Today is the 6th anniversary of my mothers sudden death . Yet although the death certificate states 16th October – it’s not as simple as that . It’s not a one day thing for me it’s a timeline I relive every year as much as I try and avoid it . This week lives in my bones , my breath , my brain and my heart . My body often tells me this week is coming before my brain catches up . There is so much research out there that states you carry trauma in your body , it makes a home there , wraps itself into your dna – an unwanted lodger .
Autumn has always been my favourite season , the sheer beauty of it astounds me yet as I watch the leaves fall , the dread , the anxiety , the guilt and the raw grief still not fully processed starts to rise from the pit of my stomach . I cannot take a pill to erase it , yes time is a great healer and every year is different yet body and mind is taken back to that week whether I want it or not. it holds me hostage.
Wednesday 12th October
My life was normal, I’d gone to meet my son and some friends for drinks and dinner. I was running late and presumed they’d still be in the pub where they had been last. They weren’t but by sheer coincidence my mum was. She was there with one of her best friends after just seeing a film at the cinema. I sat, we chatted – we bickered about how I overfill my washing machine. My mum was interwoven into my daily life. She was at my house most days taking care of my dogs or my children and certain parts of my housekeeping grated on her – the washing machine being the main one 🤣 she asked me to stay – I didn’t, I was running late. I got up to leave and pointed out to my mum to be mindful that the glasses they were drinking wine from were most likely holding half a bottle of wine and to go careful. She dismissed my observation with the same disdain I had when she told me I overfilled my washing machine. We didn’t say goodbye properly, we’d annoyed each other – like we often did. I didn’t look back.
She remained in my mind however throughout the next couple of hours during the meal. We needed to order a taxi and I chose to call it from the pub I’d left my mum – my urge to parent her had become overwhelming. When I arrived, my mum had gone. I asked the barmaid if she had seemed ok when she left, the barmaid said she was in good spirits and had clearly been having a good time with her friend. My mum lived a ten minute walk from the pub. She would be home by now. Should I check? Should I go look down the street to make sure she was getting home ok? No – she’d be mad with me that I was coddling her when she didn’t need it. I didn’t go. I called a taxi and I went home. My first missed chance.
Thursday 13th October
A normal day , I went to work and then my mum rang. She sounded odd. She said she wouldn’t be able to have the children after school. She never cancelled. I asked why. She said she’d drank too much wine the night before and had fallen and hit her head. My first reaction was “ I bloody told you !” My mum insisted that although yes perhaps she had drank a bit too much that her knee had given way. I rejected this and said she wasn’t taking responsibility. The truth was I was scared. A week before she had left my house and as I stood on the doorstep and watched her walk away I shouted after her “text me when you’re home”. I usually said this but this time I meant it. The realisation was slowly forming that she was getting older, that she was starting to feel ‘vulnerable’ to me that perhaps the shift in our roles were taking their first micro step to the inevitable. That we all end up parenting our parents. A part of me wanted that. She’d done so much in my life. She was essentially my children’s second parent and we would care for her in the future as she had done for all of us for so long. I took a deep breath and reminded her that before retirement was a senior nurse. Were there any signs that she had a serious injury to her head or anywhere on her body. She responded “no , I’m just hungover and embarrassed“. I reminded her she could have fallen into the road, she could have been killed, that she could have left us all and what would we do without her. I calmed down , I asked if she needed anything . She said she didn’t. I told her to rest. That as we all know a hangover is awful – it will pass , we’ve all been there .
She rang back that tea time and said she’d really shook herself up and she wanted to cancel her plans to have my daughter Friday night as I was going to a wedding Saturday morning. My fear of what could have happened emerged again. I had never in my 35 years been truly harsh to my mother. There was a similar incident a few years before and I offered her nothing but comfort and reassurance but this time I felt if I did my usual that she could forget the lesson she was learning from feeling so awful . I once again made my feelings clear. I was angry, I offered minimal comfort and said I’d need to get off the phone to rearrange plans for Saturday. I asked again did she feel there was something physically wrong – she responded with no , she was just sore .
I rearranged childcare and although I was mad, I also desperately wanted to comfort my mum . I stared at my phone, my body screamed ‘ring her back , tell her you’re sorry and how much you love her , you’re just scared of losing her’. I didn’t – I thought if I did it would erase all the warnings I was trying to teach her . Like I said this was the first time I’d done this. I was on foreign ground. My heart and my head were having the biggest argument of their life . My stupid head won.
I was in the house alone with my younger two children so couldn’t leave but I knew my eldest was in her neighbourhood at a friends. I rang him and asked him to go round and go to the shop for her and get her some lemonade and rich tea biscuits my mums number one hangover cure. When he returned home later I asked how she seemed , he said she seemed tired but ok and had essentially made him do a weeks shop including a big bag of cat litter. That made me laugh and I thought good for her. I text her and said I’d sorted everything and I hoped she hadn’t minded me sending my son down. She replied she had been very pleased to see him. I felt better.
