“What if you slept
And what if
In your sleep
And what if
In your dream
You went to heaven
And there plucked a strange and beautiful flower
And what if
When you awoke
You had that flower in you hand
Ah, what then?” ~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge
During the last month I have spent more days away from home than I have there, an unusual occurrence for me being the home-body that I am.
On the twenty-eighth of October I began a ten-day trip south with my youngest daughter and when I have the time to sort through and edit almost five-hundred photos I took, I will share a few photos here.
Less than two weeks after returning home I headed north, this time to attend the wedding of my eldest daughter who married her long-time boyfriend in a gorgeous beach ceremony.
After returning home from the wedding, and with just enough time to complete and submit a university assignment and catch up on some work, I received news that I had been dreading – my brother-in-law, who had been ill for some years, had taken a turn for the worse. I had to be with my sister.
My big sister means the world to me and I have often cursed the geographic distance between us. Knowing that my brother-in-law, a man I have known all of my life, had just days, maybe even hours to live, had me packing my bags and heading south again.
On Friday night, after a six-hour drive, I arrive just in time to join my family at the hospital. We cried, hugged one another, laughed as we remembered the good times, and shed tears over the loss of a beloved family member.
The funeral is Friday and I will stay with my sister until after we say our final goodbyes to her husband. She has never lived alone before and the days and months ahead will be a time when she will have to make adjustments to the new life which has been forced upon her. Thankfully, she will not have to face the future completely alone – a beautiful girl with unruly curls and floppy ears will keep her company.
“The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?” – Edgar Allan Poe
Change is inevitable, but for the last month of the year I am hoping for a calm, peaceful time at home. The twenty-eighth October to the twenty-eighth of November this year has been a memorable month, for many reasons.
It was on this day, a Monday morning twenty-three years ago, that I said goodbye to my mother. I could have said she died, or that she went to heaven, but I don’t feel comfortable with either of those terms, as she is still with me today.
After so many years, some of the details have escaped my mind – was she in hospital at the end for one week, or was it two? How many days did my eldest sister and father sit at her bedside, from morning until night, awaiting the inevitable, wanting to be with her when she took her last breath? Why did the two of them ask me to try not to cry in front of her, as I watched her slip away?
So many years have passed and a million new memories have been made, yet I remember the significant details of this particular morning, twenty-three years ago, as if it happened only yesterday.
My youngest child was nine months old. At 9:00am, I dropped my two older children off at school and pre-school. I left home that morning planning to head home immediately, do a few chores and visit mum in the afternoon. But The Universe (or whatever the force was) had other plans for me. I found myself turning off the main road and heading to the hospital to see mum first.
Why did I make that choice? To this day I still have no idea. But as it turned out, that impulsive decision would lead to one of the most significant and memorable times in my lifetime.
My baby and I entered an empty room, all but for my mother laying silently in the single, metal hospital bed. Mum liked a soft mattress and I often lamented the board-like shelves they liked to call ‘beds’ in this place and wished my mother could beat this demon that kept her imprisoned in the stark cell. I wanted to see her return home to her pretty purple and gold bedroom, the one she had taken such care to decorate. But that wasn’t to be.
I felt so at ease sitting beside mum’s bed. She had become comatose sometime during the weekend yet I felt sure she knew I was there. She could hear me, I knew it, so I spoke to her. I told her that my baby and I were visiting her, that my father and sister hadn’t arrived yet, that we were alone. I looked at her hands, the right hand holding the left, and took a mental photograph of her hands, to hold within my heart forever. I never, ever wanted to forget my mother’s healing hands, her creative hands, the hands given to her to carry out deeds of kindness during her time on this earth.
I touched mum’s snowy white hair. It felt so soft, even during her time of illness. It was so fine, so beautiful…I told mum that I wanted to remember every detail of how she looked, so that when she had gone, I could see her any time I wanted to in my mind’s eye.
About half an hour had passed, yet my father and sister still hadn’t arrived at the hospital. I expected them to bustle in at any moment, interrupting my visit with mum. They arrived early every day. Something held them up that day and I was glad for the time I could spend alone with mum.
After a while, it occurred to me that mum may have slipped away. Her chest wasn’t moving, but when I touched her face I felt the warmth of the skin on her delicate, fair face, and I admired the beautiful English complexion that I had inherited from her. And when I looked closely, I saw a pulse beating in her neck. She was still alive.
