Birthday Memories

It’s my brother’s bithday today. He’s 21. Does that make him officially an adult? If it does then the world should probably be a bit scared.

He’s down in Oxford loving life/studying/whatever it is you do down there. It’s his first bithday away from us. I’ve sent many things in the post (a blog for another time).

J’s cake last year (before Mum stole a strawberry lace…).
Last year we had a party for J’s bithday. We did it the Friday before Mum died. We made homemade pizzas. I made Mum a tiny one with everything on top of it chopped up into teeny pieces. We made J a cake and Mum stole a strawberry lace off the top. She couldn’t move out of her chair independently, and slept a lot, but she was very much in the room. It’s the most lucid I remember her in those final weeks. It’s the last time I remember her eating solid food. A day or two later, she stopped getting out of bed at all. A week later she died.

Dad asked me what they did for my 21st, when trying to decide what to buy J as a present. I got a Pandora charm from Mum and Dad. I spent the day working on a residential and Mum and Dad came over in the evening. We managed to find a restaurent with good enough disabled access for Mum to manage. A month later we had a cake. It was my last birthday with Mum.

A few weeks before my 21st, Mum went into a coma. I remember Dad saying that maybe it was a good time for her to die. It had been very quick. My birthday could be something positive to look forward to after the funeral. I never have been one for making a big deal of my own birthday (though I love making a big deal of others), but I felt even less like doing anything that year. In the end Mum woke up and lived another 8 months. This year I didn’t do anything at all.

I don’t know what Mum would have done for J’s birthday this year. I don’t know whether ‘well Mum’ would have made a big deal of 21st birthdays. There’s a lot I don’t know.

We’re currently fundraising in memory of Mum, one year on.
Here is where you can donate to Mum’s ‘one year on’fundraising page online.
If you’d like to donate via your phone, please text ‘FOYO53’ followed by £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10 to 70070.

Some of My Past Died With Mum

Grief is a strange (and on the whole, very boring) thing. We’re now entering month five of life without Mum and I was beginning to think maybe the surprises were running out. Apparently that’s not the case, though.

After getting in a conversation with someone yesterday and coming home and pondering, I was struck with the realisation that I can’t remember parts of my past. Not only can I not remember things, but I can’t think of anyone who would be able to remember them…

I’m not talking about major life-changing events like ‘which primary school did I go to’ or ‘what GCSEs did I choose’. Thankfully there are records for that. Also, I still have my Dad, and although his memory may not be as good as Mum’s was (which was scarily good), much of my past is still held in his memory.

However, this isn’t a foolproof set-up. When we were younger, my Dad worked away during the week. Mum worked long hours, too – but she saw us each night. There are a lot of the things that happened over that period that I can’t remember, but will have existed in Mum’s memory – and they will have died with Mum. Basic things like ‘what was my favourite badge to work on at Brownies?’ and ‘at what point did I realise English was anything but my favourite subject?’ I will probably never know.

There are other things that Dad will have known at the time but will not remember now. Things like the people I played with at school, my favourite subjects in Year 2, and my favourite item of clothing as a nine-year-old (although if I hunted round the photo archives for long enough, I could probably work that last one out).

These things are only skimming the surface of what I’ve been thinking over, but they are examples of items in my lost past. It’s really hard to explain how it feels to sit there and try and conjure up memories and have nobody there to fill in the blanks. In the past, if I wanted to know something I would just text Mum, but now I can see the memories but can’t reach them to make sense of them, and there is nobody there to help me do that. It’s incredibly frustrating and depending what it is, can be quite distressing.

As well as memories in their purest form, there are many things that I’m sure I remember ‘wrongly’, or remember correctly but with the eyes of a seven-year-old. Sometimes you just want someone else to offer some perspective on your memories, but when only two of you were involved in that memory and one of those people is dead, where does that leave you?

Even ‘taking a trip down memory lane’ is hard. At 18 I visited London with Mum for an awards evening, there are things we did on that trip and if I want to remember them I no longer have anyone to bounce those memories off. I can only remember it on my own. It’s so lonely.

It is really weird knowing that if I lose a memory, and only Mum would have remembered it, it is now a nothing. It’s a gap. I don’t know where it went or what it turned into but it’s not there anymore. It’s been replaced by space and silence. For the rest of my life, that gap will always be a gap; there will never again be a piece of memory that perfectly fits.


A Brief Part Of Life.

Last week, the young boy who inspired me to start Escape The Frame ( left my Beaver group to move to Cubs. It’s a necessary, but difficult transition. I think I found it more difficult then he did!

Looking back, it’s touching to see how much he’s grown and developed in the last year. A boy who used to hide under tables and refuse to join in, looked up at me with excited eyes and told me how much he was looking forward to going to Cubs. He then assured me that he had enjoyed Beavers and said thank you he’d had a good time. He looked me in the eyes as he said this.

I’ve loved working with him for the last year. It’s been challenging at times, there have been good evenings and bad evenings, but it’s great, now, to see him being so confident. I’ll miss him asking me for my camera every week and coming to sit on my knee but he’s growing up and moving on to bigger things now. (I have been informed that his uncle bought him a camera for Christmas, so I’m expecting to be invited to one of his showcases one day!)

He’s been a major part of my life for the past year or so. If I’ve been feeling rubbish, sometimes he’ll come out with something that’ll brighten me up. I’ve felt needed and wanted and have known that I’ve been making a difference. I hope he’s felt comfortable in my presence and I hope he will continue to grow and thrive. I don’t think that I will ever forget him or his smile. I doubt he’ll remember me in a few years, but you never know.

It’s amazing how people’s paths can cross for the briefest amount of time, yet they can make such an impact on each others lives… I think that’s a really big part of what volunteering’s all about.