There’s a first time for everything after death. First birthday, first Christmas, first anniversary. Even the ticking of the clock, the passing of every day, brings a new ‘first’. Every 25th of the month I think: “That’s one month without her, that’s two, that’s three…”
This weekend it was four. And it happened to be Mother’s Day too. My first Mother’s Day without a mum.
The sadness bubbled up inside me as the day drew nearer. First there were the emails from Moon Pig and the popup ads from M&S, reminding me to purchase the perfect card and the perfect gift for my perfect mum. I hit delete every time, like a reflex, barely giving it time to register. There was the moment I passed on the opportunity to spend the day with my husband and mother in law, knowing that I probably wasn’t ready to join in. Not this year. Then it was the kids at school asking when we’d be making Mother’s Day cards, and realising that the idea of doing that would require a kind of strength I didn’t think I had. And then, finally, it was being in the supermarket last weekend, queuing up in front of the Mother’s Day cards, and finding that I couldn’t tear my eyes away. I stood there, finally broken, knowing that I wouldn’t buy a Mother’s Day card again. And that made me feel very sad.
And the thing is, it was always a difficult day for me even before my mother died. Because they don’t sell cards that say, “Our relationship is really complicated but I love the bones of you anyway.” There was never the perfect card, even when I made it myself. Days like this always illuminate what’s missing, and this year it was going to be hard in a whole new way.
But I woke up today and the sun was shining. The clocks went forward, officially marking the arrival of Spring, and as the light streamed in through the curtains, I realised that hiding under the covers feeling sad would be a waste of a perfectly good Sunday. My husband was away with his own mum, so when I got up, I had the house to myself. I indulged in a few hours of catch up TV, whilst drinking tea and eating crumpets in my pyjamas, and avoided social media like the plague. A few friends sent kind messages to say that they were thinking of me, and it felt nice to know that the act of mothering can come from anyone.
Following some advice that I received last week, I sat down and wrote my mum a letter. It was somewhat cathartic to say everything that was in my heart, knowing that she would never read it, and it meant that I could wish her a Happy Mother’s Day after all. A few fat tears rolled out and splashed onto the paper, but when I sealed the envelope, I felt good.
Later, I went out for a run. The sun was still shining and for the first time this year, it didn’t feel cold. I ran up to Hampstead Heath with some emotional nineties dance anthems blasting through my headphones, and with every breath, I felt her with me. She was there in the sunshine, there in the blueness of the sky, there in the buds of blossom on the tree. No longer physically here, she can be whatever I want her to be now.
On my way home, I bought some massively overpriced flowers from a vendor in Kentish Town, and carried them home for my mum. I put them in a vase to bask in the sunlight and placed her letter underneath. She always loved flowers, and I hoped that these ones were bright enough to catch her eye from way up there.
As shitty Mother’s Days go, mine wasn’t all that bad in the end. She never once left my thoughts, which made it feel like we’d shared the day together. I felt closer to her today than I have for a long time, and that felt good.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mum. Thank you for a lovely day.