During my childhood, my mother had visited various sooth-sayers. She needed to know what the future held and constantly sought guidance. Mum’s mother had died when mum was only ten and mum told me that she always felt the spirit of her mother beside her, guiding her, protecting her. As her daughter, I had no doubt whatsoever that my mother was the wisest person in the world. She knew the answers to every question imaginable and if she lacked the definitive answer, she had an opinion. Mum’s wisdom, to me, expanded the bounds of earthly comprehension, yet she doubted her abilities. To reassure both myself and my mother during that last visit, I told her she could continue to contact me, that if she ever wanted to speak to me all she need do was send me a sign, I would be waiting and know it was her, and I would visit someone clairvoyant so she could pass messages onto me.
I looked around the private hospital room at the white walls, trying to see what it was that my mother had seen before slipping into a coma. During previous visits, as I sat beside her watching her sleep, her eyes would suddenly spring wide open, yet she didn’t seem to see me there. She would look around the room at something only she could see. One day I asked her what she saw when she looked around the room and she told me they were closing the door soon. I looked at the bulky, grey sliding door and asked her why they would bother closing it and she shook her head no, repeating, they are closing the door soon.
The resident psychologist had visited my mother’s room a few times while I was at the hospital and after mum speaking so adamantly about the door closing, I found the psychologist and asked her if she could decipher the meaning of what mum said. I told her I didn’t think mum meant the physical door of the room. The psychologist told me she had heard the same thing said many times before by patients who only had a few days left to live. She assured me that there was more going on around us than we could see and that the years in her profession had provided more questions than answers. I asked her if she thought that mum’s ‘door’ was the door to heaven. She didn’t know that it was the door to heaven as such, but strongly believed it to be a door to another place, a place that we couldn’t go to.
Being around my mother during the last weeks of her time on earth, watching her changing actions and hearing her cryptic words taught me lessons she didn’t realise she was giving me. I had always suspected there was more happening around us than what we could see with our eyes, but twenty-three years ago I was still sceptical. Now, thanks to the lessons that my mother still gives me, I feel another dimension of life surrounding me. I know there is more to this world, more to human beings, than the physical aspect.
My mother seemed so alone and vulnerable, lying in that dreadful hospital bed and I knew that mum hated being alone. While I enjoyed (and still do, to this day) time spent alone with my own thoughts, mum was the opposite. She needed to be surrounded by people, otherwise she felt neglected and alone.
Before I left the hospital room on that final day, I said goodbye to my mother. Every time I left her prior to that day, I would tell her when I would return, saying to her ‘see you later’. I couldn’t let her go. This day, I knew I had to.
After buckling my baby girl back into her car seat that morning, after leaving my mother for what would be the last time, I switched on the car motor and the radio came on – playing ‘Mum’s Song’ – Eric Carmen’s ‘All By Myself’…
I’d only been home long enough to tidy up the breakfast dishes when my husband arrived home. He just looked at me, saying nothing. I asked him if she was gone, yet it was more of a statement than a question.
Minutes later, dad phoned me. He and my sister had arrived at the hospital just after I left, only to be met by a nurse…
He told me the nurse had seen me leave the room. Moments before leaving, I had seen the pulse beating in my mother’s neck. When the nurse walked in, just after I said goodbye to my mum, she was gone.
For twenty-three years I have waited to write mum’s story in its entirety, yet couldn’t. It’s difficult to write through tears and my heart couldn’t cope with the sadness. This year, I can write from the place of a beautiful memory. There are no tears, although if I heard Eric Carmen’s song at this very moment, I’m sure the tears would begin…
It’s not easy saying goodbye to your life-line. That’s how I felt on that Monday morning, twenty-three years ago today. I didn’t realise it then, but losing the physical presence of my mother was a gift…
For the next five years, up until dad decided to join mum on another August day, my father became a real person to me. Without my dominant, chatty mother around, we became close and I learned how much alike we were. He, like me, enjoyed his alone time, yet there were times when dad and I would sit and talk for hours. During a five-year period in time, I got to know my father. He told me his stories, from his point of view. Dad supported me, yet allowed me to fall. Mum had always been afraid to see me get hurt, protecting me to the nth degree. Through her love for her child, she unknowingly impeded my growth. Dad gave me my wings and set me free.
My mother has never left me. There is a golden thread that joins our souls, a thread which can never be broken for eternity. Mum knows now that she must allow me to grow. She gives me the freedom to handle things my way, whilst standing beside me every step of the way. She doesn’t need to have all of the answers for me any more – I can find my own truths, yet she often sends me messages. I never visited a clairvoyant, I don’t need to; I feel mum’s guidance when I need her.
I love my mother to the depths of the deepest ocean and to the heights and width of The Universe. I know she arranged the time I had alone with her that last morning, with the help of those in the room who I couldn’t see. When I said the word goodbye to her and after she knew I had left the room, they helped her to close the door behind me.
