What we are left with

I have spent most of my sandwich years being pushed and pulled between one need and another, thrust about between joy and grief. Pushed and pulled between the needs of my children, career and parents. The joy of a baby and the grief of losing my mum.  And once again, two aspects of my life grab a hand and pull in opposite directions.

I literally could not be going through two more opposing experiences right now.

One is my dream come true, and one is my worst nightmare.

I have a lived in dream-like state for the last year as I gestated a book, knowing each week another essential part of it was developing. (My favourite words in life were being able to say “This week I am growing eyelashes on my baby”). And so there were weeks I could say  “this week I am actually constructing what looks a lot like a chapter. “  It grew and grew and grew and until finally, it had a cover, and a launch date. But still it was a bit of a dream.  Only me and my publisher knew it. It could still not be real. But then a package arrived, and there it was, my actual book. With chapters, and pages and everything.

And now, I am literally living beyond my dreams, as journalists are reading it and interviewing me, and I am being asked on radio and TV and to signings and all such exciting things and it feels like I’ve landed on the moon.

On the other hand, my mum is at the end stage of her life.  I’m not sure if I’ll be hosting a book launch or a funeral in the next couple of weeks.

Mum is home – there is nothing more they can do in hospital. I don’t know how long it will take  for her to slowly, softly fade.  However long it takes we will be there.

As I wrote my book, about my mum, and all we have gone through during these sandwich years , I realised a very important thing.  When everything else is stripped away, the only thing that is left, is the only thing that matters; love. She doesn’t know my name, and she can’t remember all the amazing things we have done, but when she sees me, she knows she loves me.  When her best friends of 50 years come to see her, she can’t say their names, but she knows that she loves them.   She can’t share memories or plans with my dad, but when she looks at him, it’s clear she loves him.

And despite all the pain and my dad, brother and I feel, we are all calm. I know now that letting her go is what she needs. And I am no longer afraid. Because she has taught me the most important lesson in life. When everything else is gone, you are left with the love.

And so I ride these two waves – one so high, and one so low, but both of them crashing to shore, me tottering to keep my balance, not really knowing how I’ll land.

I went back down to Dublin for a day and when I arrived back this morning, for the first time in my life, my mum didn’t smile when she saw me.  She is too tired to even do that now.

I take calls and answer emails and say yes to events, and meetings and photoshoots and interviews because I don’t know when I’ll have to say no.

I will ride these waves and let them both take me to the places they need to take me.  Because I have always ridden the wave she made for me, a wave made of love. She has held my hand all my life, and always smiled when she saw me.  Now she can no longer do that I will hold her hand until the end of her life and smile for us both.


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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3 Responses to What we are left with

  1. Cathy says:

    Big hugs to you at this time with her.


  2. All my love to you xx


  3. melissajanisin says:

    Beautiful as usual. Thinking good thoughts for you.


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