My mum died of cancer when I was 15 years old, and she was my best friend. She came to all of my school concerts and plays, all of my riding lessons and shows as a child, every single parents evening and I know I was so lucky to have had a parent who could and would do that. Losing her at the age of 15 means that most of what people consider significant life events or milestones, I have experienced without her. My GCSE Results, my A Level results, my first kiss, my first time moving away from home, my 16th and 18th birthdays have all happened without her. And it’s not just these big events where I feel her absence; I remember wishing she could come and see my GCSE Drama production, or to see me off at the airport when I went to the USA for three months. Every birthday and Christmas is somehow tainted with her absence. And don’t even get me started on mother’s day.
For the first few years there was an extra factor into all of this; jealousy. It’s an ugly thing to think and I’m not proud of it but I couldn’t help but feel on my 16th birthday, or when I got my A level results that my brother got to do this with Mum. He’s three and a half years older than me and was in his first year of University when she passed away. She wanted to go up and help him move in, but she couldn’t due to being knee deep in chemo.
I remember opening my results for my GCSE’s quite vividly; I went alone because I didn’t want my dad to be there and he had work anyway. I went in, hands shaking and tore through the envelope. After a look through, I was pretty pleased with my grades and called Dad to tell him how he did. He was elated and very proud. After I hung up the phone, I almost went to make another call. But then I realised I couldn’t. I looked around the hall for my two best friends, who were both standing with their own mums a little way off. It felt like I’d been punched in the gut and I wanted to burst into tears. It felt so unfair that everyone else got to tell their mum’s how they did and I didn’t. I quickly composed myself though and got on with my day – I didn’t want to cry when I’d actually gotten pretty good results. I know that had she been alive I probably would’ve told her to stay at home as well, but it was the option to do so that I wanted. God, what I would’ve given to have been able to do that.
I found moving out to University for the first time particularly difficult. I remember having a dream the week before I was due to go. My mum and I were driving down a road, and then she was helping me unpack things in my room, and then we went to a café. I don’t remember the specifics but I remember feeling warm and happy. And then I woke up, and for a few blissful moments I thought it was true and would happen. And then reality crashed into me, that that was never going to happen. Moving in was okay in the end, but I was moving boxes and walking around my new campus feeling hollow and off the entire time. There were a few confused looks when I introduced my Dad and my Stepmum and I knew what they were thinking. What about her mother? Where is she? But most people didn’t ask. Apart from my flatmate later on that day, who I know got an answer she wasn’t entirely expecting. Not the best way to start off a relationship.
As I’m writing this, it is the night before I move into University for the second time. And I can truthfully say that I am in a much better place this time. A mixture of therapy and taking time to grieve and come to terms what happened means I am more accepting this time around of my situation. Maybe it’s because I’ve done it before and it’s not as ‘significant’ but I think it’s a good sign anyway. My 21st is later this year and I’m apprehensive as I always am for big birthdays because I just have no idea what I’ll feel like on the day. But I know in my heart that either reaction is totally okay. I do think about the future; how if I ever get married she won’t be there, if I ever have kids she won’t get to meet the grandchildren I know she so sorely wanted to meet. But I’m starting to accept this reality more than be angry about it – and I know that wherever she is, she’s watching, and she’s proud.