Friday 14th October
To understand the next part is hard but my mum was stubborn . I knew she’d be furious with me for “telling her off “ so I wasn’t surprised when she didn’t answer the phone the next day . I tried again went straight to voicemail , tried again it rang out again . She was ignoring my calls and answering others – I was in trouble .
Saturday 15th October
I went to the wedding as planned . I felt anxious , I always felt anxious when my mum wasn’t speaking to me . I text her on the train back to york and asked her how she was. She ignored me. As I waited for a taxi home I looked over the bridge that would lead to her house. I thought should I just go see her , would she even be in? I was all dressed up from the wedding and in high heels. But still I stared at that bridge for ages . I ignored my gut , I went home .
Sunday 16th October
I tried several times to ring her, rang out, then straight to voicemail. She was on the phone yet she was still ignoring me. I started to get mad, enough was enough. I watched a film with my daughter and I dozed off. I felt the strangest sensation, my right arm was raising up , like someone was pulling me. I opened my eyes there was no one there. I began rifling through drawers, my daughter asked me what I was looking for. I replied “my right hand feels really light, I’m looking for a ring, my right hand feels too light – it needs a ring to weigh it down” . My daughter suggested I was not fully awake from my nap. I was. The sense of urgency for finding a ring changed to an urgency to speak to my mum. I don’t drive and there was no one to watch the kids so I did the next best thing, I text my surrogate brother David who lived two doors away and said when he got home from work can he knock on my mums door and tell her to ring me urgently. That she was scaring me . That this time her mood had gone too far. He kindly agreed. I text my mum and warned her David was coming round in a bit. No response . I started pacing .
David rang me to say he was outside but the house was dark. I began to feel angry that she might have gone out, she often went to see live music on a Sunday afternoon with a friend and perhaps that’s why she hadn’t seen the text about David going round. I asked him to use his key and go in . He said he was worried that she was asleep and he’d scare her. I said “good , because she’s terrifying me”. He used his key and shouted her name , that’s when he told me Saturdays post was on the floor . That’s when I knew something awful had happened. He continued to shout her name . He was at the bottom of the stairs shouting up . I said calmly “I need you to go upstairs David “ he replied with “I can’t “ I said “ I know you’re scared but we might be able to save her . I’m 2 miles away “ he then did bravest thing anyone has ever done for me he walked up the stairs saying her name and then very quietly said “I’m so sorry Lauren , she’s died”. The adrenaline immediately kicked in and I said “I’m so sorry David . I’m so sorry , go back downstairs , go outside wait for me there , I’m so sorry” . My eldest son who had been sat next to me the whole time started pulling at his own hair . We ran into the utility room and silently screamed so the younger two couldn’t hear us . We both said I’m so sorry to each other over and over again .
I rang my friend and she got to me as fast as she could, her husband watched my children whilst we raced down to my mums. Denial kicked in – she wasn’t dead , she was in a coma. Someone as strong as my mum doesn’t just die like that. It was always just me and her growing up – she wasn’t dead. She wouldn’t be, she couldn’t be.
As we reached the top of my mums street, I saw the ambulance, I knew David had not waited quietly. He had done what he needed to do. For my mum, for me. He is family. I jumped out of the car and started running, I ran faster than than I had done in years, I ran as if I were ten again racing down the same street in some sort of game with David. My son matched my pace and I started screaming at him “don’t go in ! Don’t go in !” David was stood outside the house and I grabbed him and said how sorry I was again . I ran up the stairs , the smell of lilies on the table hit me , I could hear my mums cat phoebe screaming from the kitchen. There was a man I didn’t know on the landing and I found myself screaming at him “she’s not dead “ I ran Into her bedroom and reality made me scream like I’d never screamed in my life. My brain started shutting down to protect me and I found my hands sinking into the wood chip wallpaper – I was physically trying to climb the walls . I was gently removed from the room .
This was the beginning of my ‘after’ there will always be a before and there will always be an after. This was my before.
In reality my mum had died on the 14th October. Alone. She had set up in bed and her bleeding on her brain had taken her, suddenly – without warning .
I will continue the ‘after’ in my next post . Some may question why I’m writing this and my answer is because I need to. Because this timeline has only ever been explained briefly to others. I almost need to publicly acknowledge that as a daughter I made mistakes. it haunts me, it lives in me. I’m trying to release it somehow. If I put it out into the world then it may lessen its hold on me. It may provide some level of acknowledgment to others that they are not alone in this.
For anyone that has lost someone they love suddenly, they may have their own timeline – in fact I’m pretty certain they do. I see you. I hear you. I’m so sorry. It’s Sunday 16th October and I’m looking at the clock waiting for the time to come that my mum is found. I look at her rings that were placed on my right hand that very night, the rings that stopped my hand feeling too light and I remember the Sunday afternoon she was trying to tell me to come find her.
Goodness me. How brave of you to share such a personal story. I’m so sorry for your loss – there’s nothing else to say. You’re so right in what you say at the start; our bodies definitely hold onto emotion and trauma. It often knows before our minds do, that we’re struggling.
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