It’s nearly a year since my baby was born. And nearly a year since my mum had her catastrophic stroke. Undeniably the worst, saddest, most challenging, gut wrenching, heart tearing, mind wrecking year of my life. The sheer awfullness of having a 4 day old baby and loosing my mum into the depths of her mind; the sheer struggle of coping with Ruby, two other small children and trying to manage my mum; the sheer terror of this new life and the sheer loss of my old one; the sheer struggle to survive each day and get Ruby through with me was at times, just too much to bear. I have fallen apart and picked myself up so many times I’m dizzy. My two girls keep me motivated, my husband keeps me alive. When it happened, and doctors and neighbours told me my mum could live for years like this, I wanted to actually fall into the dark pit that was constantly calling me. I could not literally bear it.
But, a year is nearly here. It is still awful. It is still a daily struggle. I still have moments where the days are almost unbearable.
But, a year is nearly here. And as much as I hate to admit a cliche, time might not heal, for nothing will heal my loss, but time does make it better. Time calms the terror and finds the hope. Time teaches you to find ways to cope. Time enables you to adapt, accept, acclimatise.
Two things have happened I think. The first is me. My month in Donegal, often alone with my thoughts at night, allowed me to think, and remember, and come to terms for the first time. I had never allowed myself to accept it, because I never had a moment spare to go the dark place where acceptance is. I had my mum and Ruby, and the rest of my family to maintain. But Donegal gave me the space and time to go there, and to come back out into the light that acceptance can shine. I have let go of what was – remembering our relationship, our good times, our love like a precious treasure that will always glow and keep me warm. And I have embraced what is, my mum’s condition, albeit nothing like I would want, but still my mum. Ruby is nearly a year and getting strong. I no longer fear for her survival – she is not so dependent on me to stay sane to survive. I can let go occassionally.
The second thing that happened, is that I think my mum has relaxed into her situation and perhaps even improved a little too. This weekend, I can honestly say I loved every minute of being with her. I never thought I would say that again. We hugged, we laughed, we connected. She asked me her first question since her stroke – ‘how did you sleep?’ And I could honestly tell her I was beginning to sleep well again.
I have written before about her amazing friends – and this weekend, we all hung out, laughed, drank wine and lifted our faces to sun. My mum was upset afterwards for she knew she couldn’t talk to them properly, couldn’t make herself understood, was muddled and mixed, and couldn’t do anything to help, but I told her no-one minds. We all love her regardless of how she is. She has certainly loved us for long enough. I still hate that my mum will never come to my house again. I still hate she will never even go upstairs in her own house again, and potter in her bedroom. I still hate that she can’t snuggle into bed with the girls and read them stories. I hate she can’t tell me how she is, and ask about my life, and my family. I hate we can’t share long days drinking earl grey tea and nibbling chocolates, having lunch in Avoca, or walking the splendour of Mount Usher as we always did. I hate that she can’t go out and about with her friends.
But, in a year, I’ve accepted we must do new things. I can tell her all about my life and my girls and she will still smile. I can bring the girls to see her and watch her face light up. They can snuggle into her bed and perhaps soon, even Daisy can read to her. I can sit beside her and sip earl grey tea and show her pictures of the spendour of Mount Usher. Her friends can come round and share time, wine, memories, laughs and love.
The unbearable darkness has become slightly more bearable. I’ll take life as it comes, and as my mum always taught me, make the best of what we have.