“You should find a way to memorialise her properly, now.”
My mum. Died at 55 of MRSA in a terrible hospital and the funeral was atrocious. I was in my twenties. I had barely met the guy who was running the service at Mortlake Crem. I was so young in such matters. I had very little perspective. The pallbearers were pissed off with Max and I because we wanted to be part of the procession. We had walked our dad. We wanted to walk our mum. But from their perspective, two of their mates wouldn’t get paid. They deliberately angled the coffin weight towards Max and I and I honestly nearly fell over with it. I bet Max struggled as well. I remember almost buckling under it. Petty things, forcing their way in to what you want to be a respectful memory.
Then we had the cookie cut vicar. Oh hell. Frog wasn’t available for some reason and I wasn’t in the headspace to ring round all my old vicar friends. Now I think about it I have so many friends who have taken the cloth. I had a great faith once… One of them would have done it had I asked… But in grief we ended up with the rentavicar from Mortlake. I don’t know how. He was just nothing…
He opened his address with a massive unfamiliar generalisation about mum – talking about somebody he’d never met as if he knew them. It was so disingenuous it stuck in my mind – at the time it made my skin crawl. Bad start. In retrospect I guess it was my job to organise things better and prevent the cookie-cut send off. Back then I hadn’t really processed that responsibility. I was the youngest son just horrified that things had gone how they had gone. It was just me and Max and mum’s boyfriend trying to make decisions. All three of us were shit at being organised during grief.
After that I lost touch with all mum’s old friends. I just … couldn’t spend time with them. I found it way too emotionally complicated to seek their company. I think it went both ways. That lasted a long time but I think since I walked her holy water to Santiago di Compostela, my inner life has shifted.
Today I went and sat with an old friend of hers and we remembered together. She’s the one that suggested a memorial. She too is aware of the shortfall – how we failed to give a glorious soul a proper send-off at the time. It’s a good shout, having some kind of memorial. I’ve lost touch with all of mum’s old friends though, and many of them are likely to be gone now. It’s been a long long time. And I’m still carrying stuff. I’ve looked at it but I know I’m still carrying it. I’m still so angry about how it all panned out with her. But death is just an ugly business across the board. That long walk I did two years ago was all about honouring her passing and her power in my life whilst finding how to move on from the hard parts in my memory. We’ve all got stuff that we wish had gone differently. It’s what it means to be human.
I’m glad to have established contact with one of my mum’s old friends though and there is food for thought here. I might try for a few more old friends, see who is still around. I miss her every day. It’s bollocks losing both parents before you hit 30. Memories of her will be preserved in her friends though and today has taught me that I can see those friends and talk honestly to them without collapsing from grief afterwards. That’s progress.