I was in a jeweller’s shop before Christmas. As I reached across the counter to take the earrings that the sales assistant was showing me, she gasped and commented on the rings on my fingers.
‘They were my mum’s,’ I said. ‘She died…’ I looked down and twisted one of the rings to its correct position on my finger. I couldn’t say the next part of the sentence, that she’d died three and a half years ago.
It would sound flippant.
‘…she died recently,’ I said, pleased with how respectful to Mum it sounded.
‘Oh,’ the shop assistant said. ‘Your first Christmas without her.’ She clasped her hands and lay them on the counter.
I didn’t correct her. What did it matter?
‘Can I clean them for you?’
I put the earrings down so that I could cradle my hand that wore the rings.
‘I don’t ever take them off.’
She didn’t say, ‘I can see that. I can see sausage roll mixture in the claw setting.’
I frowned and looked closely at the rings in case.
She took out a velvet tray. ‘I’d be very careful with them,’ she said as she slid it across the counter towards me.
I looked around the shop, out the door, back to the woman, and down at the rings.
I slid one ring from my finger and placed it in the tray.
I took off the others, sat them in the tray, and pushed it back across the counter.
And before I had figured out how to word my warning, she said gently, ’I’ll look after them. You go and finish your shopping. I’ll have them clean and ready for you when you come back.’
I walked to the door of the shop and looked back. She waved, like Mum might have done as I tentatively waded out into the waves as a child.
Jingle Bells played over the speakers in the shopping centre.
Almost four years have passed. It’s not Christmas when I feel the heft of my grief. It’s not her birthday, or even the date she died (though the first of all of those anniversaries and celebrations (could you call the first Christmas that?) was crap and the ones since only slightly less so).
For me, it’s Mother’s Day.
There’s a vulnerability leading up to it. Invitations wherever we turn to spoil Mum this Mother’s Day.
I’m part of a large crew that wish they could.
We learn to live, even when we think we can’t, at first under the weight of our grief. Then we grow around it a little, and eventually through it. We patch ourselves up and start living, on most days, a full and vibrant life.
Then, for me, along comes Mother’s Day.
And the time that’s passed and the healing done are ripped away and I’m back at day one.
I can throw all sorts of positive spins and energy towards it. But Mother’s Day is the day that I’m deeply sad about losing my mum.
And I reckon that’s okay.