Just over four months ago I was woken up in the early hours of the morning by a missed call that changed my world forever.  When I saw 'Mum and Dad' flash up on my iPhone screen my heart skipped a beat.  You know that usually, a call, text, or knock at the door in the middle of the night usually means bad news.  I jumped out of bed to call my parents back and my Dad answered, clearly distressed with some unfamiliar voices in the background.  He said the words that no child - young or old - ever wants to hear.  My Mum had passed away unexpectedly in her sleep.  I’d always dreaded this day and just couldn’t get my head around it.  “No, no, no…” I cried.  

Helen and her mum on her wedding day

Helen and her mum on her wedding day

I’d only been speaking to her a couple of hours earlier before going to bed.  My last words to her were “Goodnight, sleep tight, love you.”  How could this possibly be happening?  The paramedics who tried to save Mum apologised for not being able to do more and I just dropped to my knees in tears.  I immediately drove to be with my Dad to comfort and support him.  He’d lost his wife, best friend and soul mate; they had recently celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary and did everything together.  I got to sit with my Mum for a few minutes and hold her soft, but lifeless hand.  I kissed her forehead, stroked her hair and smelt her favourite perfume.  The hours, days and weeks that followed felt surreal.  Physically and emotionally drained, I would wake up every morning praying to God that it was all just a bad dream.  I called my parents almost every day for a chat and just wanted to hear Mum’s voice again and see her beautiful smile.

Although a tough fact of life, losing a parent is something that nothing can prepare you for.  After Mum passed away, everyone told me that the first year would be the hardest - and I’m not even half way through it yet (eek!)  I hit lots of special days quite soon after losing Mum.  My first birthday without her fell just weeks later.  As a family we plodded our way through Christmas and New Year, knowing that we were incomplete.  Mum’s 73rd birthday would have been in January and we visited her final resting place to lay flowers.  But the one day I have been dreading the most is Mother’s Day.  I’ve always loved Mother’s Day - even more so since becoming a Mum myself in 2014.  But after you lose your Mum, it seems that the occasion only exists to remind you more and more of your painful loss.  The weeks leading up to it are an emotional rollercoaster…  I vividly remember the last Mother’s Day that Mum and I shared together and reluctantly come to terms that there will never be another.

As Mother’s Day looms, I know I have to get through it, even though it hurts so bad.  I walk past shop windows filled with rows and rows of pastel pink cards, overpriced artisan chocolates and pretty gifts adorned with satin ribbon.  Whilst every time I switch on the television or log on to social media I’m bombarded with adverts for fancy, hand-tied bouquets and cosy afternoon teas.  I see my friends enjoying beautiful moments with their Mums and I feel guilty as a wave of jealousy rushes through me, wishing I could spend more time with mine.  I was fortunate enough to spend lots of special times with my Mum though and I’m eternally grateful for them; birthdays, graduations, my Wedding Day and the birth of my daughter Sienna (Mum’s tenth grandchild!)  I feel so lucky and grateful for this.  It would be easy for me to resent a day like Mother’s Day because I can no longer thank my Mum in person for bringing me into the world and taking good care of me.  However, I have promised to keep my Mum’s memory alive so I’ll be visiting her still this weekend to plant some Spring flowers (Mum always loved receiving flowers!) and I'll be visiting Dad too, for a cup of tea at our family home - a tradition that I don’t ever want to give up, even though Mum sadly can’t be with us in person.  Plus most importantly, I’m a Mum myself now so I plan to enjoy spending lots of quality time with my daughter and husband.

In fact it wasn’t until I became a Mum myself that I could fully appreciate what an amazing job my own Mum had done in raising myself and my four brothers and sisters.  I reflect on the times that Mum told me off for not folding my clothes neatly, leaving the door wide open on a cold day, breaking one of my toys, coming in late for bathtime on a school night, or treading dirt through the house - now realising that it was all just part of being a parent.  I also can’t help but giggle about the time I ‘helped’ in the garden as a child and cut a big chunk out of her beloved Golden Privet hedge (sorry, Mum!)  It’s not until you lose someone you love that you realise just how special they were and how all the trivial matters from the past pale into insignificance.  I don’t think the bond between a Mother and her child can ever be broken, so this Mother’s Day I ask everyone to remember those friends and family who have lost their Mum.  Please don’t take your own Mum for granted whilst she’s here and instead of wasting time looking for the ‘perfect’ card and gift spend those precious minutes with your Mum - as you are the best gift she could ever ask for.  Telephone her and remind her why she’s so special, or visit her and give her a warm, tight hug; these gifts mean so much more and you can do them every day of the year, not just on Mother’s Day.  In fact, for me it’s no longer 'Happy Mother’s Day!’, it’s 'Happy Every Day!’  Why wait all year to show the amazing woman who gave you life just how much she means to you?  Don’t leave until tomorrow what you can do today, as you never know when it will be the last time that you can say “I love you Mum!” and see her smile back.

Helen McCusker is a mum of one and book publicist at Bookollective: www.bookollective.com  Tweet @helenmccusker

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