“When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching -- they are your family.” Jim Butcher
My mother died when I was 21. And though she raised me, she died a perfect stranger.
I remember the night she died. It was early evening, when I got the call.
So, I went to the hospital alone, because my husband didn't care for that type of thing.
But her room stank of death, and was crowded with strangers I barely knew, though I was related to each and every one.
I looked around, knew I couldn't do the death rattle watch alongside people who had ridiculed and demeaned me my entire life.
So, I bent over her bloated belly, and kissed her fat face that had swollen to three times its normal size, and said, "It's okay to go now. I promise to look after myself the best I can. I promise to always try my best." And then I kissed my mother of 54 on the cheek one last time.
And then I went home to my horrible marriage, and sat alone in my living room.
And for a moment I expected her ghost to come and visit me. But it never did.
For years, really, I half-expected to sense her close, to come and say a ghostly, "hi". You know... those signs everyone talks about. But nothing ever came.
Then, after a night of really tough single parenting, many-many years later, I had a dream. A dream I'd had many times before, of me searching through unfamiliar streets in far-off unfamiliar places.
Only, this night the dream was different, because this night - there she was. Sitting inside a pizza shop.
So, I went in and sat down and said, "I've been looking for you, mum."
"I know," she told me, and then she smiled at me the empty smile she always favored best.
"That's why I came. To tell you I don't want to be found. I don't want anything to do with any of that life, ever again."
I felt the silent tears fall from my eyes. And knew, by how each word sliced through my heart, they were all spoken true.
She had hated her life. And she had died to set herself free.
Nearly 29 years ago.
I never dreamt of my mother again after that night.
So, it's hard sometimes when her birthday rolls round, and I'm left wondering how to grieve for a mother who had never really loved or wanted me.
Happy Birthday mum.
I love you.