Tuesday, 19 March 2013

RIP Brenda Floyd, My Mum

When my oldest brother woke me on Sunday morning, around half past six, with the news that my Mum had passed away, I think the first thing I felt was relief that the suffering I’d witnessed over the previous week had ended.

We knew it was going to happen. She’d been almost entirely unresponsive and had barely taken in any nourishment for that same period, and it was decided on Saturday that the kindest thing we could do was agree to let her go, so her saline and antibiotic drips were stopped and her painkillers were increased, to make her as comfortable as possible.

I am the youngest of her five children. She often called me her baby, despite the fact – at 6’4” – I’m the tallest (and, currently, broadest) of all my siblings. None of us wanted her to leave us, but that awful fear was outweighed by love and the desire to do the right thing by her.

No matter, though, how much we’d braced ourselves for the inevitable, there was still a sense of icy shock when it happened… like the involuntary gasp made when plunging into cold water.

I got dressed and went downstairs. With life framed in a surreal daze, I spoke with my two brothers who live here, at my Mum’s house in Carlisle, in quiet tones, getting a grasp of the situation.

My sister and another brother were staying at a hotel in the city, having travelled up the previous day to see Mum, and they were already on their way to the hospital.

I was set to get in the car with my other brothers and head there, too, but I really didn’t want to. I asked them if I could stay at home and they totally understood.

It’s not a decision I regret. My Mum used to tell me that, once a person had passed, their body isn’t the person any longer… it’s just a shell… and I preferred to remember her as the vibrant soul she was, rather than an inanimate remnant lying in a hospital bed.

When they all returned, a few hours later, we hugged and talked, reminisced and even laughed at times. We had all been blessed by her magical love, and that was and remains such a great strength in these dark days we’re stumbling through.

Later, after my visiting sister and brother had left, my ex, Shirley, dropped by. We broke up in the middle of last week, but we’re still great friends. She’d journeyed up from London to attend a funeral, in Newcastle, of another of her exes, and she made a detour to Carlisle (on the opposite coast) to drop off my things.

We went for a sandwich and a coffee in the bar of a hotel in the next village, then I took her to one of my childhood playgrounds; the River Eden, which is (at least, when it’s not in raging flood) as tranquil a place as the name suggests. We hugged, held hands and sighed a lot, strolling without urgency along the banks of the river.

Breakups are often traumatic affairs, but Shirley is a blessing and she helped me so much on Sunday, despite dealing with her own sadness.

It was a surreal day, in all… and I did break and sob my heart out later in the evening… but the sense of loss wasn’t close to as violent as I may have feared, in all the years of fearing the coming of that day.

Although I’ve been fluctuating and feeling somewhat numb, I’m coping far better than I imagined I would. There are two reasons for this: the first is that I’ve been able to practice what I preach and invoke the power of present awareness, and the second is down to the fact, in the middle of all this heartache, the love that my Mum blessed my siblings and I with is still mighty and unwavering, despite her physical passing.

The awful truth of losing her presence hasn’t at all resulted in the feeling that we’ve lost her love. It has given us all a great strength of endurance, and I feel sure – as many people have suggested on Twitter and Facebook – that this love will reassure and bolster me in all my days to come.

My Mum was born Brenda Wise in 1939, months before the outbreak of World War II. She was actually bombed out of her home as a child, after a neighbouring house was hit in a German air raid. Birkenhead, just across the River Mersey from Liverpool, was one of the main shipbuilding ports in the UK, so was a regular target of Hitler’s Luftwaffe.

The youngest of an astonishing nine children, she lost her own mother to cancer when she was just seven-years-old and was then brought up by her oldest sister, Betty, and her husband, Bill – the parents of one of Canada’s most celebrated comedians, Roger Abbott, who passed away in 2011. Along with Roger’s older sister, Jacki, the three of them lived like siblings, and my Mum was actually due to emigrate to Canada with them all, in the early 1950s, but decided, at almost literally the last moment, that she wanted to stay with her brothers, sisters and Dad.

It was a decision that eventually gifted me this Universe I’m experiencing. Her life and fortunes would have been so different if she’d got on that boat. The ‘Canadian’ branch of the family are all very well off and my Auntie Betty is still alive and kicking, just a few years from her centenary.

