The Heart Failure Diaries (Endings and Beginnings)

Photo by Dom J on

Last Saturday my mum realised she’s going to die – soon. We don’t know how soon but soon enough we think. It’s a strange space to be in, this one of anticipatory grief and loss. The knowledge blows around you – sometimes gently reminding you to really appreciate a moment; others catching you with a strong gust causing you to lose emotional balance. It makes everything intense. I have an urge to write. I realised as I started to write this diary of the end and what’s coming, my mind was swirling with memories. So I’ll start the end mixed up with the beginning – my earliest memories of me and my mum.

 My earliest memories are hazy. Riding my tricycle up and down on the path between the house and the farmyard – I know my mum is there with me or in the kitchen nearby. Watch with Mother, a daily ritual which she would leave me to watch alone- sneaking off to get lunch ready. The Clangers would have me transfixed. It’s strange that my 3 older brothers and sisters are mostly not there, I just recall me and mum. I do remember being with my brother T at playgroup in the village hall when a heavily pregnant mum came to collect us. We pretended to hide from her but not for long; running and hugging her warm belly all laughing together at the game. Fragments and images but they are all of the same emotional hue. Warm and safe.

I didn’t always have these memories. When I held my first daughter E as a baby, I experienced a sense of calm and inner peace that told me I too had been held this way. It was both a revelation and a comfort for me. The bad stuff meant I’d forgotten the good. I was distant from my mum by then; seeing each other but disconnected emotionally. It had been like that for years. Becoming a mother myself began the healing process and these early memories came back. The playgroup memory I would have been about 2 and 1/2, my youngest brother born not long after. He was sick and him and mum went away for a few months. My warm and safe memories stop there too. The next thing I remember is moving house when I was 4 years old.

Last Sunday me and mum took the new portable mobility scooter (christened the flying batmobile by mum) out for it’s first adventure. Inevitable issues for me folding and unfolding produced much hilarity from her. We managed it and off we went in the faint sunshine with it’s promise of Spring. I wondered if we would talk more or if we might lapse back into denial. Anyone who knows alcoholics will know that denial is something we do very well. These open honest conversations are new territory for us together – I wasn’t sure either of us would be able to stay in it.

She surprised me by announcing she felt better now she understood, and she was doing a bucket list! This mostly consists of me taking her to visit people! She is worried what will happen to her cat. My daughter E has promised to have him but her boyfriend is not a cat lover so she’s worried he will block it. ‘He loves her though so it will be fine’ I said, and we discussed the practicalities. We talked of the past some through the day; her childhood, some of her marriage to my Dad, and later on about my children and how my drinking effected them. We never really talk about my childhood and her drinking together – it’s like I was always a grown up. The shame she feels is too much for her to bear so has to be tiptoed round. We did and often do talk of the gift of the last 12 years since she’s lived near me. The fun, the laughter and the memories – made possible and better by her getting sober and then me. I hope that the gift of this period in our lives will be that nothing is left unsaid between us.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

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  1. Just more hugs, honey. I too am so glad you can just be there and listen to her. One last discussion I had with my mom a few days before she died…

    Me to mom: Mom it’s ok to talk about death.
    Mom: I’ve already talked about it. But now that I’m in it, it sucks.

    It made me laugh and cry at the same time.

    Liked by 1 person

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