Why a single day isn’t enough

Mother’s Day. If you’re English.

I didn’t remember. Until I opened my digital copy of the Times and read Olivia James piece. (Such is the isolation afforded by the Outpost).

Nor did Hat. Or Husband. Not until I laughed, ‘Hey! Where was my breakfast in bed?’ Husband is unperturbed, ‘Back to bed, then’, he instructs, ‘and I’ll bring it to you’. Hat is devastated, ‘I’ll make you as many cups of tea as you want today’. And she duly flusters after me, demanding, as I drain one mug, ‘do you want another?’

My big kids haven’t remembered. They probably won’t.

And it won’t matter.

Heartbreak, screams the Daily Mail, as Jade Goody loses her cancer battle on Mother’s Day. Two female celebrities died this week, two women dissimilar in almost every conceivable way. Except one. Mothers who died too young.

I ask a friend, ‘do you ever worry about dying?’ I feel a bit silly. Asking. A bit melodramatic. A bit too-much-white-wine-on-an-empty-stomach. Yes, she says. ‘Since I had children.’

They amplify your sense of mortality. Hone your self-preservation. Make you suspicious of lifts. Ensure you drive more slowly and remember to take your vitamins. They can heighten awareness of your health to a point of almost-hypochondria and accentuate a fear of flying.

Who would know how to do my job if I wasn’t here I fret foolishly as I board a plane? Who would understand my son must be allowed to eat two bowls of cornflakes heavily dredged with sugar at breakfast time before being dragged into conversation? Who would appreciate my eldest daughter is a charming, sweet, exasperating combination of woman and child, who needs, despite her rangy height, taller than me, to fold herself onto her mother’s lap? Who would know Hat needs a certain reassurance before she can sleep at night.

Who would know their secrets?

Nobody. Not even their dad. Who loves them no less than I do. Nor any harder than me. Just differently, that’s all.

My father died when my sister was the age Hat is now. I thought I had reached Closure long ago. But then – years later – the grief came barrelling back over my horizons so rudely, so unexpectedly, that it winded me, knocked me for six. I cried for a week  Racked by sobs on the school run, my children regarded me with dismay. ‘Why is Mummy crying?’ ‘Because her dad’s dead, silly!’, they whispered to one another. They were too kind to scoff: ‘Come on man, Mum, he died years ago!’

Is it ridiculous (for that is how I felt) to seek answers, solace, so long after the death of a loved one? Apparently not, said Alan at Cruse. He assured me that the return of a grief I thought I had been able to parcel up neatly and put away was not uncommon. Particularly since I was a parent myself now. With children approaching the age I had been when dad died. There was, he said, a deep, unconscious fear that history might repeat itself. I couldn’t bear that. I do not want my children to endure the same pain. Not whilst they are so young.

Ted Bowman, a poet and American grief counsellor says that though we are able to come to terms with the vacuum the loss of a loved one creates, we never come to terms with the loss of a dream.

My lost dream meant dad never knew his son-in-law; my children never knew a grandfather. It meant he never knew I named my son after him, that I write, that I drink red wine.

I want to be there when my children graduate, buy their first homes, get married, become parents. I want to be able to say In My Day and I want to watch their eyes roll. I want to be there when they know better as teens and absolutely nothing by the time they are thirty. I want to see my dreams out. And I want to keep doing this job.

Which is so bloody big, so vital, so demanding, so rewarding, so universal and so unique that no single spec for the job of A Mother can ever read the same.

Nor a single day be sufficent to celebrate its magnitude.



Yesterday my blog was two years old. I have written almost 350 posts which total – as an estimate – nearly a quarter of a million words.

That’s equivalent to three books full.

Thanks for reading.

36 Responses to “Why a single day isn’t enough”

  1. Grannymar Says:

    Words equivalent to three books full – All worth reading!

    Happy Mother’s Day.

  2. Kit Says:

    My children and I are dealing with the recent death of their father. The youngest is twenty. I have been told by each of the five that I am just not allowed to die ever.

    We go on, but the person missing does not become not missed.

  3. Iota Says:

    “Thanks for reading”? Thanks for writing!

  4. lulu campbell Says:

    Lovely. Aren’t we lucky to be mothers? I haven’t had my children today and that just doesn’t seem right – I’m coming up to two years of blogging I can’t believe it? I have written even more posts – over 400!! I just can’t work out why I haven’t got more followers….Happy Mothers Day. Lx

  5. Kit Says:

    Happy blog birthday and mother’s day! Having children definitely makes me drive more carefully. I want them to be old before they have to deal with losing a parent, wiht children of their own to link them to the continuity of life.

