Dear Mum …

Today would have been your 67th birthday.

If you were still here, we probably would have taken a trip somewhere.

Maybe we would have gone to Victoria, our old stomping ground. We’d always start in Murchies (is it still there?) and a walk on the Dallas, followed by fish and chips on the harbour, and usually a Guinness in The Penny Farthing. We might have visited Buchart Gardens again to drink in all that beauty, and later battle the fragrant humidity that curled our hair into poodle-mops.

Or maybe we would have opted for somewhere warm, like Phoenix. We used to catch the early flight down – 5 am start! – with the express purpose of being shoe shopping by 11 am, Starbucks steamed teas in hand. Do you remember the dinner where we sat, wide-eyed and silent as church mice, listening to the intrigue from the girls at the adjacent table? We agreed on the way home it was probably the best live show we’d ever seen!

Speaking of shows, maybe we would have gone to a real show. I often think about the Michael Buble concert we went to at the last minute, when I bought tickets from someone at work that morning.  We had such fun singing along to those old standards. It turned out to be the last concert we’d ever go to together; I’m glad neither of us knew that at the time.

Or maybe — if the rounds and rounds of chemo you endured, or if the stem cell transplant you fought your way through hadn’t failed — maybe we would have simply taken the boys out for the day, just to celebrate being together?
I think perhaps you’d have liked that best of all.

There’s rarely a day that goes by that I don’t think how much you would have loved them. The four year old is so talkative now. He would have happily bent your ear for hours about his Thomas engines and whichever superhero is his favourite that minute. And the two year old is such a comic. Every time he smiles I think of how you’d delight in his still-drool-y grin.

I still vacillate between anger and grief that you never got to meet the boys. Every time I take them to soft play, or to see a kid’s concert, I see grandmas with their grandchildren, and I think how lucky they all are just to have each other. I know how much you would have loved to do those things with them — to watch their little faces light up as they met a favourite character, or learned something new. I wish I could have given you that. It breaks my heart that you never got to hear their sweet little voices say, “I love you, grandma”.
But even more, I wish the boys had been able to know you, because I know how much they would have adored you.

I miss telling you about their accomplishments: those first steps and first words are bittersweet when I can’t call you up and say, “you’ll never guess what he did today!!”.
I think that was the hardest thing about losing you; not so much your physical absence as not being able to talk to you. I’d spent nearly thirty years talking to you every single day; suddenly not being able to pick up the phone and hear your voice was like losing a limb.

But when you knew you were dying and that our days together were short, I remember you telling me to always keep talking to you.

So I do. And I try to imagine what you might say.

“Tea first” usually springs to mind.

Also, “any good bargains?” — you always loved a good sale!

But when the boys are sick and I don’t know what to do for the best, or when I’m otherwise worried or overwhelmed, I ask you for help.

And I imagine you responding with your other favourite phrase: “leave it with me”.

And there have been so many times when I’ve been sure that you’ve been listening and keeping a watchful eye over all of us.  All the near misses and the lucky breaks, the big hurdles and the little signs that said you were there watching, as clearly as if you’d whispered in my ear.

So for the last year, I’ve been telling the boys about their “guardian angel grandma”, their magical friend who loves them dearly and watches out for them. It started as a way to explain who you were in pictures, an easy phrase for small children to understand. But then it became a way to keep your memory alive while letting the boys have something special to imagine. But I didn’t know if it was something they were really taking in.

Then, a few weeks ago, the four year old was telling me about his dream where he went on holiday in a fast convertible car.

Who did you go with? I asked, expecting the names of friends or storybook characters.

With my angel grandma, he said happily.

It sounds like you’ve been planning some trips too.



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    1. Thanks Rod! I know you lost your Dad recently and I think we all carry these losses with heavy hearts. It never really heals, does it? It just becomes a familiar grief.

  1. That was so beautiful.

    I’m so sorry that your mom never got to meet the boys and never got to see you become a mom. Though I never knew her, I have the feeling she would be beaming with pride at the way you delight in those boys, in the way you love on them, in the family you’ve created and the way she’s still a part of that.

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