Sunshine & Showers

Sunshine came softly through my window today - the words of the old Donovan song, Sunshine Superman, were playing loudly on my internal hifi as I stepped out of bed this morning.  Very different day to yesterday.  Though still wild and windy, the valley is bathed in sunshine one moment, then when the sun disappears behind a cloud, grey and gloomy the next.  However, today there's definitely signs of the sun winning out.

The way I've been feeling recently is quite similar to the weather. Yesterday I was working on a new design for my next book, sitting by the Rayburn wearing many layers of clothes to keep warm, looking out on driving rain sometimes skewed at a 45% angle across the windows. Even the cats were drenched every time they went out, if only for a moment as and when nature called.
Arlo with his new punk hairdo
It was so dark and dreary inside I decided the only thing to do was to make my own sunshine and busied myself in the morning making sunshine stew which could sit in the Rayburn all day slowly cooking, then be ready and waiting to warm us without any effort come the evening. I put the ingredients for a wholemeal and rye loaf into the breadmaker, as the smell of bread in the oven always makes my spirits soar.
Just needs the addition of cheese dumplings and tada...
Funny thing about knitting is that it can either create space in your head, or fill it. Really challenging patterns can demand all-consuming concentration, but then there are the melodic ones that repeat in your head and hands like a song. Yesterday my knitting had its own rhythm, and once I'd learnt that rhythm my hands repeated it like a mantra, leaving my mind to wander off wherever it wanted to.

Since my mum died I've been trying to stay positive and not dwell on stuff, so that the practical side of things could be addressed. Mother-daughter relationships are never easy and ours certainly wasn't, but rather than thinking about what might have been I wanted to feel ok about her dying and funeral.

On Easter Saturday  I went with P to the green burial ground and we removed the single hand-tied bunch of flowers from Lily's grave and planted wild flowers in the spaces between the sods of earth on top of it.  It was a lovely day and the place seemed friendly and full of burgeoning life - trees with fat buds ready to burst into bloom, dogwoods, their red and green wands bearing spring green shoots, lupins nearly a foot high, a few primroses, bluebells and cowslips and lots of the more mundane wild flowers like buttercup, campion and daisies just waking up and peeping through last year's dead grass.

We sat on the bench at the other side of the field and looked across to the grave freshly filled in beside a young oak. We talked about which plants we could bring back from our garden in Wales to plant there - foxgloves, pulmonarias, more primroses, potentilla, snowdrops, forget-me-nots and Lily's favourite daffodils.  I felt content that she was at peace in a beautiful space in nature, close to our home, where I could visit and feel alright.

I've noticed that grief is not a tangible thing, it stalks and catches me unawares when I'm least expecting it. In the three weeks since my mother died I find myself crying at the most insignificant small things on television I wouldn't usually bat an eyelid at. I can't watch the news without being devastated by man's inhumanity. I often feel there's something I should be doing, the panic rises as I feel someone will be annoyed with me, before I eventually realise that that someone was my mother and it was the time I'd phone her in the evening. Sometimes it's just a vague sensation of emptiness, reget and sadness that engulfs me - yesterday was one of those days.

The past five years since Lily came to live close to us in York were a testing time. Being an only child, my mother's fears, infirmity and neediness weighed heavily on my shoulders and necessitated a big lifestyle shift for us all. She insisted that I ring her every evening, which doesn't sound like an unreasonable demand, but I dreaded the calls, knowing that there would be yet another list of complaints about her health and domestic situation, which I was powerless to improve. P and I left no stone unturned trying to lay on every possible thing Lily might have wanted - care, manicures, hairdressers, domestics, shopping, but what she really wanted was to have her daughter 24/7 and that was were I failed miserably.

There's no happiness without sadness, they're the two halves of the whole. So I'm approaching the next few months with caution, trying to stay well and work towards a balanced view of my relationship with my mother whilst acknowledging that the doubts, guilt and regrets are all part of the healing process.

PS As I was writing this a rainbow reflected on my laptop screen from a crystal hanging in the window. Delighted, I grabbed my camera to capture the moment, before realising I could hardly see for tears - see what I mean, it creeps up on you when you least expect it.


  1. When I read your post today, I thought I had written it myself. My mother died 12 years ago just as I I turned 50and she would have been 88 today. Although not an only child, my brother lives in America and so I shared all the experiences that you have documented so poignantly. My husband saved my sanity when nothing I did was ever good enough and towards the end of her long illness we made a kind of peace. I am crying as I write this and I amgratefuk that you have shared your feelings- you will never know how many others you may be helping. Thank you.

    1. And thank you too, Catriona. I cried when I read your post, but it's also comforting to know that we all share the same emotions. Take care x

  2. Dear, dear Jean - you did not fail... you lived your life! No one human being can be all another wants or needs, whether it's spouses/partners, or parents and children. Moving a parent closer often seems like a good idea, but can have a down side as well! My parents are in their 80s, having been married almost 65 years, and I dread the day one is left without the other. As the eldest child and only daughter, I'm sure I will find myself going through much the same thing as you did. It will take time to work through the entire gamut of emotions you are feeling, but you always have us to blog to! Pam xo

  3. 'Funny thing about knitting is that it can either create space in your head, or fill it'
    Oh, so perfectly put!
    My sympathies, Jean, and thank you for writing about this.

  4. It's so like an onion. We just move through the layers of loss and sadness and guilt too. Eventually, it is easier. My parents died in 1995 and I was so busy with little ones that I really only properly mourned years later. They are off in an awful cemetary we never visit, it is far away. Your mother has a lovely spot, chosen with care and love. And I envied you that dinner, it looked wonderful. Lois

    1. Thanks for these supportive comments. Grief is something we must all share at some point in our lives and each of us deal with it in our own way. Your kindness is much appreciated and so helpful in the healing process.

  5. I too had a difficult relationship with my mother and when she died suddenly 14 years ago I struggled with the emotions you describe so well. The passing of time has brought insight and peace and I find myself remembering more of the good than the bad. I wish the same for you.

  6. Hugs to you on the loss of your mum. My 98 year old mom passed away a couple of days before Christmas, and I have sometimes confusing feelings. She lived her life as fully as she could, she was a remarkable woman, yet still not perfect. Allow yourself to be sad now and then, really, its okay, like you could help it! And allow that you have been a good daughter.... it certainly sounds as if you were. Can you find a friend to ring at the time you used to call your mum? Someone who will lift you up? My girlfriend lost her gram many years ago, and she received a call each night at 10 from her beloved grandmother. Still today, her cousin calls her at that time, and Diane still is comforted by a good friend and cousin. Give yourself lots of time and tears. I lost my dad 20 years ago, and there is still a void, yet I know he does not wish for that to stand in my way. Our parents want more than anything for us to be happy!


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