  6. doglover Says:

    Thank you for today’s beautiful blog, RM.

  7. Laura Says:

    That was a lovely post.

    I lost my mother when I was nine (over 20 years ago) and I still have waves of grief no less than when she died.

    My own children are just 3 and 4 and when they were born I started a new chapter in my grief. I can’t imagine ever leaving them nor how my mother must have felt knowing she would not get to see me grow up.

  8. MDTaz Says:

    My father died before I was married and divorced, before I had children, before I’d found my place within a profession, before I knew who I was. (Like I do now? but you know what I mean.) That was over 20 years ago, which stuns me. I miss him at the most obvious times, and at the oddest ones. But sometimes I think he left because he knew – one some level – that my siblings and I wouldn’t start living for ourselves until he was gone. His personality had that kind of force. So I move on, like you’re supposed to. Reading your words today, it made me think of him again and in a way I haven’t in long while. I wished he could come back, for a visit, and just see where we all ended up. Thanks for that. It hurts a little, but I don’t mind it, if it keeps his memory close.

  9. coffee maker Says:

    despite her personal flaws, it is tragic that Goody passed on at such a young age, and on Mother’s day

  10. Cheryl Says:

    Happy mother’s day.

  11. carol Says:

    Great writing – well done and Happy mothers day for yesterday.

  12. janelle Says:

    ah anthea, again such poignancy….that pic of you and hat made me cry…so beautiful and says it all…. xxx j

  13. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Thank you Grannymar; that’s very kind.

    Kit. I am sorry. I am so, so sorry. I was 19. No. The person missed does not stop being missed. I was always struck how Dad’s absence was even greater than his presence. My thoughts are with you and yours.

    Aw. Shucks. Thanks Iota x

  14. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    oh lulu. yes we are. and i am sorry for not commenting more often. i read but never know what to say. i should have done yesterday, though, when i read your post about being on you own for mother’s day. that must have been sad. i hope builder bloke was kind. and made up a wee bit. just a bit? x

    Kit: children of their own to link them to the continuity of life. absolutely. perfectly put. i think our children are life belts; they ground us in this life, make it feel safer. Mine do.

  15. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thank you Doglover.

    Laura – thank you for reading. I am so sorry you lost your mum whilst still so little. and no, I cannot imaging the pain she felt knowing she would not be there to watch you grow up. Sometimes i imagine Dad’s spirit at my shoulder whispering encouragment into my ear, or delivering precisely the right word when i am struggling to write. For suddenly it is there, suddenly the words i need are there and i wonder, ”where did that come from?”. It helps to make him feel less far way.

  16. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    MDTaz – I think memories can hurt. But i agree, it’s imperative to keep them close, imperative to keep them alive so that we remember the face well. My mum always urged us to talk about Dad, in the immediate aftermath and later on. It was a valuable tool in both coming to terms with his absence and remembering him well.

    I quite agree coffee maker; she was annihiliated by the press but in the end Jade Goody left a legacy – her sons will benefit from a better education and better chances than she did and the number of young women seeking smears has risen considerably. Indubitably some lives will be markedly better because of her.

    Thank you, Cheryl.

  17. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thank you little sis xx

    thank you Janelle. Eliza took it a couple of years ago. xx

  18. Mud Says:

    Thanks for giving us a glimpse of your life too.

    My mother has been ill this year. I might be 30, but seeing her mortality was terrifying and gut wrenching.

    Family is so important – and that photo of you and Hat is beautiful.

  19. Tash Says:

    lovely, meaningful words… I rarely remembered Mother’s Day – I’m so bad at that stuff. To me, no day was any different, when Mum was there… Now, without her, no day is any less empty either…

    Keep on blogging – I’m proud to have read every single word…

  20. Wife in Hong Kong Says:

    It seemed to pass us by in HK unnoticed too although to be fair the little ones pressed glue coated cards into my hands some time in the middle of last week. How should they know whether Wednesday was or wasn’t Mothering Sunday?

  21. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Mud – I can imagine. We expect them to be there forever. Family is the most important thing. I can cope with most things. Except those I love being unwell or unhappy.

    Ah Tash. So sad. Your mum was the most wonderful lady. I loved her. She was cool and kind all at the same time. You must miss her greatly. x

    Wife in HK – Quite. How should they know whether Wednesday was or wasn’t Mothering Sunday. I know those glue coated cards. Treasure. Absolute treasure. I come across my own from time to time, secreted away in a drawer.

