The anniversary of mum’s death has come and gone. Oddly, there were no feelings on the day, no profound moments or tears. Perhaps my life is too full of other things. It certainly moves on.
I did visit the graveside the month before. I took flowers. It was a visit of choice, not need. Truth be told, I didn’t want to go. All that dirt and grass and quiet. I walked. I stood. I knelt. I even prayed. But it was just a grave. A simple plaque was laid to mark her spot and I was glad of it. Dad’s choice and just enough. But the day itself was grey, the ground damp, and all around the plots filled by strangers.
I do miss her. A year on and I miss her smile and the soft, loose skin of her cheeks. I miss her hands, her touch, those clandestine whisperings of pride and devotion. For mum there was never a thought or a feeling hidden for long. I do miss her. But for me there are no particular days that contain her, no sites that hold who she was. Somehow I find her most clearly inside of me. She inhabits my life. I look in the mirror and I see her. I look at my daughter and I see her. I look at my dad and I know her presence so tangibly … and her absence too.
Theologian David Ford suggests that the question ‘Who am I?’ leads us straight to the people who are part of us: ‘We find ourselves partly by remembering those who are most deeply woven into us.’ It’s true. My mother is woven into the stuff of who I am. To remember her is to know myself better. The Irish poet Michael O’Siadhail writes of someone similarly woven into his life. With a small change of pronoun, the words say something about mum that resonates.
I probe the essence of this energy;
no blandishments or blind approval,
her unblinking trust enticed me,
fingered some awareness of worth;
in her praise all is possible.
Though at first a copy-cat tremor,
after many storms I’ll still
strum the chord of her assurance,
that music I’ll make my own,
an old resonance I’ll summon up.
David Ford, The Shape of Living, Baker, 1997, 31.
Michael O’Siadhail, Hail! Madam Jazz, Bloodaxe, 1992, 84.