother’s attendance on Adam’s guest list. We had a fucking great time. Our Liam was laughing and singing and that made me feel happy again. But once that gig was over the depression truly set in. And it leads me to overthink – to take a source of positivity and look for the negatives. Why I clammed up and couldn’t get my words out to my mam’s idol’s publicist when she asked what message Adam should put on her t-shirt, when people around thought we’d meet him. It makes me think I should have asked to do so, and it made me think mam would be disappointed in me for not doing so. And in overcoming these feelings it means going to a concert again – the Leeds concert tomorrow night – to get that feeling once again that mam is around us, despite the fact that the post-concert depression will kick in once again. And it means acting irrationally looking for every possible way of trying to meet with her idol again because it is what mam would have wanted. Truly odd behaviour looked outside of the prism of the grief process.

I know this feeling will weaken in its strength over time. Everyone has to deal with bereavement. I know that life does go on and more importantly, I know that my job here is to do what my mam would want me to do – look after George and give him the best upbringing I possibly can. But for now, feeling this way seems to be the least I can do given that my mother is no longer within us.


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