This is a follow on blog from a past post, How Writing A Stranger’s Memoirs Helped Me To Live Fully And Love Unapologetically. A two part blog (though in essence a trilogy) - I had reached out to a couple of friends and for one, her mother had passed away only two months before. Although her mother’s illness was sudden and short, she was grateful that there was time to say goodbye. For the other, living overseas didn’t afford her this time with either parent, and its effects are evident. Thank you to both women for sharing their stories, their vulnerability, and most of all, the lessons.
For their privacy, I have changed their names.
How differently do we feel about and celebrate the ‘firsts’ in our lives?
A baby’s first steps, or their last day of high school? What about our own milestones? When someone we love, more importantly a parent, is sick or passes away, how does it change the way we see those ‘firsts’? The first day, our first birthday, even instinctively picking up the phone to share with them your good news only to realise they wouldn't be picking up on the other end.
Does it change our relationships and how we see the world? I reached out to a few friends who have experienced the loss of one or two parents with intention of giving us a greater understanding of how we can make the most of our relationships in the living years. Even though our loved ones have passed away, could we use that loss to positively impact ourselves and those we love?
Two generations of mothers spent Mother’s Day in hospital. Within a month, Angela found out her mother had ovarian cancer and then she was gone. She remembers her being in a lot of pain, even with the high dose of medication that is supposed to help patients ‘be more comfortable’, she was vocal about it. “Mum was in a lot of pain and screaming. She grabbed my hand and the last thing Mum said to me was ‘So much for keeping me comfortable...I'm not comfortable.”
I met Angela through work, and as I got to know her over the years, so did my admiration and respect. She is an introvert, but once you earn her trust, she will open up. A solo mother to two teenage girls, I saw a hard working woman who has taken a few knocks in life. The loss of her mother is her biggest yet.
“After Mum passed, I remember feeling sick and numb. I just sat for hours numb. I don't remember the funeral. Everything is just a blur.” She remembers getting the call a day before her passing that her mother’s lungs and kidneys were failing - she was grateful that they had those precious last few hours to be with her. To surround her with love, as a family, to say goodbye. “The hardest part is not being able to talk to Mum. We used to talk every night on the phone or via text. I still go to ring Mum.”
It was important to her mother that she spent time alone with those she loved. Angela is an only child, and her two girls were close to their grandmother. Her oldest often stayed nights, usually helping out when nurses weren’t available, trying to make her comfortable through the pain.
How did she feel after the first month? “To be honest, I feel like Mum is just away and will be home soon. We have just passed two months and I still expect Mum to walk in the door...I know she's not.” The grief and melancholy comes in waves, though she feels it has had a positive impact in her relationship with the girls, and especially her Dad. She now kisses him goodbye and tells him that she loves him. Coming from a family that weren’t openly affectionate, this is a big step forward.
What about the girls, how much do they remind you of your relationship with your mother? Angela says that her girls are completely opposite in every possible way - her eldest is very laid back and just deals with things as they come. Her youngest is very stubborn and if she doesn't want to deal with things she will shut down. She also has anxiety and worries a lot. With my eldest daughter. We have been told that she looks a lot like me at that age. My youngest daughter, there is no physical resemblance - but boy does she have my temper and stubbornness!”
I had been her youngest daughter’s teacher for a few years. Her youngest had been very close to her grandmother, and saw her as her biggest cheerleader. The last time I saw her grandmother, she gave me a big hug and thanked me for helping her granddaughter come out of her shell.
I will be honest, it was a lot of hard work over the years, often feeling frustrated that she couldn’t see the greatness hidden by self doubt.
If Angela had five minutes again with her mother, what would she say or do? “Hard one to answer. I'm not sure if I would say anything or just hug Mum. Just thank her for everything, tell her I loved her and to come back.”
Ronna Grace Funtelar is a thirtyish storyteller, creative, writer and slam poet currently based in New Zealand. She is a hobby hiker, photography and sunrise enthusiast with a passion for mindfully helping others live beyond their comfort zone.
Basically, a shorty who knows her life purpose.