Eight : Memories 2/2

Last year I wrote here that I was worried I was forgetting. This year I wanted to write a list of my most treasured memories.

When I managed to catch her before breakfast, still reading in bed and could sneak in next to her, and we’d talk for hours. When day we stayed there until dad came back for lunch – we felt so sheepish. I can’t remember of what we spoke, but the simple act of going so is enough.

Of watching her on stage – we only get snatches of seeing our loved ones in their natural or work environment – it always took my breath away.

That when she was in hospital over night, she’d wait at her window the next morning and wave to me as I went to work.

When she’d ask me to do her makeup before she’d go out to a party

Sitting under a tree, it was spring in the south of France, she was rehearsing for a job – recording a book on to tape. The Book was My Theodosia, I fell in love with that era of American History and Aaron Burr – it shaped a lot of my learning.

Tidying my room while listening to the many, many other books she’d read on to tape.

Singing the musical numbers of Guys and Dolls and an American in Paris while cooking in the kitchen together – the smell of tomato sauce and the steam.

When she was doing her Masters, I’d sometimes travel to London from Uni and we’d hang out.

After a very serious car crash, dabbing arnica on to her bruises (in the loo, at the theatre school where she taught and I was training) – catching her eye in the mirror and knowing we were both sending out all the gratitude that it wasn’t more serious.

Her letters. She wasn’t afraid to express how much she loved us, or anything else for that matter. 

How soft her skin always seemed and how good it smelt, especially when it was warmed by the sun

How, even when she was really sick, she came to my work (during a particularly horrendous tech week) to bring A and I soup. I still have the fancy card she’d written the cooking instructions on

Discussing theatre with her and often disagreeing.

There was a time when we went to a bridal shop (a pretty rubbish one – it was on a whim), she kept stopping everyone and saying – “you don’t understand she’s normally in jeans” whilst requesting I try on bigger and bigger dresses

A star necklace she bought me from accessorise ‘just because’

Being with her when her Mama died and knowing it was the awful privilege of women to be the strong ones, to bare witness to these life and death events. Being with her when she died.

Picking up the phone and telling her of a particularly difficult breakup and having her just say – ‘Come Home Now’ and that was all.

Her chicken broth.

How she stayed with me, that one time a got blind drunk and very sick, because she was worried I might choke – how she didn’t get cross about it at all.

How, during my early teenage years, when I was awkward and friendless – she and dad would hang out with me and never thought that was weird (or let me know if she did anyway)

How the only time I ever stayed out over night, whilst I was at theatre school and living at home, she didn’t ask me where I had been, she just handed me an almond croissant the next morning

How she didn’t understand predictive text, so I’d receive messages like “thigh is al I cab’ 

How reading her childhood diaries would have us all howling with laughter.

How she would try to make me a tidier person.


Eight : For Everyone I Ever Lost 1/2

I normally write to Ma at this time of year, and I will, but January always brings with it the spectre of loss, and this year I wanted to unpack it a bit.

I used to hate with a passion the term ’sorry for your loss’. This was in the early days of grief when actually, looking back, I just needed to be angry and didn’t know where to put that.

I’d get confused between loss and lost, and lost seemed so accusatory. I’d feel stabbed every time any one made a comment however sincere, I felt blamed. Neither she, nor I had wandered off in the supermarket. In fact, I had tried to stick ever so close, especially in those last precious weeks.

It felt backward too, if anyone had lost anyone she had lost us. We were still right where we had always been and she had left. Ah the muddle of illogical grief.

But really, she wasn’t lost, she hadn’t passed (don’t EVEN get me started on the stupidity of PASSED). My Mama had died. SHE’D DIED. Why did we need to pussyfoot around this? I needed people to be completely frank about it, which nobody seemed willing to do.

As you can tell, I was angry.

Anger, it has taken me an awfully long time to learn, is often times mis-spent pain. Grief was a new type of pain that I couldn’t understand or quite let in. It takes a special kind of confusion to take the words of kindness and find exasperation; truth is nothing anyone can say can really help when someone we love dies. I still pause before I say, “I’m sorry for your loss”, to someone else, in case I can find a more personal way to express myself.

I’ve calmed down a bit since those heady, raw days. I still wish that death, and the discussion of death in a frank, yet gentle way was more prevalent in society. It would help so much in the whole grief bubble and perhaps enable us to find the right words to say.

Do you know what else I’ve learnt about grief? Or Loss (I’m trying to reclaim it), sometimes the hardest grief is when the person your are grieving isn’t lost to the earth at all, just simply lost to you. The ache of knowing they’re out there but they have no need in their world for you. Ooof. That is sometimes harder than a death could be; at least I can look back now and know mama didn’t leave willingly.

I don’t take losses well. I still have heart pangs over a necklace left in a hotel in San Fransisco – one of a kind. I’ve mourned that necklace; every now and again I think of it, and hope it’s gone on to have a whole new story, that it is LOVED. I lost that necklace nine years ago, it’s inanimate object. So can you imagine what I’m like with an actual person?

We all have people who have been in our lives and aren’t anymore. Sometimes that is our ‘fault’, sometimes theirs; sometimes nobody was at fault at all, but they’re still no longer there. Some, you never even see again, and some, you might see all the time. The pain of small talk, where once opened hearted, free flowing dialogue was, can cut just as deeply as an absence.

When I think of my people, the ones who are lost to me. No matter the story behind the separation, I’ve started to hope for them an amazing, adventure filled, technicolour life. What I am trying to realise is that every loss is a lesson. Would I have thanked myself or anyone else, for pointing that out in the first heart sad days of grief – for mum or any of the others? No. I would of wished of them a chair to the face.

Now, there seems no other way of living with the pain, shame, and regret. It all needs to have a meaning and the only meaning I can control is what I learn. Does that mean I don’t repeat the same mistakes? Well, I’m not sure, but maybe with every one I get a little smarter, so give me another eight years and lets see how we’re doing.