For a week or so, I have been considering drafting a Mother’s Day post. It would have been one of my rambles, perhaps on my role as a mother and as a daughter. But today (I am writing on Thursday March 8th) leaves me wanting to pare down my usual florid style and take a different tack. In the end, I don’t know that I’ve done a lot of paring. But what I want to say matters to me. It stands as it is.
I was in Looe today. One week ago, the town was experiencing a blizzard and a young girl died. Today the town is bathed in bright sunshine and everywhere there are pink ribbons. How easily life can be taken. A life is extinguished and the lives of those around the space that remains are forever changed.
When I got home from Looe I learned that a lady from my former village – a woman filled with spirit, flair and vivacity – had died a day or so ago. She was not a close friend, but she was someone I knew well enough, and had great respect for. She was highly intelligent and multi-talented. She was fully involved in the life of the village. She was mother to three – perhaps four – daughters, and grandmother to a large brood from teenagers to toddlers. She helped with them all. She was an active member of the book group, the history group. She cooked; she gardened; she drew immensely detailed works of art; she had fashion sense par excellence. She was seemingly in good health and brimming with vitality. Her death was a complete shock to everyone who knew her. Adrienne was a strong and beautiful woman. It is difficult to think of the village, her husband, her family, with her gone.
But she is gone, as is little Maisie from Looe. The lives of their families are forever changed in a single inexplicable moment. And of course, this happens constantly, the world over, frequently in more brutal, more shocking, more senseless ways than either of these two losses which have this week crossed my path.
If I had been writing this for Mother’s Day, I would have been focusing on my own mother and my relationship with her. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing. We had our ups and downs like most mothers and daughters, but I’ve never doubted her passion and devotion to her family. As I’ve grown older myself, I’ve found a place of love and appreciation for Mum and everything she has contributed to our lives and our family. I like to think we’ve found an appreciation of each other. And remembering my intention at the top of this post, I shall say simply: thank you, Mum; I love you.
Mum celebrated her 81st birthday a fortnight ago. I’m so pleased that we were able to celebrate with her, for of course, what she wanted was to celebrate with her family. There was an extended family celebration for Mum’s 80th : for her 81st the gathering was smaller and more informal but no less special. Mum coped well and she enjoyed herself. Like Adrienne, Mum has been the lynchpin of the family for many years. She is frail and more vulnerable these days and that role is more of a challenge for her now, but she still has her moments; she remains the matriarch. She has always been a strong woman and she remains so, even on her less good days. And when we enjoyed Sunday lunch on a steam train with her and Dad on her actual birthday, she looked beautiful, inside and out. 81 years young.
Happy Birthday, Mum.
Love and loss: death in any guise is indiscriminate as it lays its fingers on lives, hopes and dreams. It visits equally among men as among women, so forgive me for seemingly focussing on just half the population. With it being International Women’s Day as I write, and with Mothering Sunday imminent in the UK, perhaps it’s excusable that I’m thinking about women. A little girl lost to her mother and her family at the beginning of her life; a woman lost to her daughters and her family very much later in hers. Both tragedies; both stark reminders of the fragility of life and the immediacy with which we must try to live it.
A short while after I closed the file on this piece last night, thinking I’d look at it again in the morning and make a decision on whether to publish, came news of another woman, very much alive despite love, loss and death looming large in her life over recent years. I’ve followed Ellie’s story through her mother’s blog and occasionally through her own. Visceral, raw, angry, bloody-mindedly determined, the champion of the world (as she called herself in her blog) exemplifies one woman’s strength when it comes to her family. Emulating Margaret’s example on International Women’s Day, I link to Ellie’s story here. I link, not necessarily to encourage anyone to contribute to Ellie’s fundraising – though I’m sure any contributions would be appreciated – but as an example of how challenges can be tackled head on and life can still be lived to the full despite everything. The more I think about it, the more examples come to mind. People overcome, people rise to the challenge all the time, every day. Ellie is remarkable. People are remarkable.
Perhaps this is just a reminder to myself for I’m reminded of my tag line:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
And I remember that we don’t have to do wild things, or courageous things, or big, bold and dramatic things. We simply have to notice whatever it is that we see, whatever small things that we do. The little, everyday things are perhaps more challenging to notice in all their ordinariness and yet every bit as important, for most of the time the little things are what life is. We are forced to be present to death. We must remember to be present to life too – in all its guises.
Let’s notice and appreciate.
Let’s embrace every precious moment of life while we can.