Monday 11th August
Today was one of the best days of my life.
Friends and relatives from all over the country came together to celebrate my mum’s life. Over the past few months my mum has been telling me stories of distant family members and friends that she wanted me to meet, but there hadn’t been time whilst she had been alive. I met the remains of my grandma’s Irish family, and was enraptured by the ladies, who after decades in England, still retained their beautiful Southern Irish accent. I met a cousin who was once an MP in London, and now gets commissioned by the BBC to make topical films and series. We connected immediately and he offered to meet up for coffee in London when everything settles down for me. My mum and grandmother were so proud of him, not because of the awards that he has won, but because of his passion and drive to help those in need.
Bea came. I was very glad of her. At the cremation ceremony, I was mobbed by well-wishers and she kept her distance. I was glad to talk to everyone; I am naturally a very social person, and so a crowd of people I either knew or wanted to get to know was a very inviting idea. There were some awkward moments where I ran out of conversation; what do you say to your mum’s work colleagues that she never spoke of? Only when the crowd thinned did Bea join me; we spent most of our time together howling with laughter at morbid death jokes.
The people from my church were wonderful. Several of the ladies organised the food and flowers for the wake, and set out the tables and chairs. The minister’s husband (Yes, my minister is a woman! Actually it’s Donna, who used to do the youth work whilst her husband was the minister, but then there was some juggling and Donna took on the church) led the service and Donna read the tribute. They both cried.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been creating my own theories of mourning. I always thought mourning to be a very individual thing, with everyone grieving in their own way. Which is true, but actually there’s a lot to be said of communal mourning. When a community comes together and grieves a death together. Our shelves are crammed with sympathy cards; the messages filled with memories and expressions of what my mum meant to them. She may not have been their mum, but they recognise that they have lost something. Everyone has lost something good. And in mourning together, we create something good. The love that my mum gave and received is now being redirected between the ones she loved as they gather together and support each other.
At the wake, family members and friends who have held grudges for years, dropped the anger and ate together. I don’t just mean they we’re all in the same room without fighting; they actually sought each other out and we’re kind to each other. It was beautiful to see. My mum had a bit of a passion for reconciliation.
This would be a good place to end my blog stream. My mum has reached her final destination, and I am grateful to those who have walked with me. But instead, I want to invite you to walk with me a little further. Journey with me through the tears and the questions, the changes and the choices, as I attempt to discover life after death.