It is Mum’s birthday today, something which won’t mean a lot to you but it means the world to my family and I. Our mum is the glue that draws us all together, especially at this time of year, as we remember her unique gifts, her tranquillity and love of life.
An old colleague of mine once told me that when you lose a parent you are changed forever and that, if you are not careful, you family fractures apart. He was right and I can’t deny that losing a parent is utterly heartbreaking. It is a path we must all walk and it is something we all dread, a painful scar that each of us has to carry on our hearts. A scar that can break open and leave you raw and bereft when you least expect it. It brings you to your knees. But what the expectation of such a loss and the grief fail to capture is that which lies beyond losing your loved one. That for every tear cried, for every moment where you fall to your knees knowing you won’t see your dear friend and confidante again in this life, there is a reason to keep on living. There is a strength that comes from walking through your grief with your friends and family by your side to dry your tears. There is a compassion towards others that grows within your heart from knowing how it feels to lose a part of you. There is an understanding of how short and precious life is. What I am trying to say is that there is always a reason to lift your face to the sunshine and be thankful that you have life. You have a chance to wake up tomorrow, to tell someone that you love them and become the very best of who you are. To live on, inspire and lift someone else that needs their tears wiping away. I have been reminded of that today by the love my family and friends have shared as we pulled together once more and celebrated Mum’s life.
In the time since we lost the light of our family, we all changed a lot. My beautiful sister and her family made their dreams of a country home and rural lifestyle come true through their hard work and determination. My wonderful big brother and his family had the courage to move overseas and start a new life on the other side of the world, the sun shining down on them. And my ever strong Dad is rebuilding his life as we speak and in so many ways that I can’t put it all down on paper. I am so proud of them all. And me, well I had a bit of a rocky time with losing my fiancé and career, letting go of my dogs. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I am building my future, following a lifelong dream of moving overseas to work with sharks.
My colleague was right in that losing a parent did fracture our family but not in a negative way. Instead of lying down and giving up on life we all stepped back, took time to grieve and then put our best feet forwards again to life. We pulled together, held one another up and despite the geographical distance remained very much a family. It isn’t easy and there are days when I crumple and miss the open arms that comforted me when life seemed hard. The wonderful, magical laugh of Mum’s that made me smile from ear to ear. She had a wicked sense of humour and a sparkle in her eyes that lit up our world.
But you know what? It has been worth getting up each day when the world seemed full of darkness, just so I could remember those moments. So I could grow a little more. It has been worth it for the opportunity to practice becoming a better person by trying to be more like Mum. She was a truly beautiful soul and, with that in mind, I will leave you with my favourite memory. To me this says it all about how each of us could be a little more thankful for what we have and see the beauty in the simple things that make our lives so precious.
I remember one New Year’s Eve before Mum was ill, when the family were all together to celebrate the start of the coming year. We had spent an evening eating good food, laughing and sharing stories, playing games. It was noisy, fun and colourful and then this one question left us all silent. The room went quiet as we pondered the most appropriate answer. What would we choose to be? We took it in turns to answer as we drank our wine and came up with choices such as ‘I’d come back as an eagle’ or ‘an oak so I could live a long time’. Basically each of us went for the grand, the long living, powerful choices. My Mum, she simply said she’d come back as a chaffinch. A regular garden chaffinch, because they were pretty and had a nice life living in her garden, eating bird food from the table and being in the sunshine.
May each of you take a moment today to appreciate the view from your bird table and smile.