Friday 7th September, 2012 began the same way that most of my days at that time started. My father called me early, about 8am, to check that I was ok and we chatted for an hour or so about nothing of relevance. Just father and son talk. We ended the call as normal, me calling him a few names and him telling me to get well. Nothing out of the normal.
Not long after I had hung up the telephone, the phone rang and the caller ID identified the caller as my father. I thought that he had probably forgotten to mention something and I answered the phone in my usual, playful manner when I knew it was my dad calling. There was nothing normal or usual about why he was calling.
Even before I could say anything, I could hear my dad’s ragged and more unusually, scared voice. I’ve never seen my father scared and I didn’t think that anything could scare him. He was a Yorkshireman and ex-soldier. Nothing scared him. Except I could tell he was terrified and his words rushed out in a panicked jumble. I had to tell him to calm down and repeat himself. He paused and then told me that my mum had called out for him whilst she was in the bathroom and when he had got there, he had found her collapsed and unconscious on the floor. My father is a trained medic and tried to revive her but with no success. He dialled 999, the UK emergency service number and was awaiting an ambulance. As he was telling me this, I heard sirens in the background, as had he and he told me that he had to go and let the medical team into the house.
Even after he had hung up the phone, I sat there, phone in hand, stunned. My mother had collapsed and couldn’t be revived.
My mum was the most important person in my life. I loved her more than anything. She was one of the few really nice people on this planet. Selfless, generous, loving, caring and most of all, my mum.
Although I was in a bad way, medically, my mind was reeling and I set about getting myself down to where my parents lived. It was only 140 miles away but, for me, that may as well have been the moon. I had difficulty travelling and although I still held a driving license, I was in no condition to drive. Today, though, that was an insignificant detail. I got some things together and made my way to my car to start my journey south. Before I left, I tried to get a message to my brother, informing him of the situation. My brother worked on a cruise ship that was, at that time, cruising through the North Passage, north of Canada. I left him a message to contact home immediately and then I set off.
I was only 30 minutes away from my parent’s home when my phone rang. I had been driving like a maniac, exceeding the national speed limit and daring a policeman to try and pull me over. I answered the phone and heard my brother’s voice. He had gotten my message. He asked me where I was and I told him that I was making my way down to my parent’s house and driving like a man possessed. I was! Without any preamble, my brother just said, “Don’t bother. Mum’s dead.”
Don’t bother. Mum’s dead.
My world collapsed in on itself. My brain refused to process what my brother had so bluntly told me. I was told, sometime later, that I had screamed and screamed. A primal, visceral scream full of sorrow, anguish and hate. The hate was directed at the world for being so cruel.
My brain refused to accept that the most important person in my life had gone. My mum had died. Such a simple statement that does no justice to the weight and import of it’s meaning.
As I write this I am reading my journal entry dated a week after the day. My thoughts are jumbled, even a week later, and making sense of the emotions I was trying to articulate is difficult. One of the sentences reads, “The traffic was a nightmare but I was hoping, with all my heart, that someone would phone me and tell me that my mum was ok.” It goes on to say, “My mum was dead. The words went around in my head. I know that I wailed like a banshee. I was still driving at speed but I just closed my eyes and wailed.”
Even after these few years, I cannot think back to that time without emotion welling inside me. I still haven’t come to terms with the loss of the most important figure in my life. My mum was the one who imprinted her personality, her sense of honesty and sense of humour onto me. She was part of me and part of me had died. Literally.
Nothing can prepare a person for something like this and we all react differently; my brother went on holiday with his girlfriend whilst I locked myself away and mourned. I cannot imagine anything being as painful as that day and the pain of the memory is still as sharp and cutting as it was three years ago.