The map of motherhood

Do you ever read something and it resonates so much with your moment in time and space that the words leap off the page and slap you in the face?  Or maybe it’s a lyric that rings in your ears long after the song has stopped? I read this last night, and it nearly stopped my heart:
A mother draws a map for her child and places herself at the centre of it. Her death wipes that map clean. She leaves you knowing that you must redraw it to survive, and yet not knowing where to start.
My mum didn’t die but the map was wiped clean when she had her stroke. Those three lines sum up how I’ve felt over the last two years, and how I have struggled not only to redraw the map, but to figure our how or where to even start.
Grief is more than an emotion. It becomes a physical part of you – like shrapnel embedded in your flesh – as real, and permanent as your arm and leg. It is always there, although we might seem to heal and live with the scars, it is hidden in your muscles and your bones, your brain and your heart.
Every day I mourn the loss of all that could be, as much as what was. People say time is a healer, but it is also the blunt knife that cuts deeper. Sure, time softens the pain and the heart-stoppping terror, leaving behind a low-level ache. But the knife of time also cuts deeper, reminding us over and over again that as life is moving on, we are leaving someone behind.
My mum lies in suspended animation, a still frame in a world of moving pictures. Poppy turned five last month, and danced in her first ballet show. Daisy is writing stories and singing songs, and Ruby is full of wonder. We have adventures, we make plans, we live our days, and my mum is missing it all. But worse, we are missing her.
I know that over the last year, no-one would have devoted more time to sitting on the sofa hearing Daisy read than her. I know she would have started to write letters to Daisy, and get replies, just like mum and me wrote to each other all our lives. I know she would have been measuring every centimeter Poppy has grown this last year as her gluten-free diet kicks in, and listened avidly as Poppy regales tales of her imaginary friend, Heart. I know Ruby would be wearing little dresses (“I just couldn’t help myself”) that mum would bring down, and my mum would be bending the ears of everyone she knew with Ruby’s minxy antics.
I know that, because my mum was the centre of my map and those are the roads that lay ahead of us. Now I stumble down new tracks, unmapped areas and try to mark my way. All I can do is take the navigation tools she taught me and hope I find my way.

About Grin & Tonic by Alana Kirk

Bouncing into middle age armed with courage, ambition and a pair of tweezers (chin hairs for anyone over the age of 45 reading this) I am a writer with a mission: to redefine this midway point in my life when the last thing I want to do is hang up my high heels and become invisible. This is the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end. A single mum to 3 fabulous girls, an author, and a fundraising consultant, both ends of my candle are on fire. As I enter this new stage of my life, I want to explore what it means for 'mid-aged' women today, who were promised they could have it all, ended up doing it all, and just do not identify with the traditional image of middle age.
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1 Response to The map of motherhood

  1. Oh sweet girl, I feel for you so deeply reading this post. And please know, I think of you often and also think of your Mama… and hope that you're all getting through the best way you possibly can.
    Last week, I had the most frightening experience with my Mama. She collapsed whilst we were out shopping. I was breaking inside, but had to remain calm for both Mama and the boys, who were with us. I had no idea what was wrong or even what to do. I am the child after all… and she has always been there for ME. She is doing much better now, but it was a cold, hard reminder that indeed she will be 73 next month and age is slowly slowly catching her (and my Dad). The years ahead will be tough for us all I feel. Last week cemented that firmly in my mind. I'm going to need to be strong and enduring to get through it.
    I am so sorry you have had to go through this all so prematurely Alana. It just isn't fair. Hugs and kisses to you xoxo


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