By Louise Cairns
It’s March 2020, two days before Mother’s Day, and my Mum is in hospital. What a pretty dreadful place to be when you’ve spent so much time in and out of the place following a diagnosis of bowel cancer. Mother’s Day arrives, I call her on the phone and she opens her cards and gifts from me. As her shit luck would have it, one of her gifts, a porcelain Bee Mug, is smashed to bits! I was gutted, she was gutted.
“Ooh, Louise,” she said, “I love Bees, such a shame it’s smashed.”
“Don’t worry Mum, I will get you another when you come home. When are you coming home?”
“In a couple of days, hopefully in time for your 50th birthday Zoom party.”
On the 28th March, Mum gets home. She’s so happy to be home. She has the sweetest bungalow, with shutters at all the windows, a farmhouse style kitchen and the prettiest of gardens. She adores her garden, spends so much time pottering around out there. Sadly, I still can’t see her, we are in lockdown and she is shielding.
It’s the 29th March, my 50th birthday. All the beautiful plans we had of renting a beautiful house in Devon with friends and family are of course cancelled. I did at least get to see Mum on Zoom and we raised a glass to me and she blew me some kisses from her lounge and not from a hospital room.
The 6th April, Mum becomes sore around her tummy. She has developed an infection and has become somewhat breathless. She goes back into hospital by ambulance. They give her chemotherapy as an emergency, totally against what she wanted. My Mum is a Nurse and she felt she was safer at home and the treatment should be delayed until Covid is over and she is less vulnerable. They insist she has to have the chemo, despite struggling to get on top of an infection. Following the chemo, Mum wasn’t put back into her room where she was isolating, but put on an open bay. Someone else ended up in her room whilst she was having her chemo.
A few days later, she felt terribly unwell and it was confirmed she’d contracted Covid on the cancer ward. The next day she was transferred to a Covid ward and all cancer treatment stopped and she died on the 4th May. Alone, with not a soul by her side for the whole four weeks she was there. This is something I will never get over.
My Mum was an amazing woman. She was intelligent, kind, loving, and so so funny, a wicked sense of humour that had me on the floor. I miss her so much and my heart aches everyday. I can hardly believe she’s gone. She always looked so beautiful and so well. I thought she was going to be okay, I honestly did. She did too. I always remember her saying to me that this was just a blip in her beautiful life, that’s all, and I shouldn’t worry.
Mothers Day is now fast approaching and what I wouldn’t give to be sitting in her garden with her while she sips her favourite coffee from the Bee Mug I didn’t get to replace.
When my Mum left, she took part of me with her, it’s an emptiness I can’t explain. When I look in the mirror I see a woman without a Mother, my best friend has left me, my eyes smile in a different way. However, I feel so incredibly blessed to have had such a beautiful relationship with her. The pain I feel is testament to the love and life we shared. She was definitely taken too soon, but no one will ever take my memories away. Those are mine to keep.
To all of you who have lost your Mums, I feel your pain, especially as the milestones like Mothers Day, Birthdays, Anniversaries and Christmases approach, but remember always to smile for her.
This was played at Mum’s funeral. She had already chosen it in her Last Will.
Smile – Nat King Cole
Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through for you