“So many adventures couldn’t happen today,
So many songs we forgot to play
So many dreams swinging out of the blue
We’ll let them come true….” ~ Forever Young
Late yesterday afternoon, sitting at my sewing machine, listening to the voices of my family as they prepared dinner while I worked, a strong scent wafted beside my left-hand side. Knowing from past experience that these unexpected scents are the visit of a passed loved one, I casually and subconsciously pondered who it might be….Mum?….Dad?….my sister, Anne?…..my grandmother?….
No, this sweet fragrance didn’t relate to any of them, a thought which startled me into consciousness. Who was this? I called Adam into the room ~ he could smell it too, talcum powder, baby’s talcum powder. Adam smiled, and told Mary….
Adam and Mary had discussed the ceremony with our dear friend, Therese, their marriage celebrant. They wanted Samuel to be a part of the day his parents married, to be included, and remembered. It had been decided that Therese would mention him briefly before the ceremony began….
In a serious moment, one which we thought we were all prepared for, Therese spoke of the loss of baby Samuel. He was with his parents on this day, in spirit.
Mary sobbed, tears rolled down Adam’s face. The bridesmaids carefully dabbed the corners of their eyes, so as not to ruin their carefully applied makeup. I thanked The Universe for reminding me to buy a water-proof mascara. One of the groomsmen wished he was still wearing his sunglasses.
There was hardly a dry eye among the guests, and we wouldn’t have wished for the beginning of the ceremony to be any other way.
Adam and Mary have so much to thank Samuel for. He taught them the meaning of true love, the bond of his parents is stronger for having had him in their lives, even for such a short time. They are grateful for having known him and he will live in the hearts of all who loved him, as well as his future siblings, forever.
Today, November 23rd, is his due date, but our tiny Sleeping Angel came early, born sleeping ~ Forever Young.
Bless Therese, she continued the ceremony, lightened the mood, and Mary’s cousin’s boys proudly offered beautiful readings…..
There was a shift in emotions, the focus now on Adam and Mary. Tears of sadness became tears of joy. From where I sat, I could see Mary’s face clearly. The way these two young people looked at each other spoke volumes. I have often seen this look pass between the two of them, it speaks of love, devotion, strength, admiration….
Lost in the moment, I wished I could capture that look forever, and thankfully I remembered my forgotten camera, nestled upon my lap. I zoomed in on Mary’s face, on that look, the look that every mother who loves her son wishes to see on his bride’s face….
I will show this photo of Mary to their children. I will tell them of the magical moment as I took the photo, when Mary’s great-grandmother leaned forward from her seat behind me and whispered, “Your son is amazing”, to which I replied, “I was just thinking the same of Mary”.
The beautiful ceremony, the words exchanged between the bride and groom, the laughter and tears, exchanging of rings, looks of love….it all passed by so quickly.
I wanted to show you Mary’s necklace, a thoughtful and meaningful addition for the day. My daughter, Emma, gave Mary an angel’s wing necklace the day after Samuel was born. Mary added her own touch to the necklace, a silver vial of some of Samuel’s ashes. Adam wore a small vial also, along with a pair of specially engraved cuff-links, “Samuel Christopher 08/08/2015”.
Our Little Angel was very much a part of the day.
Sealed with a kiss…..
But wait! Next they had to do their special hand-shake thingie!
And then it was time for the legalities….but the bond that Adam and Mary share is stronger than any man-made law could ever be.
An official commitment before friends and family, a love that will last forever. ❤
So, Therese continued to speak…..did they hear a word she said at this point? I think not….
Amid a chorus of claps and cheers, smiles and bubbles, the ceremony came to an end, as their lives as Mr and Mrs began.
Next, Sally the photographer whisked the wedding party away for more photos, at Kingscliff Beach, but I did manage to take a quick photo of Adam and Mary in the car first.
Most of today’s photos were taken by Sally. I wanted to be wholeheartedly in every moment throughout the entire ceremony, and capture just a couple of special events. Besides the next two photos, I took the first photo of the butterfly, Mary wanted butterflies to decorate the wedding, in memory of Samuel. I also took the close-up photo of Mary, to capture the look of love in her eyes, and I also took the one as Adam slid the ring onto Mary’s finger….
…..the wedding rings came to into the ceremony carried on a small pillow, which was covered by a small babies blanket, the blanket in which Samuel was wrapped, after his birth.