Instead, my Mum remained in post-war Britain, with all its sacrifice and suffering, and got locked into the working-class life of hard graft and having little, living hand-to-mouth, which is something she never really escaped from.

She met my Dad, Peter Floyd, in the early 1960s and ‘naivety’ led to the impending birth of my sister, so a shotgun wedding being the order of the day, they got married not long after. (It was actually their 50th wedding anniversary in February, just gone, though they separated – never getting round to an actual divorce – around 30 years ago. We chuckled about it, suggesting they get back together, to which my Mum replied: “Sod off!”)

A series of unfortunate malfunctions in contraceptive measures led to the birth of my other three siblings, before the family moved from Birkenhead to Carlisle, after my Dad found a job at the newly-opened Pirelli tyre factory in the city, in 1970… the year my closest brother was born.

I was born in 1974. She was on the pill at the time and though the family was already suffering from financial hardship, it wasn’t an option that I be denied life.

As I grew up, I remember my Mum telling me, on occasion, that she went to a very well-known psychic medium in the city called Mrs Cummings, and she said that I had been born ‘for a reason’. My Mum joked that this reason was to test her, but I know I did, too many times.

We were the poor family on the estate. My Dad drifted in and out of jobs and was unemployed for a long time. We’d just witnessed ‘The Winter of Discontent’ in the UK, and there was another major recession at the turn of the ‘80s. Although I can’t remember it myself, my siblings recall a time where we lived off potatoes and chives that were grown in the back garden of the house I’m writing in, now.

But although we may have been financially challenged, we were never poor in regard to the love we received, and the primary source of this love was my Mum.

My Dad left when I was eight or so and I only saw him on a handful of occasions after that, over the next decade, but my Mum’s strength and support was constant and unwavering.

A single parent, she got a job at a biscuit factory in Carlisle, then, later, a sweet factory, working absurdly long hours just to make ends meet, put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads. She would often work seven days a week, waking at 6am each morning and – during the week days – not returning home until 9pm in the evening. It would be a 12:30pm finish on a Saturday, and 4:30pm on a Sunday. Often, she’d work months without a single day off.

It was about then that I started showing symptoms of being a ‘problem child’. In my early teens, I began truanting from school. I would go up to our local shop and get things on credit… essentially stealing from my Mum, because I knew that she’d have to pay the bill… and I’d gorge myself on sweets and cakes, feeling utterly miserable and ashamed of myself. By the age of 14, I was 22 ½ stone (315lb/143kg). I was very tall back then, but still disproportionately fat. I used to feel like a cuckoo’s chick that had been left in a wren’s nest, working the poor mother wren to despair, trying to feed the monster that she’d taken charge of.

As my teens passed and I moved into my 20s, I repeatedly ended up back at home, locked in a repeat-cycle of depression. I drank too much, I half-heartedly attempted suicide on numerous occasions, then made more serious efforts in my late 20s, but somehow managed to stay alive.

As frustrating and heart-breaking and down-right annoying it must have been for her, to see me go through that spiral of self-hatred over and over again, she never gave up on me. Although she would have been completely justified in kicking me out and turning her back on me, she never did.

I was not a good son, but despite my failures, I was a loved son, and it’s that knowing which helps me so much, in these dark days.

In recent years, things became much better. After my awakening, she watched her baby boy grow into something different; she was so relieved to see me living my life outside the shadow of depression, achieving things that may have seemed impossible in the years before…

I had hoped that she’d have been around long enough for me to really take care of her, to build a level of success that would enable me to reward all those years of tireless love and patience with a more comfortable life in her retirement, but, sadly, it didn’t work out that way.

This is where my awakening – and the gift of the ability to practice present awareness – has been such a saving grace, because although I could dredge my memories and come up with a thousand reasons to emotionally damage or even physically destroy myself, in the midst of this grief, I know that I would just be reacting to the egoic mind’s compulsion for suffering.

The past is gone and I cannot change that, so losing myself by wishing I could is futile and counter-productive to what I know my Mum would have wanted, which is for me to be happy.

The future, too, could be a source of the most agonising pain, torturing myself by trying to visualise all the years ahead without her.

