She’s gone

My mum has gone. It is as hard to say as it is to feel. She is not here anymore. Gone from me. Gone from our lives. Gone from her chair and her garden, never to return. The finality of death is overwhelming. Whatever else there is, what’s now is finished.

I was there when she left. I was sitting beside her stroking her forearm when her laboured breathing stopped. It was sudden. There was no warning, no fanfare, not even a solitary violin. Just silence. It’s a quietness I’ll never forget.

I was not meant to be there. Of all the family I was the one far away. I was sitting on a train in northern England when the phone connection kicked in and I learned how close to the end she was. It turns out my brothers had gathered the night before expecting her to go by the morning. But now a reprieve. Hurried phone calls, flight changes, cancellations and apologies. I exited the train in the old city of York feeling gutted and confused. I had a long day to wait before the journey home could even begin.

I did my best to be positive. I walked. I drank coffee and took photographs. I even bought a hat. I wandered the outside of the colossal Minster, awed by its bulk though joining the queue to go in was more than I could do. Instead I found another place – a little parish church not far away. There was a small plaque on its wall that dated its beginnings in the 12th century. There was no queue outside, not even a sign of welcome. The entrance was littered and un-swept.

I pushed on the door and ducked my head to go inside. As the door creaked closed behind me, the silence was wide, the space empty, the air musty and still. I stood for a while, glad of the quiet. I looked up and saw the ancient stone arches spread out in formation. I looked down and saw the aisle underfoot paved with gravestones – anonymous saints, their names worn away. I edged my way into one of the wooden pews. Seated, I noticed a series of garish little Icons on the outer walls marking the Stations of the Cross. They were not pretty, but awkward, and so very much at home. I closed my eyes and felt an odd sense of peace.

With tears I remembered … I remembered sitting beside mum in church when I was a boy. We sat on a wooden pew. I liked it there. There were no Icons for us, no gravestones underfoot. We Baptists were not into ‘graven images.’ But when I looked up at mum I knew without a moment’s doubt that God was real and that all would be well. For fifty-two years of my life mum has been the one through whom I’ve seen God – my own personal Icon; my Stained Glass; my Saint. It’s as though she wrote God’s name upon my life and kept reminding me it was there. ‘You are a man of God,’ she would say with such conviction I almost believed it. ‘I am so proud of you.’

But now, now she is gone, her breathing stopped. My Saint has gone underground. My reference point has disappeared and my reassurance silenced. I feel so very sad. Yet so very, very grateful.

42 Comments

  1. So sorry to hear your Mum’s gone Simon… but glad you made it back. Thanks for sharing so starkly and honestly what her absence feels like, yet gratefully. She’d be proud.

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  2. Tears have never been far away this past week, and your lovely words have brought them to the fore again. The Saints of my early days referred to this world or this life as a vale of tears. Our God is going to wipe all the tears away, and that is wonderful.

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  3. I was so sorry to hear about your mum’s passing Simon. I would have loved to come to the funeral to support the family but was unable to be there. My thoughts and prayers are with you all. She was truly a mighty woman and I have special memories of her from my teen years and beyond. I know she will be sadly missed by so many. I was so glad that you made it back in time to see her. Love from Christine.

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  4. My mum died a few weeks ago too. I totally relate to what you have written. I too was with my mu m when she left. Precious and special.

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  5. In the stillness, in the spring
    when little sparrows take wing
    there is a voice in the moist warm air
    Someone for whom we care
    is talking to us continually
    Someone up there
    And if we stop everything to listen
    maybe we will hear
    In the stillness morning glistens
    And we find Him standing here.

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  6. Hi Simon both David and I want you to know that she certainly was a very special lady and can feel your loss and remember when you were that little boy and sat in church with a mother who loved so many. We are very sad that Sue is gone. She was a very special lady to me Simon and I know that she has left her footprints in my heart. I am crying as I write this because I did not get to see her since we left Dandenong and always wondered how you all were doing. God held out his hand and said “my true and faithful one it is time to come home, and mum shut her eyes and went to be with her Lord and Master.
    Love Sandie and Dave Adaway.

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  7. Simon, what a lovely reflection on your Mum….’always your Mum’, even with those pangs of pain of loss….Our love to you right now….Norm and Karen R

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  8. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in such a moving way Simon, in my minds eye I can still see the shy little boy sitting with his Mum and the rest of the family in church at Dandenong. What a privilege to have known your Mum, such a wonderful Godly Woman, even when things were tough those outside of the family never heard any complaints. Its so hard when we have to say that final goodbye to our much loved parents, but God does comfort and makes that pain a little easier to bear knowing that our loved ones are now rejoicing with the angels in heaven. Time will heal and until then know that we are weeping with you.

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  9. Thank you for sharing with us Simon. My love to you, Brenda and the family. I only know a little of your loss, for even though my Mum is still with us she is essentially gone. Love Ros

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  10. Grateful you made it to being there when your Mum ‘left’ Simon. Now so much pondering and realising all you absorbed from and through her. I’m sorry to have met her only briefly, though I’m sure I see her fruits in her dear sons! Blessings for this strange new phase without her and also especially for your Dad.

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  11. Your mum’s legacy lives on through her beautiful sons Simon. There are also 1000’s of people who were fortunate enough to have her in their lives at some point and she has left a little bit of her wisdom with them all. Such a magnificent woman and a blessing to all who knew her. She will be sorely missed, but remembered with great fondness. Sending all our love to you and her beautiful family. xxxxxx

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  12. Libby’s mum and my uncle (with whom I lived for a year) died during this last year. After that, and having read your words, I feel a sense of dread of what is to come all too soon with my parents but am also filled with hope. Thank you so much for sharing your pain and hope with us.

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  13. Thank you for sharing this, Simon. I can barely imagine how you must be feeling. My love and deepest condolences to you and your family as your mourn and celebrate your mum.

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  14. My deepest condolence Simon for your loss. I can only pray for you and your family during this difficult period.

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  15. Simon. For fifty-two years of your life you been the one through whom others have seen God – our own personal Icon.

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  16. We were so sad to hear of your beautiful Mum’s passing, Simon. She radiated grace, warmth and peace and we feel so fortunate to have known her, both in person and through you. What a beautiful tribute you have written, too.

    I think I know the little church you mentioned in York. We spent time there too as well in the massive Minster.

    Your Mum leaves a wonderful legacy – in you and in your brothers. I know she was justly proud of you all. Praise God for a life faithfully and wonderfully lived and our deepest sympathy to you, Brenda and all the family.
    Susan and Keith

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  17. dear sweet Simon….I remember your Mum fondly and she was a shining star! Remember that she is never gone from you…you carry her in your heart, you feel her with the gentle breeze, you hear her comforting and supportive words of wisdom in your thoughts. You are part of her and you carry her beautiful spirit tightly next to yours. she will always be right there with you. she is now one of your angels..so look for her, let her strengthen you as you make your way along the next steps of your path. great strength and comfort are yours.
    much, much love to you.
    Kay Terrell

    Reply

  18. I loved your reflections and honouring of this stage of the grief season. You have written beautifully. It brings back memories of losing my Mum 18 months ago. Your love of your Mum and her love of you is a blessing to us.

    Reply

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