Even when it’s over a decade old. Even when you no longer resemble the person you were when they left. Even when you have to fight sometimes; fight to remember her voice, fight to recall the intonation of her accent: would she have said it like this? Or like that? I never heard her say that word, so how would she say it? Exactly how would she have said ‘Barack Obama’? When I hear people with her accent, it shakes my heart. Bizarrely, it makes me feel lost and home at the same time.
It hurts to know that I won’t see her again. It hurts to know that I saw her for such a short time to begin with. I wasn’t even a proper person when she went, I was barely getting started. When she left, I knew nothing, had lived nothing. The last time she saw me I looked and sounded so different, my voice was shriller and my eyes were manic with everything that I did not yet know. I had never had my heart broken by a death. I had never sat and cried so much, the kind of cry that is so utterly helpless and broken. The kind of cry that has no resolution, because it just aches. There is a truth to the term heartache. It aches the whole body to know that you can’t see her face, how it would be now, if she were still here. I can see all of the colours that are fused together in her eyes, all the shades of blue. Where her eyes are bright, mine are murky and dull. She was an electric woman, and I found safety behind her. I was a poor consolation prize for the ones who loved her.
I hate myself for not realising at the time, that I had so little time, that we all have such little time. I should have spent every one of those remaining days telling her everything she needed to know – that she was the most loved of mothers, and I loved her so completely, and that, for all of the times I had been mad at her, I would never stop loving her. She was the first voice I had ever heard, her heart was the first sound my body had registered outside of itself. I had a space in her belly, and that belly is gone. I will never get to use the word ‘Mum’ in the same way ever again. And to know that is something that can take my breath away, every single time. I hear people say ‘Mum’ and I wish I could do that too.
Grief catches you in your days, and in your nights. In the days, it catches you when you find yourself wanting to share something with her, however small or insignificant it might seem. In the nights, you dream that she is still alive so that, when you wake, you have those few seconds of wonder: “Is she really alive? She didn’t die?” But she always dies again. I couldn’t save her in real life, with my prayers and my begging to the Almighty. She went anyway. She goes anyway.
The other day I sat with her for a while, and there was a part of me that wanted to lie there in that spot and fall asleep forever. Hug a headstone, it’s all that’s left. Cut back the branches that are creeping around her name, they are blocking her light, she can’t see. I feel grateful that I can’t hear a peep out of civilisation here. We are alone.
The love you feel for your parents, it never changes, you will always love them without thinking, without contemplation. You love your parents before you know yourself. So when one leaves, you feel like a part of you has gone. Like there is a part of you that has shut down, no one else has the access code to it, so it will die from lack of use. There is a you that they knew and you forget.
I will never see her again, and that hurts my heart. My parents, by raising me, made my heart together – half is gone, but the other half is here, is my friend, and loves me even when I don’t love myself. I hope he knows how much he is loved by me.