So, here I am, in the now… selecting the best memories and cherishing them, rather than feeling compelled to take the worst and crush myself under what would be their inescapable gravity.

Last month, while sitting with my Mum in hospital, my brother sent me a text, passing on this message from her:

“Forgive yourself, as we forgive you. I love everyone in the world. I hope God loves everyone even half as much as I do.”

Fairplay, she was whacked-up on morphine at the time and may have turned into a bit of a hippy in her twilight days, but I’ll always remember these beautiful, poignant words.

I was gifted life through the love of this angel woman, my Mum. Perhaps, as that medium said long ago, I am here for a reason, and though the days, weeks and months ahead may be painful at times, I know that I will continue to thrive and build my new life, without her, so I can explore what use I can be to the world.

I will miss her, but I will not miss her love, because the love is still here, in me.

(P.S. If anyone has the will and ability to contribute to my ‘fighting fund’… I need carpets and somewhere to hang my clothes! Donations would be most welcome through PayPal, at ‘Lesism@btinternet.com’. Anything would be greatly appreciated.)


  1. What a beautiful and measured piece. You are going through a hard time but sometimes the hard times strangely end up being the best of times. It is when we have our faces pressed against the window of the world.Thanks Les and wishing you strength.

  2. I'm so sorry for your loss. Rest in the love she has surrounded you with.

  3. Beautiful woman. Thanks for sharing the memories. Be strong and carry on, for her and you.

  4. so sorry to hear about the Loss of your Mum, but yes her love lives on in your heart.. and amazing memories of your mum xx She sounds like an amazing mum also sorry to hear about your own relationship break down also

  5. I'm so sorry for your loss. I know how much your Mum was the main adult in your life. I am always amazed how things work out in life. How we choose one path over another. How things might have been different, but when it comes right down to it. Life is what it is. No one can steal your meories from you. I never thought it would happen but I lost my Mum 11-25-11. In Canada. I regret not being there for the end. Hold onto your memories, it will help you through the tough times.

  6. Carrie Ann Lahain19 March 2013 at 17:32

    You seemed to have learned one of the most important lessons in life: that though we can't control what happens around us, we can control our own reactions. Mindfulness isn't always easy, but it's the less painful route in the long run. I am sorry for your loss and I wish you the best.

  7. so sorry to hear your sad news :( my thoughts are with you, thanks for sharing your memories, she sounds like a lovely lady :) keep your chin up hun :)

  8. Thank you for sharing Les, beautiful, very sorry for your loss. Be as kind to you as your mom was, she wouldn't want any less for you. Continue her love. :) Take care.

  9. So beautiful and touching, I'm in tears. So sorry for your loss but I know her beautiful spirit will live on. May your family's journey toward healing be filled with peace and serenity.

  10. Les, there is incredible clarity in your words at such a difficult time - a true testament to how strong you are and how much stronger you will become.

    Your Mum would be SO SO proud of you, as am I to call you a friend. You are an amazing man in all the ways that matter,


    xoxox ++++

  11. So sorry for your loss and the difficult time you are going through - the memories of your Mum that you've shared in the recent posts are beautiful.

    The love you feel as a mother for your children is like nothing else, and just as you give them the love and strength to live, they give you the same thing back: you get to see life through your children's eyes and it reminds you how much there is to enjoy and value in it, when as an adult you tend to forget.


  12. Hello, I stumbled upon this post in a very random way; my father died 6 weeks ago, he was only 68. I never would have believed the pain would be like this, just when I think I'm all cried out, suddenly here we go again. Sorry my reply here wasn't to be about me, but simply to reach out to a complete stranger and just to say; your post touched me, such heart felt warmth, such honesty; Brenda sounds like a remarkable woman, a loving mother and a beautiful soul... Through your writings you extend to others your mums teachings of love, awareness and understanding; that's her gift she left to you. Wishing you all the best for the future x

  13. My condolences Les! I write about the loss of my parents and sister all the time. I feel for you and can relate to what you are going through. Your love for your Mum will love forever in your heart.

  14. Such a beautiful post Les.

    Sorry for your loss.

    Take care, Kirstin.

