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.