real life

"The night Mum died was both surreal and yet, perfectly expected."

Bern Morley

The night Mum died was both surreal and yet, perfectly expected. I’m not really sure that can make sense unless you’ve watched someone actually stop being right there in front of you. It’s both terrifying and also, an unbelievable privilege.

My Mum died of cancer. It took hold of her suddenly, savagely and left us without her in our lives before we even had the chance to digest what was happening. We are not unique, she having cancer is not unique, cancer itself is not unique. But Betty Clarke herself was unique. And I’m only just starting to understand this now.

I focused so much on her illness when I wrote about Mum, I rarely wrote about her as a person. I still don’t feel like I asked enough questions, knew enough about her childhood beyond what I can piece together with her scarce voiced recollections and photos. I did though, know what she was like as a mother. She was strict yet in hindsight, fair.

She was tough and incredibly strong in the face of many adversities. She loved us beyond measure and was often candidly awkward displaying this. I know she was one of the good ones, the type of Mother I could only hope to be.I don’t know exactly what happened in those 40 or so years before I was in her life. And this is my biggest regret.

I guess I always thought I had more time to request these details. What annoys me most about myself is that I am constantly telling anyone that will listen that “I just love to know people’s stories”, yet the one person that gave me the best chance at mine, I didn’t even bother to learn.

Below are a few of the pictures I put together for Mum’s funeral.

I hadn’t looked at the photos again until today, I guess I just couldn’t. What got me (beyond the long overdue flood of tears) is that Mum appears to be beaming in most every shot. Either that or she was engrossed with the baby she was holding. I still remember that look she would get on her face when the two worlds of pride and overwhelming emotion collided.

My mother was a very simple lady. Her own mother died birthing her sibling when Mum was just four years of age, leaving her and her brother in the care of their  father. Whilst my Grandfather was a loving and hard working father, he simply wasn’t equipped to deal with the simultaneous responsibility and grief.He remarried and this new lady was, by all accounts, not a particularly warm lady.

Maybe it was that simply no one was ever going to be good enough to replace the mother she had never gotten to know or maybe and by all accounts, my mother’s stepmother was truly horrid, but for whatever reason, my mother and her brother were shipped off to boarding school.

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The in-between years here are vague. Mum set off into the wide world following school and took jobs in bars, caring for the elderly and eventually, settled in Mitchelton in Queensland, buying her own general store. This is where she met my father. I’m not sure it was love at first sight but she certainly felt something for him in the beginning.

Of course recollections when discussing someone you now almost loathe are somewhat skewed however I distinctly remember asking her once “You did love Dad once didn’t you?” To which she answered, “Yes, of course, that’s why I married him”.

My father was a brilliant yet seemingly troubled alcoholic and that is how I, as a child, knew him. To know him as a man that was a functioning member of society will forever be foreign to me, but I did recognise that at one time, when I was younger, he was not this way and they had some kind of relationship that led them to believe they could make a family and a life.

So Mum and Dad met, fell in love I guess and married. Mum attempted and failed to fall pregnant a great number of times. Her miscarriage tally is again, unknown. Again I can’t believe I didn’t have this conversation. In today’s world, she had what is known as Endometriosis, identified easily enough today yet back then was just a mysterious “women’s” problem. In 1975 it was certainly coming to the end of the “easy” adoption cycle but Mum was lucky enough to adopt the boy and girl she longed for. My brother and I.

And quite simply, this is what Mum was put on this earth to do. Nurture and love babies. All babies. When we were older, she was a Nanny for the children of close friends. We were, always her primary focus. She didn’t want a career, a man, a hobby, we were all she wanted and needed. This used to perplex me. In a way it still does, yet the older I get it becomes less. Mum discovered what made her happy and isn’t happiness after all, the Holy Grail?

I look at my life. How good I have it. I’ve had a loving mother, one that was perhaps strict and not always overly encouraging in my life goals but was always there to make me feel safe, loved, level and understood.  No matter how old you are, you are still ever mindful of what your Mum thinks and I’d say as a consequence, I’ve dropped the ball in many ways since she passed away.

I guess this is a long and rambling post to say that I miss my Mum today more than I have since the day she died. It has suddenly struck me that I need my Mum.  I miss her very much and I wish I’d learned more of her story when she was around to tell me it.

I miss you, Mum.

Bern is a Gen X, child of the 80′s. Kept busy being a working mother of 3 children, one with Aspergers, renovating the original money pit and drinking too many coffees in the space of 24 hours.

One day she’ll remember to leave the meat out for tea but until then she writes beautiful and amusing posts on her blog which you can find here. You can also follow her on Twitter here.

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