Inside the Bottle: I Still Love You…

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My last blog “there is light, even in the darkest places” feels like a poorly timed title, a mistake.

I’ve sat and thought about it for days now, I posted it on 31 December, I posted it when Mum was still asymptomatic after testing positive for COVID-19, yet the next day she began receiving treatment as she was very poorly, and within 48 hours, we had lost her.

I know I’m grieving. I’m angry. I want to know why being shielded in her little room, that Mum caught it. Why did they then move her (especially as she was asymptomatic) to a floor where others were being treated? Too many questions and what ifs… and I know I need to calm my thoughts and allow my heart to miss her.

Mum was the lady who decided that I was her baby, when two baby girls were left without their tags in cots outside the delivery rooms. She is the woman who taught me to speak properly. She’s the woman who tied red ribbons in my pigtails and gave me sweet girly dresses to wear. Sometimes she even made those dresses too. She taught me how to cook, clean and sew.

I still vividly remember being scooped up into her arms, a washandje over my bleeding mouth, as she ran with a 5 year old me in her arms to the on-call doctor the day I went rather unceremoniously head first through a glass door…and how she had to hold my arms back with my legs trapped between her knees as the doctor stitched my lip up (without a local anaesthetic as he’d had an afternoon brandy.) The time would come for me to care for you.

She also showed me how to be resilient. To keep fighting, and never give up…

I’ve learnt certain things over recent years. Things that made me accept that certain situations were perhaps what they were (mishandled) as it was easier that way. Swept under the carpet. Smile. Carry on…

Her life wasn’t easy. She was born in the Netherlands, growing up during WWII, she told us harrowing tales of seeing childhood classmates being taken away… of having to steal lumps of coal from work sites to help keep her family warm, and living in hunger.

As a young woman she worked for Unilever on a production line, it still makes me smile, and I am while writing this. She said they used to dab some of the concentrated perfume on themselves (even though it was far too strong) and her wolf-whistling at one of the young managers… see, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!!

Mum showed her resilience & strength time and time again. She lost my late father in 2000 after she had nursed him for 13 years following his tragic accident. She lost her two eldest daughter’s too, while she battled two bouts of breast cancer which ravaged her poor body, the scars of what they did to rid her of it… a painful sight, but she focused on making drainage bag covers for the ward, pretty fabrics, a thank you for helping her.

Shortly after her full mastectomy she began to say things that raised concerns in me. Her surgeon assured me it wasn’t the hormonal anti-cancer drugs. After some investigation we found out it was early onset vascular dementia. My heart began to break…

Mum battled on, despite breaking her hip while in hospital which rendered her bedridden… a distant thought may have crossed her mind the times I saw her as a smile spread across her lips. I’ve always maintained we never knew what her level of consciousness was…was she still Mum inside despite the confusion? I always thought so. I still visited in my favourite tights, she always liked them. I’d do her nails and massage her hands. I’d also just sit quietly and hold her hand.

Touch can say so much, give so much…a silent “I’m here, I love you.”

I guard my words, but when I love someone, I tell them…

Mum, I still love you, in my heart I feel your “I still love you too, pet”.

This time we aren’t together to see each other through this sadness. I now know things that I’ve never been able to discuss with you, to tell you I can’t believe you went through that, that it must’ve been so hard. Things you shouldn’t have had to experience in your lifetime. That you were strong…

Rest in peace Mum… I still love you ❤️

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