• Gareth Ellis

Happy Birthday Mum

Today we should have been celebrating Mum’s 61st birthday, and her first as a Nana. Instead we were scattering her ashes. You ever get the feeling that life isn’t fair? This time last year she was at Harry Potter World for her 60th birthday – a place she’d always dreamed of visiting. I’m glad we could give her a lasting memory before she passed away.

It’s just shy of four months since our Mum/Rupert’s Nana lost her brave battle with cancer and I think I’m just about in the right place to start writing about it.

Mum bravely battled through breast cancer, a mastectomy and the loss of her hair to be told as late as May of this year that she was cancer-free – two months later she got it in her liver and she was gone. There’s a reason why people are always saying fuck you to cancer. That’s it.

Mum passed away at Willen Hospice and I have to say the level of care she received was astonishing. Anyone local to Milton Keynes will know the amount of work these palliative care nurses put into their work and seriously, they are a different breed of extraordinary humans. It’s a place you never want to experience, because often they’re receiving end of life care but a place you can be proud to have witnessed first-hand.

Anyone who has lost someone close to them can testify that it’s a gut-wrenching time. You feel sadness that you’ve lost them, anger that it even happened in the first place, and confusion as to what the bloody hell you do now. On the 6th of July, shortly after midnight, as we went to say our goodbyes I asked my brother that exact question – what do we do now. He said, ‘we go again.’

What he meant was that we had to carry on, not just because it’s what Mum would have wanted but because it was true – life really does go on.

I have a loving wife and a now 11-month-old son (only seven months when Mum died) so I couldn’t really afford to cave in or really to switch off from my responsibilities. For the record Jess was very supportive and did let me do what I needed to do, but she was grieving too so I didn’t take liberties.

What we did as a family, including my in-laws, was build a solid support network and get through it as a team. It’s what the youngsters would refer to as ‘squad goals.’

We had to clean her house out and that was a gruelling task. Especially when you take into account that she kept hold of everything – I mean, who needs a ton of non-winning lottery tickets and my school report from when I was 12? But those things made us laugh as we moved through it together.

But that’s what she would have wanted. She was always keen to spread joy and happiness, even when she didn’t feel it herself, and she was my number one fan, even when I was being a bit of an arse. She’d casually say that I was maybe hungry or tired, no Mum, I was just being a shit.

Then we of course had the funeral, and that was difficult, not just the arranging but also on the day when we had to carry her coffin and then say our ‘final’ goodbyes. I also decided that I wanted to give a eulogy, which was by far one of the hardest things I’ve done to this point. Still, as a writer I couldn’t imagine anyone either writing it or delivering it.

But as we hit milestone after milestone I’m reminded of what was so cruelly taken from us. As we discuss more children the realisation is that Mum will never get the chance to hold them. As we reach her birthday we are dealt the blow that he never got to ‘make her day’ and then it will be my birthday, Rupert’s birthday and then Christmas.

But we are of course comforted by the fact that she had a great life and she will look down on us constantly as we move through all of life’s major milestones.

Today we spread her ashes but it will not be the last time we ever think about her, talk fondly of her or even see her.

We love you Mum, have the happiest of happy birthdays. Keep shining down on us and we’ll keep sending love up to you.

Mum

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