Remember the dream when they come back to us?
When I heard that, it took my breath away. Because I do, I so clearly remember the dream when they come back to us. Because I have had it, recurring, for 28 years.
It is the one when they tell me she has been alive all this time and she is in the room next door, but I am not allowed to see her. It is my mind playing cruel tricks on me, my wishful thinking, and when I wake, I am crying.
Losing my little sister has left a jagged hole in my life. Over time, the edges have softened, but it will always be there, like a missing jigsaw piece. I still think of her, feel her, talk to her often. Some days, it is a blessing she didn’t survive as she would have been severely brain damaged. Some days, it is a cruel curse that something so beautiful and full of life was taken from us.
I have looked at my own two girls and wondered how my mother lifted her head from her pillow every morning. And I realise she did it for us, my older sister and I.
Because a mother’s love knows no bounds. It is pain, it is comfort, it is unyielding, it is gentle, it is scars, it is perfection.
I never remember my mother shutting herself off to grieve. She never turned away from us, all the while she was enduring what was probably the greatest pain of her life. Did she fall apart at night? When she closed our bedroom doors, did she then retreat to her own room and allow her heart to shatter again and again and again? I don’t know.
We grieved and we cried together, we talked of Lizzy often, but we were allowed life after death. Our mother wanted us to live. And we did.
I now have the gift of two girls. I don’t say that often, I am given to a more flippant, cynical exterior. But don’t doubt how much I love my girls. Because I know how precious life is.
I don’t know in the future how my girls will think of me, what kind of a mother I was to them. Will they come to the realise that their mother is a person too? With her own baggage and scars and memories. Will they forgive my mistakes, my tiredness, my will to exist outside of them?
My mother always tells me ‘Jen, you’re a good enough mother!’. The first time she said this, as I sat cradling my newborn girl doubting every move I made, I took it as an insult! But enough means ‘as much as required’. So if I give my girls as much love as they require, as much support as they require, as much care as they require, I reckon I’ll be doing OK.
And my grief, my Lizzy, will be a constant reminder to me that I have been given the gift of life, in more ways than one.
For my mother x