  22. Potty Mummy Says:

    Happy Birthday for yesterday RM. I was lucky – my Mothering Sunday started on Thursday when Boy #2 handed me the card he had made at nursery as I picked him up… (Mind you, I still put it in an envelope to open in bed yesterday morning!)

  23. Expat Mum Says:

    I do worry about me or my husband dying – just because it’s hard on kids. If one of us dies at 50, (when my dad died) my kids will be so much younger that me and my sibs were. And yes, you’re right, you never really get over it, especially when they didn’t meet your spouse or children.

  24. rosiero Says:

    A fantastic post – as always. I too have fretted about dying too soon until Kay is grown up and settled with a family of her own. So much so that I will not have any necessary (but not urgent) operations in case anything goes wrong! Silly, I know, but I think that’s what motherhood does to you. Hope you had a good day, despite nobody initially remembering. It is all so commercialised anyway. I am sure they all adore you anyway – all year round.

  25. Jo Says:

    I’ve just discovered your blog and this is the first post that I’ve read.
    I found it very moving.
    I arrived home two days before my father died, I was 4 weeks pregnant with my daughter. He never knew his grand-daughter and she never knew my father.
    Thankfully we have photos and anecdotes and my mother, all of which help my little girl get an idea of what he was like in life.
    But after the events of this last week, I too worry about not being here.
    A great post, I look forward to more.

  26. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    aw Pottyl aren’t they sweet; those first cards and the busting pride that come with them.

    you’re right Expat: our kids make us so very aware of our transience. and so very determined to be there. always. all at the same time.

    i don’t think you’re silly rosiero. i can absolutely empathize with that sentiment – about not having any surgery unless absolutely vital. i have made precisely the same choice for exactly the same reason. it sounded like Kay gave you a lovely day.

    thank you very much Jo. that must have been hard – to lose your dad as you were becoming a parent. anecdotes are the best – they really conjure up the essence of the person. and kids love to hear about family. regardless of whether they know them or not. those familial links help to ground them, give them a sense of place. keep talking about him. for all your sakes.

  27. black mzungu Says:

    Huh losing the dear ones is too painful, my father died eight years ago and I still miss him so much, I miss his maturity way of talking and understanding situation and solving them!I remember sitting outside our veranda when I was a teenage and talking to him about the fears of my identity! and always he has the answers to all. Very touchy blog I love reading though, today I shed a tear for the lost loved ones!Happy mother day.

  28. ladyfi Says:

    What a sad, yet lovely lovely post.

  29. nuttycow Says:

    Happy (belated) mother’s day RM. I think if we didn’t think about our own mortality once in a while, we wouldn’t be human. We certainly wouldn’t be who we are. No one can replace the loss of a loved one however, those left behind can make sure they are never forgotten.

  30. R. Sherman Says:

    Belated greetings and congrats for two years of delightful posts.


  31. MDTaz Says:

    What a beautiful dialogue between thinking, feeling women you have started and further fueled. Thanks for that.

  32. Cornay Says:

    This is so true. Life changed the moment my first child was born. Everything was different. My heart is now open, and outside, walking the world with my children. I love your blog. Thanks.

  33. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    black mzungu. a sweet, sad, poignant memory. thank you.

    ladyfi, thank you. and for dropping by.

    ah nutty. how lovely to see you. and what wisdom from one so (much) young (er than I). you’re right: memories can – must – be immortal, even if we can’t be. x

    MDTaz. thank you. i love the conversations that blogs initiate. the insights they lend. and the company.

    hello Cornay. Thank you for dropping by. I see you’re in Dar! Love your header btw.

  34. Dattbroanny Says:

    Great site this reluctantmemsahib.wordpress.com and I am really pleased to see you have what I am actually looking for here and this this post is exactly what I am interested in. I shall be pleased to become a regular visitor 🙂

  35. Edelweiss Transplanted Says:

    Three days ago, I lost a friend with teenage children. She herself had lost her dad at 18 and was still mourning him as an adult. I think the most terrible thing about dying, for her, was the knowledge that her children would have to undergo the same grief she did.

    As a mother myself, this post touched me deeply. I want to see my dreams out too.

  36. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Edelweiss, I am so, so sorry to hear about your friend. My heart goes out to her children. The knowledge she was not going to be there for them as her dad could not be there for her must have been desperately painful.

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