She died exactly 2 weeks ago today. She was in her 100th year and frail. Her death was not unexpected. As her dementia progressed over the last 5 years so the grieving for the person she was and the anticipated death to come has been part of my life for a long time. But I still can't fully realize she has left us. It doesn't feel right to speak of her in the past tense. My sister and I and our husbands were with her in the hospital when she died, so the rational part of me is in no doubt about her death, but the emotional side hasn't yet caught up. Not that I haven't cried - but there will be more tears to come. I know that.
A few days earlier I sat with her in the hospital while she slept. When I arrived I kissed her and said, 'hello Mum, it's Nancy'. She didn't open her eyes but she repeated my name with warmth. When I left two hours later she said, 'goodbye dear'. Those were the last words I heard her speak. I don't think I will ever be able to recall that without crying. She had said that so often to me before, all the way back to when I set off on my bicycle for school. But that time I instinctively knew I would not hear those words again from her.
Another thing I can't believe is that I am now the oldest in my parents' lines of the family tree. Can I really be old enough to be a matriarch? Well, the mirror might tell me that, but just now I feel like a child. My father died many years ago. A few minutes after my mother died my sister said to me, "we're orphans now" and this is one of the first things I said to our brother when he arrived shortly after. Then we laughed because we are all over 60. Can you feel orphaned at such ages? Yes you can.
At 13.40 last Thursday, on the first week anniversary, I sat alone in sunshine on the seat by the pond in the large and fine garden she created from a rough field. Mum's passion was gardening. She knew the Latin names of every plant, what their needs were and how to provide for them. Weeds were never tolerated until her physical strength declined. Gardening work by family and the odd jobbing gardener never succeeded in maintaining it to her previous high standards. This afternoon I will probably work in my garden. Gardening and grief are a healing combination.
Now perhaps you know why I've been a bit silent on the blog lately. The next few posts will probably be on a similar theme to this one, as I try to put feelings into words.
One of my cousins sent these words, written by Jessica St James. They seem exactly right for Mum:
"A life well lived leaves its gentle pattern on the hearts of all...and the world is a lovelier place because one person touched it with warmth and goodness and grace."
Photos: my own