The things she carried

Its not an easy thing to admit that you felt a sense of relief that someone you know or close to you has died.

We’re conditioned through life to believe that familial love is or should be unconditional – after all you only get one family, and you should cherish it.

Its not that easy though, especially if the person in question was often abusive and unpredictable. Even in a situation where love is strong it seems grief takes many forms. One could even be mistaken for thinking that there is none at all, as it often it masquerades so well. It can surface as anger, numbness, confusion, mis-direction and denial to name but a few. In the last few weeks both before and after my mother died I’ve felt them all.

Anger was the worst. I cried and raged both inside and outwardly to those unfortunate enough to be caught up in my moment of venting.

‘Why was she so bitter, why did she hate people so much, how could she tell so many lies, and manipulate so many people?!’

This went through my mind over and over, and I couldn’t resolve the question.

At the moment, I’m still trying to make sense of my mother as I sift through her bungalow with my brother in silence. I’m surrounded by her possessions and mounds of scribbled and incoherent thoughts.

Carrier bags full of them. Wrapped and wrapped again, and then wrapped some more, tied in string, covered in sellotape and then wrapped in another bag, and hidden in a box.

Inside these (many & draining) boxes are the closely guarded thoughts are of a woman who couldn’t understand why she found it impossible to connect to people – and wanted nothing more than love. She wrote poignantly in one note, scribbled in a pad I’d recently bought her that all she wanted in life was to be loved by her family, but that she wasn’t good enough for them, and then scribbled out ‘them’ and replaced it with ‘him’.

I don’t know who ‘him’ was. It could have been any of us in the last few months and weeks when her mercurial mood swung in favour of one son and against another. It could have been my dad or my uncle.

I’ll never know.

Strangely though its not these things that are having an impact on me at the moment.

When she died her various purses contained 118 first class stamps and 29 second class stamps. Her pay as you go mobile phone had £277 worth of credit on it.


The stamps weren’t particularly special – and she wasn’t a collector. We almost never spoke on the phone and if we did she never had anything in particular to say. For many years due to strange and abusive texts and calls about radiation and fleas I withheld my number.

However, despite that she never stopped wanting to connect – but she never learned how to, and I think thats the thing that makes me the saddest.

After I left the bungalow I went to see my best friend and her beautiful cheeky and energetic daughter who were quite unexpectedly (but thankfully) in town.

My friend is wise beyond her years – and a light that often steers me safely to shore. I love her dearly and would be completely lost without her.

Her little girl was bouncing off the walls and trying to turn on the dishwasher every time her mother wasn’t looking.

Mother and daughter were in synergy. One looking at the other all the time, either to check that they were ok, or to gauge approval and mood.

As I watched them both together I forgot all about the stamps, and just thought about the dishwasher, beeping in distress at being relentlessly prodded with nothing on its shelves to be washed.

I’d like to think though that the dishwasher felt happy someone was interested in it nevertheless, even though it couldn’t say so & felt somewhat empty inside.





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