Remembering Samuel today, thinking of what might have been, mind-blown by the lessons his short life gave and grateful for the love that envelops our family. ❤
My youngest son turns eighteen today, and even though he knows that I blog, calling the friends I have made here my “Fairy Friends”, I doubt that he would ever think to read what I have said. Today though, I need to mark the day my youngest child becomes a man. Really? Is it actually today that he reaches maturity? No, I think not. A date on a calendar could never in a million years have prepared my boy for his initiation into manhood, when his fiancé gave birth to their first child, Samuel, a tiny little bundle who was born sleeping.
The words in my heart need to be constructed here today, and sent out into The Universe, along with a smattering of photographic memories of my son, and you, my “Fairy Friends”, my wonderful small group of people who are so very dear to me, even though we have never met, can share in the day too. The day my son becomes “legal” ~ can buy lottery tickets, and cigarettes and alcohol, play poker machines, vote, borrow money, get a tattoo….these things are taboo to an under eighteen year old, kept away from them for their own protection, perhaps? To protect them from what? Nothing can protect us from living a life, from feeling love and heartbreak. Age cannot dictate a personality, nor enable kindness, compassion, or empathy, all of which Adam has been blessed with, so today, I wish to honour my son for the human being he is.
Just because I love him.
When I saw your face this morning it felt no different than any other morning, or any other birthday for that matter, when I have greeted you and wished you happiness for your special day. Legally, from now on, you no longer need your father and I, but knowing you as I do, I know that you already understand that we will always be here for you anyway.
You’ll always be my baby, in more ways than one, you are my child, and my last born baby, and my heart will continue to travel along with you throughout your entire life, no matter where you are, just as it has done for the past eighteen years.
Recently, I have been complimented, more than once, on raising such a wonderful son, a son I can be proud of, and although I have done my best to instill in you a decent set of moral values, have taught you right from wrong, and encouraged you to seek anything which your heart desires, I cannot accept full responsibility for the person you have become. Every person is born with their own unique personality, and Adam, I really scored it lucky on the day you were born.
My beautiful baby boy with the huge blue eyes, you were so contented, barely ever cried, adored your family, loved music and called all of your favourite things “Narna”. And oh, the looks I would be given when out shopping, as I pushed along a stroller containing a one year old who could whistle! You were always on for a chat too, joining in with your baby babble-talk, laughing on cue during conversations, and always waving the longest goodbyes.
Your school teachers thought you quite remarkable too, when you arrived at school being able to tie your own shoe laces, and you could even count to one-thousand. I remember with great fondness the friends you made when young, some at school, some through sporting activities, many of whom you have remained friends with to this day.
My little football player, the black-belt karate kid, cricket playing wizard and piano player extraordinaire, how I have smiled throughout the past eighteen years, admiring your talents.
And then there’s the compassionate Adam, the young boy who always stood by and helped the under-dog, those with disabilities, and kids who were bullied at school. No one dared mess with you, did they my boy? You never shied away from a fight, not when it was something you believed in.
At high school, you discovered girls, and oh my goodness, what a long string of “girl friends” there were too! I gave up trying to show interest after a while, there were too many to remember, and I always knew that when someone special came along, you would let me know.
And you did. What was it that you saw in Mary that made her stand out from the rest? I believe that you and Mary are kindred spirits. With Mary, you really did recognise your “other half”, didn’t you, the person you knew that you were destined to stay with forever.
Last year, as you and Mary whispered together nearby, I would occasionally pick up words dropped along the way, hear your plans for when you were married, when you had children, when you would always be together, so earlier this year, when you knew about the baby and told me that the three of you were to all have the same sir name, I knew this to be your dream.
Dreams do come true, my boy, perhaps not always at the time you expect them to, but when you and Mary are married in less than two weeks time, little Samuel will be watching over his mummy and daddy as the three of you become as one. Your beautiful Mary is a huge part of your dreams, Adam, and Samuel will never be forgotten. His little brothers and sisters will be here before you know it, so don’t fret. You know your heart and you know Mary’s heart, separate to yours physically, yet one heart through love.
Just so’s you know, the video of a nine or ten year old Adam, which we had promised to show at either your eighteenth or twenty-first birthday, is being safely kept for your twenty-first birthday bash. With a wedding coming up in less than two weeks, we think we will save that one for now. What a laugh your children will get when they see their daddy dancing a strip-tease when he was just a little boy!
Your love, your gentleness, your strength, sense of humour and compassion, they will always see you through. I am so proud of you, did I already tell you that a thousand times over? I think I did, but just in case you missed it, always remember Adam, I am, and always will be, your biggest fan, devoted to you, here to support you throughout the hard times in life and to treasure the happiness that finds you also.
Happy Birthday Adam ~ I love you, always. ~~ Mum. x