  15. A thoughtful well-written piece about a woman who gave you life, love and an understanding of all things that actually matter ... she will be missed, even by those of us who never met her.

  16. Firstly, my condolences on your loss. It will be a difficult time ahead grieving the loss of the only permanent parent in your life.

    I think what you did by not going to hospital after your Mom passed, preferring to remember her as the vibrant, loving woman she was, was an excellent choice. Now you can cherish your memories of her as she was, rather than be haunted by a last vision.

    I'm the parent of a son out went sideways. I won't deny it was a very difficult, stressful time but, I will say this, I never, ever stopped loving him for one second. I honestly believe from your post your Mom felt the exact same way.

    You are blessed your mother loved so much and be assured, even though she is not physically present, her love for you continues to pour down for the rest of eternity.

    Most importantly, she was right. Forgive yourself. The past is done, nothing can change it. Each morning is a bright new opportunity. Take advantage of that gift. She'll be so proud of you.

    My best wishes Les.

  17. Wow Les
    What more can one say?

    It is sometimes in one loss that we make space for something new!
    What I mean I can only explain in terms of my own experience.
    My father passed away almost 5 years ago now, just before I became qualified as a coach and when my children were so small their little characters though already beautiful were not at their fullest.
    I was thousands of miles away when he passed.
    The amazing thing for me has been feeling his presence and support, and guidance as I move forward.
    I see his passing as a way for him to now guide me from where he now is, he is always there.

    Now your mum can guide you through your purpose, your strength will be connected to her's. May your journey be great!

    Much love

  18. Thank you for sharing...a beautiful tribute.

  19. I'm so sorry for your loss. (hugs)

  20. I am sorry for your loss. You wrote a beautiful tribute.


  21. Les, First, I am so sorry for the loss of your Mum, and like you.. I too lost my mom a few years ago,and my dad a few years earlier so I do know and understand your pain.

    I used my mom's passing among a zillion other things before and after it, to make 'my reason' for being here on this amazing planet what it was intended to be... Universal growth, for myself and others..

    Perhaps to pay a karmic debt back from another life-time too, and with, the people who are in my world today, or too, and with, the people I've been able to reach, exactly as you have.

    Les, just an FYI, you've become someone who has been able to leave a dent on the path of my life and I'm pretty old soul, so that's an accomplishment!

    I am going to save this post.. and hope that one day after my time here on this planet is over, my children can also embrace the kind of mindset that you have right now which is exactly what the interconnected Universal plan is and always will be.

    Know that you Mum is watching from above, her seeds continue to grow and continue to help others, and she now knows the reason you were born and why she had to endure what was once 'her life' here on this planet because if any single thing were different, I wouldn't be here thanking or condoning you. I wouldn't know of you. And for everyone that has crossed paths with you, or has come across your words, is one step closer to the collective Universal plan for personal peace, harmony, and a healthy mind.. through personal growth and away from a wounded collective self-centeredness!

    Since I came upon your blog the other day, your words have amazed me.. and that in and of itself, is a very, very hard task.. you are truly an angel with a bigger role on this planet than you could have ever thought possible, and, one who is doing an amazing job.

    God Bless!

    P.S. The memories my children have from their childhoods differ from those you are able to savor.. because I was torn out of their lives at their most vulnerable point, childhood.

    However, what I did with the endless hours that made up each day after they took my reason to breath out of my life.. will continue to be their saving grace(once they all allow it to be), out of the dysfunction I unknowingly passed on to them during their birth; towards a happy, healthy, aware life, and the end of my family's repetitive, unconscious, multi-generational dysfunction.

    As soon as their ready to wake up, they will know, in time, that I wanted to take my own life more often than not because they were gone..

    Instead I spent those endless hours, learning how to change the destiny of all of our lives through in-depth psych research and enormous growth!

    So, while, I await the rest of my babies awakening.. I will continue to help as many people as I can possibly can reach.. so you see, there is a much bigger reason for why everything happens.

    Thank you for being you..

  22. Condolences on your loss. Your mother sounds like an amazing woman. May you carry her in your heart, always.

  23. A beautiful tribute! Your lovely Mum is soooo proud of you and loving and guiding you still. Thank you for sharing this Les!
    Much love,