Photo by Belladayys
It was just a few weeks after she died when I ventured into her room. My step-dad and sister were absent, and I was left alone in the empty, desolate house I once called home. It didn’t feel the same after mum left, and although no one dares to say it aloud, it never will.
It’s an eerie feeling, going through the belongings of someone who no longer exists. It’s an eerie feeling to actually acknowledge that someone no longer exists. The day I sifted through my mum’s bedside drawers, smiling, crying and aching my way through the last pieces of her fulfilling life, it felt like I’d been shot in the chest, then asked to keep living. But it’s not living at all.
I read her journal; the journal she started three and a half years ago when she was first diagnosed with cancer. She wrote in it up until eight months before she died. She talked of how she would fight the bastard of an illness that lurked inside her. She talked of how she needed to stay alive, for the sake of her daughters. She talked of how badly she wanted to see her grandchildren grow up. She talked of how she’d apply make-up before my sister and I got home from school, to give the illusion that she was well, and hadn’t just spent the whole day in bed. I found the gratitude journal we’d bought her for her birthday. It was full of such simple, beautiful moments, when she felt eternally grateful and content. Walks along the beach with my step-dad, dropping my little sister to school, seeing me come home from Sydney to visit.
She had so much faith in her ability to get better, and so much joy in the little gifts life gave her.
I found a thank-you card, with my dad’s name on it. She had started to write to him, to thank him for his support for their daughters, and for being a good dad despite the divorce. She never finished it. It broke my heart. I found a letter her friend had given her, that reminded mum of their million adventures in India together. Wrapped in tissue was a joint, no doubt a physical manifestation of their time in India. My sister and I vowed to smoke it and think of mum. She always said I was my mother’s daughter.
Of everything I found, and all the tears I shed, I wondered if it was real, or just a terrible nightmare that I’d eventually wake up from. Only when you find yourself in these situations do clichés seem so appropriate.
Sorting through the belongings of someone who is no longer alive is a painful chore, and one that heaves on heartstrings that have barely begun to heal. But if it brings me anything, it’s the realisation that my mum still exists. She lives on in me, in my sister, in my step-dad, in our family, in her clothes, in her house, in every single part of our lives.
I never thought I’d be someone who would have to sort through her deceased mother’s stuff, but it happened. I never thought we’d be one of the unlucky ones, but we were. And yet every day, when I wear her perfume, or look through her photos, or read old postcards from her younger travelling days, I know she lives on in me. And I guess, at least, that’s something.
Written by Hannah Edensor.
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