With Mother’s Day approaching, it’s hard not to think about the last Mother’s Day spent with my Mum, ten years ago. Ten long years that have somehow flown by.
There is so much I could write, yet so little that can be said. For some reason I am finding this much harder than I thought… tell the story of her passing? Give advice? Tell of my experience of being a mum that has only ever know being one without having a Mum around? Oh… and seeing my wonderful friends with their Mums? I had better go get a box of tissues…
Everyone’s experience is deeply personal, and this is just mine. If you are a Mum without a Mum, you are not alone… and you are lucky enough to be a Mum! And there are many of us out there feeling much like you do.
So, my Mum, Rita, was a beautiful woman outside and in. She was a Maltese immigrant to Australia who knew only my Father when she moved to her new home on the other side of the world. Mum never had her own mother with her in Australia to raise my brother and I, yet she had the experience of raising her siblings in a large family. As the eldest daughter, she was expected to sacrifice her education at the end of primary school and stay home to help with the household duties.
My Mum had an innocence, always believing in the best of everyone, yet a deep darkness. She was haunted by manic depression and bipolar disorder for most of her life. She hid it very well, with a smile and sense of humour that everyone who met her loved. I never truly understood what she was going through, but just took her as she was, and hoped she wouldn’t always be in and out of institutions. When I was around 20 years old, she attempted to take her own life. Something, I think, that triggered the cancer that would eventually consume her.
As a child I was a complete Mummy’s girl, always by her side. The thought of living without her was unimaginable. As a teen, I rebelled and we disconnected a fair bit over some years. I left Australia to travel, and never really returned to live in my hometown. I missed a fair bit of genuine time with her, but was fortunate to spend six months with my parents after her cancer diagnosis. I don’t think I ever truly knew her as a person, nor she me. What I always knew was that she wanted to be a Nanna. Unfortunately this happened 2 years after her passing.
She never held her sweet baby grand-daughters in her arms, nor heard the sound of their giggles. She never got to spoil them or teach them swear words in Maltese. My kids never heard her voice, never had her cuddles.
For me, as a Mum now, I feel countless things. I feel that one of the hardest things about living now as a Mother, without my Mum, is that I now understand just how much she loved me. There is no way to understand how much your Mum loves you until you are a Mum. And it feels so heart wrenching to now understand this, and not be able to truly thank my Mum for all that she did, all that she was, all that she sacrificed, for the physical and mental anguish we put her through, for loving me no matter how difficult I was, and for making me all that I am today.
Yes, for sure I wish I could call her up to look after the kids! I wish she could cook me her amazing chicken soup, especially when I am sick, the husband’s away and the kids are doing my head in. I would give anything to see her spoil my kids with way too much sugar, to hear her tell me that I am doing things wrong, or to argue over something stupid. I wonder what would her advice be? Would I listen to it? Would we disagree? Of course we would!
And yes, I feel a pang of jealousy when my beautiful friends who I love dearly, have their Mum’s with them. It is not their fault, and I can’t help it, but it just springs up every now and then. I just remember that I am fortunate to have these wonderful people in my life, and of course to have the beautiful children that look to me for support, each and every day.
How does my Mum live on? Well, there’s always the thing people say about her looking down from heaven… etc. But at times that just doesn’t cut it for me. I feel more that she is by my side. She is there with me, the voice I hear when I am screaming at my kids to stop fighting, or to clean up after themselves! Nanna Rita is someone we often talk about, and sometimes cry about together. She is the one whose pasta sauce and chicken soup I cook. She is the one we blow bubbles to, sending her kisses, wherever she may be. There is also a special place we visit every year on her anniversary, a place that she loved to visit too.
And every Mother’s Day, I celebrate being lucky enough to be a Mum, and to have had my Mum around for nearly 30 years. We all know there are plenty of people in the world who lost their beautiful Mama’s (or Papa’s) waaay too early. If this is you, I take my hat off to you. You must be one strong, resilient, resourceful, creative and brave human being.
This morning my kids put on the Disney movie ‘The Princess and the Frog’. Mama Odie sang a song called ‘Dig a Little Deeper’. The words I heard were: ‘...what your daddy had in him, you got in you‘. Of course, this goes for mamas too.
Love you forever Mum (the Greatest).
And as Mum lay dying, thin, frail, and more fragile than she had ever appeared, she looked at me with loving eyes and said ‘tibkix’, which in Maltese means ‘don’t cry’.
Good thing I got those tissues, because I just can’t help it…