Love, loss and the me­mories of mum that will never die

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - DR CIARA KELLY -

WE read my mum’s will last week. She is dead a year and a half now but these things take time. Putting af­fairs in or­der. Pro­bate. I’m still not sure what that is. Not un­til now were we ready to go through it all and look at what is left be­hind — in fi­nan­cial terms — at the end of her life.

It felt cold. Read­ing the words of her very sim­ple will and the words of my father’s too, writ­ten be­fore I was even born. Them reach­ing out from wher­ever they are, to be­queath to their three chil­dren what­ever they’d ac­cu­mu­lated over a life­time and left be­hind them.

I found it sur­pris­ingly hard. It’s been 18 months and I have come to terms with the loss. There isn’t much else you can do any­way but let the per­son go. But I sup­pose it is a fi­nal farewell in a way. A last chap­ter clos­ing. And I missed them both in an acute way last week that made their pass­ing feel more cur­rent than it ac­tu­ally is. I was sad about the will part and I wished they were here to talk to about it all. Which, of course, they can’t be — or there’d be no will. So I was sad. It makes no real sense.

But grief and loss are pe­cu­liar things. They lie dor­mant in us as we muddle along through our lives and only rear their ugly heads oc­ca­sion­ally. What is al­ways sur­pris­ing, though, is when they do, they still seem to pack a pow­er­ful punch de­spite the pas­sage of time. So last week on oc­ca­sion while out walk­ing or driv­ing in the car, as I of­ten am — I’d find my­self sud­denly in tears at a cer­tain song for no rea­son or just feel­ing a pro­found sad­ness ly­ing in bed at night.

We chose her in­scrip­tion for the head­stone last week too. My sis­ter picked the words and they are per­fect. “All the world was her stage.” Which if you knew my mother, you would know how well that suits her. In some ways, fun­nily enough, I think that was even worse than the will. Be­cause it brought her back as a real per­son.

When some­one dies with de­men­tia, they have been leav­ing you for a very long time. It is the long good­bye. So the Julie who left us at the end of that May was not Julie as she truly was. The Julie who left us — I was pre­pared and able to let go. She was old and very frail and con­fused. It was time for her to go.

I re­mem­ber hold­ing her hand and telling her it was OK to go, she was tired now. We didn’t lose that Julie — for her, it was that real thing, a happy re­lease.

And for a long time — maybe up un­til last week — I have felt a dis­con­nect with the Julie whom we did lose. The path through de­men­tia is com­pli­cated. The grief is muted in a way. But those sim­ple words, “All the world was her stage” re­minded me of who she used to be. Who she was re­ally. The big char­ac­ter. The feisty, tal­ented, clever, charis­matic hand­ful that we all loved and still miss. The Julie who would hold court, tell out­ra­geous jokes, was ir­rev­er­ent and full of mis­chief. And, to be hon­est, was some­one whom I don’t think I’ve ever met any­one else like in my life.

That’s who I re­alised I lost last week. And she wasn’t here to talk to about it, which makes it all the crap­pier. I won­dered some­times dur­ing the past year and a half how I was cop­ing so well with mum’s pass­ing. I chalked it up to ma­tu­rity and res­ig­na­tion. But I’m now won­der­ing if I am just very slow at pro­cess­ing this one. Is it only start­ing to sink in now — the mag­ni­tude of the loss, shrouded as it was in the con­fus­ing am­biva­lence of de­men­tia? It’s so hard to re­ally know when you see them go through it, whether you want them to stay or go, that when they fi­nally do go, you feel a bit numb to it all.

I’m sure this pocket of grief will re­cede again shortly but in the mean­time, there is some­thing al­most good about the pain — like jig­gling a sore tooth. In that, if only briefly, I feel re­con­nected to her in a way that wasn’t pos­si­ble im­me­di­ately af­ter she died.

The old Julie is re­assert­ing her­self in my mind and she is a wel­come ar­rival. The likes of her may never be seen again, but the me­mories, the love and the loss are real.

‘Those sim­ple words re­minded me of who she was’

@cia­rakel­ly­doc Ciara presents Lunchtime Live on New­stalk, week­days 12-2pm

Grief and loss are emo­tions that can lie dor­mant, and then re­turn to pack a pow­er­ful punch

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