I knew it was coming up, after all it’s a date I know so well. But I realised today it had passed me by without my noticing. Quietly without outward acknowledgement or comment. The date of my mum’s stroke five years ago. The 13th of August. How did I miss it.
As soon as I realise I come up with excuses, I’ve had a cold, I didn’t write the date- but even yesterday on the 14th, I did write the date, and it still did not occur to me.
So is this date losing significance, I am not sure about that, I hope not. Did my body remember, perhaps, the episode I had on Sunday was debilitating and left me on the couch for hours. It’s a date I remember, a day very clear. On the 13th of August 2012 I had the last phone conversation ever with my mum. I spoke to her in the morning with no idea that by midnight she would be in hospital. So the date also marks for me the last time I felt free from grief.
For me this date marks of the start of a mourning process I go through each year. A period of firsts and lasts, of loss and grief, of hope and sorrow. The time from my Mum’s stroke to her death two months later. This year, this time also coincides with the completion of my manuscript which is on this very topic, across this very time frame.
The manuscript, Sitting by my Mother’s Bedside, which I first submitted in 2013 as my thesis for my Master’s in Transformative and Integrative Studies, is again nearing a point of completion. It’s a narrative account of this time, this experience told through my dreams, my diary entries, passages written in hope and despair. It’s the story of the journey my family and I took alongside Mum as she lay in her hospital bed. It is a story about life and death, of letting go and holding on and it is a story I want to get published. So I am adding a bit more content to the already 50 000 words I have, content I hope will help readers to understand the story, to know my mum, and me through the journey we had.
I had already set the goal of submitting in October without consciously thinking about that fact that October the 19th is the date my mum died. Will submitting on that day be fortuitous or not I wonder. It does feel like a neat ending, tidy and satisfying for that part of me that wants meaning and closure. The part of my that likes order and holds dates as significant markers for life experiences.
On a more practical side it also gives me a solid time frame to work to, and an interesting juxtaposition to experience. To edit the past in a coinciding time period five years later. To me this feels right, it fits as a continuation of the experiences that the manuscript is about. A continuation of the struggle to control life and the need instead to just let it flow.
I feel in a similar way about the manuscript itself at the moment. Right now it feels unwieldy and challenging. It feels like a ball of goo which keeps slipping through my fingers. As I try to hold tighter and tighter it spills out more and more. At the same time it is solid, it is held together by it’s internal structure and I feel like I just have to trust it. Trust this creation to stand in its own shape, to hold its own form and to exist as its own entity of sorts once I step back from it, once I turn off track changes and accept it for what it is.
The writing of the manuscript started the day of my Mum’s stroke- it started without me even realising what it would become. Writing through this time became my touchstone, in much the same way that mum had been my touchstone for much of my life. It was Mum who would to hold and support me, who would nourish and comfort. And it was, is, my writing that gives me something of that now. Although it really is a poor substitute for the the loss of Mum, the woman whose womb I grew in and whose love held me safe for so many years.
The experience of sitting beside my mum in her hospital bed, as she lay there after her stroke was a time of close intimacy and affection for all of us, my mum, Dad and my sisters. We were bound together. First in the hope that she would recover, then in confusion as she did not, and finally in grief as we reached some degree of acceptance that my mum was no longer for this world. Recognising that she was dying was in a small way liberating and it gave us a small amount of choice and control. We could not control what was happening, and we did not choose for mum to die, but we chose to be there with her, we chose to accept her journey and to love her gently to the end.
My mum, Wendy Walters, was a kind woman, she was funny, even a little quirky perhaps. She was there for friends and family. And now she’s not. Apart from in memory, which is where I hold her tight and close to my heart. So, it is in memory of my mum that I write this now, and it is in recognition of her love and kindness that I work on completing my manuscript with the hope of seeing it published. In the hope of sharing her journey with others.