I started planning moving away to university months before it happened. After sixth form, I took a gap year, so by the spring before I went to uni, I knew for certain which university I would be going to and what I would be studying. My birthday is in March and I’d asked for ‘bits for uni’. Mum and I spent the day in York shopping for bedding, pans, and decorative bits and bobs. I remember it as such a lovely day; proper mum-and-daughter time. It was filled with excitement of new adventures to come. She’d just been given the cancer ‘all-clear’, and things were really looking up.
When the time come to move to uni, my whole family came (it was a bit of an event). Mum had bought me a big tub of chocolates to share with others on my floor (after all, chocolate is a fairly sturdy base for friendship). It was an emotional but exciting and happy time.
I moved again this weekend. My first ‘proper’ move since I first moved to halls – I’ve moved between home and uni since then, but only to and from halls so it never felt very different from that first time. But this time, I moved out of halls and into a real house.
I’ve had to move out of halls because I’m not returning to uni this January. I felt the need to remain around my friends and support networks, so I needed to find a place to live fairly quickly (or sofa hop for a bit, but that didn’t really appeal). Thankfully, with the help of a local youth charity, I found a place very quickly, living with a lovely lady and her two cats.
I’d been thinking about Mum a bit less recently, but over the last week I’ve been missing her more again. I always low-level miss her, but it had been getting a little easier and memories of ‘well Mum’ had begun to replace some of the ‘sick Mum’ memories. Seriously missing Mum returned though, and with it came ‘grief attacks’ and many moments where it felt like every part of my body was breaking, all at once.
When I ordered new bedding (my new place has a bigger bed), it reminded me of that day I spent with Mum in York. A happy memory, but a memory nonetheless, one that can never be repeated. Packing up my things, I relived moments that have happened in that room. It was my home, my safe place, throughout Mum’s illness. When I returned from hospital the night before she slipped into a coma, that was where I landed. When my friend came to see me and started to cry, it was that room. The walls of that room have seen more than a student room should ever have to see. It was the place I ran to when I heard that Mum had died.
On Saturday, the three month anniversary of Mum’s death, I shut the door on that room for the final time. My very kind new landlady helped me move out. Dad will see my new place at some point, but Mum never will. She will never see my new room, never meet the person I’m living with. She’ll never see me grow and learn and laugh and cry and that breaks me. So many times in the last few weeks all I have wanted is a hug from her. A bit of reassurance that I’m doing okay and that the decisions that I’m making are not ‘wrong’ ones.
Living somewhere new is a new start. It’s a chance to move on from Mum’s illness and death. A chance to start piecing my life back together, to build it back up again. I wish it were that simple though…I still jump when the phone rings, and cry-laugh when I’m reminded of a Mum quirk. Mum is all around my room, in photos, in the plaque she bought me last Christmas, and in the books that stand on my drawers. Mum will be brought up in job applications when it comes to explaining why I’m not studying right now, her name will stick in my throat every time a friend or family member of my housemate visits and asks what I’m doing at the moment. It’s not as simple as ‘not being affected by cancer anymore’ because we still are – I still am – and probably always will be in some way. That said, I can choose to let it define me, or I can choose to move on and begin to build a new life. I hope that by moving, that is what I’m beginning to do.