“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
This picture of my mum and my, then four-month-old son, was taken – on impulse – one Saturday afternoon in mid -November.
And I almost didn’t take it!
Waiting for my mum’s sisters (on a visit from Ireland) to arrive so we could go out to dinner, myself and my mum were just killing time really, chatting and playing with a very smiley Harry. Something made me pause, however, just before my aunts were due to arrive, go and get my camera, and take that picture.
It’s a lovely picture.
It’s also the last picture I have of my mum and my son. Six days after this picture was taken, my mum had died. I didn’t know then, that this would be the last picture I would take of them, and my aunts didn’t know that it would be their last visit to see my mum. You never know in the moment, what is going to be the last moment, do you?
Today is the 6th August 2020, and I’m writing this during a family holiday. Everyone is asleep, except me. I’m awake, and I can’t help thinking of what today could have been. Today is my mum’s birthday; in fact, it would have been her 60th Birthday. What a celebration that would have been!
Now, it’s another milestone missed; another memory made with a missing piece.
Since you’ve been gone
It’s been 3,917 days…. oh, and about 14 hours, since I last saw my mum. It will be a whole eleven years since that picture was taken, as of this November. That baby is now eleven too, and starting secondary school in September, and is joined by his seven-year-old sister, who my mum never even got to meet.
I was, for a moment, when I came to write this, going to list all the important moments my mum had missed during this time, before realising the sheer futility of that. I’m sure it goes without saying, she has missed much of value: events too numerous to list; important milestones reached; and a thousand little moments in between; numerous times when I have just simply needed my mum.
And while she has been gone, I’m reminded today that that doesn’t mean she has completely gone away.
Reminders of her are with us everywhere. From my likeness to her – anyone who knows me will see that from the above picture, taken on her 31st birthday – to the hundred little ways I see her live on in my own children and, dare I say it, in my own parenting!
So much of her is still here with us.
And there is one very important legacy that she passed down to me; one very important gift she shared with me, that I say special thanks to her for today.
“The child of those tears shall never perish,”
St Monica, the mother of St Augustine of Hippo, is known for her many pious acts, one of which was to pray nightly for her son Augustine’s conversion. Her prayers were eventually answered and her son did indeed come to Christ. Many parents over the years have continued to pray to St Monica and asked for her intercession for their own wayward children.
I wonder if my own mother prayed to her as well?
A great woman of faith, I know it distressed my mum greatly when I left the Church. She would often assure me that she was praying for me – assurances that went largely ignored by me at the time. When she died, I still hadn’t found my way back to faith; in fact, in the immediate years following her death, I became even more lost.
I did, however, get there eventually, and I can’t tell you the peace it brings me to know that her prayers for me have been granted. Through sharing her faith with me, my mother gave me an incredible gift and showed me the way back, should I ever choose to take it.
Not gone but rather gone on.
We are spending your birthday today in LEGOLAND, Mum. I did pause before booking it – wondering if we should mark the day in more sombre fashion, but of course, what better way could I honour your memory than by spending the day making memories with your grandchildren?
Life does go on, but that fact doesn’t make me miss you less; in fact, with each passing year, I think I miss you more.
Yet, through sharing your faith with me, I have the peace of knowing that you haven’t just gone, but have instead have gone on, and that we will see each other again.
Thank you, Mum.
P.S. I hope you like the cake!