Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Worst Day

I’m not sure which is the worst day: learning that the person you love most in the world has passed away, or the ceremony of reducing their body to ash. Both are very traumatic events. The fact that they invariably occur within close proximity to each other is particularly bastardly.

I was one of the pallbearers at my Mum’s funeral, this morning. I had to stoop a little because the other three were a bit Hobbity in comparison to my height of 6’4”. I met my siblings at a hotel for breakfast and my hands were shaking, then, when I was trying to sip from the coffee cup…  and a couple of hours later, I was entrusted with my Mum’s coffin. I think the mild panic of not wanting to drop it distracted my mind from the realisation that I was carrying a coffin with my Mum’s body in it.

It was a bitterly cold morning with flecks of snow thrown around in the wind, refusing to settle on the ground. It’s been like this for days. It seems reflective of the bite of loss in my heart, though I’m warmed and strengthened by the same love that makes this loss so terrible.

The service was really lovely, as these things go. There were quite a few people from the village, and, otherwise, close family and friends, but it was a small affair. Most of my Mum’s family is from Birkenhead – some 120 miles away – so we’re having a larger memorial service there in a couple of weeks.

After the minister had read some wonderful, inspiring and funny words from my eldest brother, Paul, my Dad got up and spoke. Immediately, his voice broke, but he pushed on through his short tribute, sobbing and wiping away tears. They had been separated for around thirty years and I understood today that he’d always loved her.

I wimped out on reading the eulogy I’d written for my Mum, with another of my brothers, Steve, taking on the task instead. He spent around thirty years with the Army and he’s one of the toughest guys I know, but I think standing there today and reading it was one of the most difficult things he’s ever done.  

This is what I wrote for her:

“The last words my Mum spoke to me - almost inaudible, but so familiar - were: “I love you.”

Stephen wasn’t so lucky. Mum’s last words to him were: “Tell Paul to put the chicken pie in the oven.”

She had been in hospital for over two months.

There was no chicken pie.

She was on morphine.

Paul was comforted on another occasion when Mum said she could see her late brothers - our uncles, Dessie and Bernard, I think it was - standing at the foot of her hospital bed, but that comfort was quickly torn away when she said:

“But they’re not here for me, they’re here for you!”

It was almost a relief that Paul hadn’t made a surprise departure of his own before she passed away, and that we know she hadn’t been making prophecies, or we’d all be wondering, now, what the true relevance of the chicken pie was.

Mum and Dad celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in January. For most of those 50 years, they were very happily married, due to the fact they separated three decades ago, but never got round to divorcing. And it helped that they lived at opposite ends of the country and barely spoke to one another.

Although they may not have been a match made in heaven, their union brought five children and, so far, five grandchildren into the world, and I know Mum felt blessed by us all, as we felt and feel blessed by her.

Amongst my first memories of her were of ‘Magical Mummy Fibs’, the majority of which, I learnt in later life, were advanced psychological tactics for deployment exclusively against small children, in order to manipulate them into giving their mother just a little bit of peace in their day.

These included the Sweet Fairy, who would leave Curley Wurleys and such under the pillows of her bed, and we could only have them on the condition that we lay down and napped for half an hour or so.

I also remember her telling me that Brotherhood of Man’s Eurovision winner – ‘Save All Your Kisses For Me’ – was written about me. I was only two at the time and she would kiss me all over my face when she told me. It’s one of the cheesiest pop songs ever recorded, but whenever I listen to it, part of me is drawn back to those halcyon days of childhood where there wasn’t a care in the world.

It is tough to comprehend that we’ll never see her again; that no more will we hear her voice or listen to her laughter; we can’t call her; we won’t be able to hold her tightly in our arms one last time and let her know how much she is loved…

I feared, for many years, that Mum’s passing would be the single most devastating event in my life and that I’d struggle to carry on without her.

Now that awful time has come, and through the sustained period of limbo between her leaving us and her funeral, the greatest solace has come from the legacy of love she left us – and we were truly loved.

We were not a financially wealthy family and we went through some extremely tough times, but what we were never starved of was love. We always knew just how much Mum loved us, and she always knew just how much we loved her.

I always thought that losing Mum meant losing her love, but I realise, now, that the love is never going to go away and it’s as greatly cherished as when she was here with us.

Sure, the past week or so has been tough on all of us - as have the two and a half months previous, when she was ill in hospital - but as much as I understand and have come to terms with the truth that she’s physically gone from this world, forever, what’s also true is that her spirit has not. It endures, within us and around us. It really is like she’s just gone into another room. There has been no disconnection of that bond of affection we’ve always felt with her.

There may be the sadness and fear of grief in our minds, but our hearts are still packed full of that love she radiated for all the years we were fortunate enough to have her with us.

When she was frail and her mental faculties began to decline, out of the blue, she dictated a text message to Paul, to send to me. It read:

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

Yes, she was on morphine… but…

Our Mum was an angel of a woman; a gift to all of us here – such a special and beautiful soul to have graced our lives…

So, I hope, rather than mourn her loss, today, we can all celebrate her life and remember the great things about her, of which there were many.

Thank you all for coming here today. Your love is a great strength, too.”

I simply couldn’t have read that out loud, in front of all those people. It was hard enough to hear the words in my own head when I wrote them. Also, funeral crying works faster than a zombie virus and I didn’t want to be the one to start that particular apocalypse…

Steve stumbled through the words, at times… fighting back tears… later telling me it was because I’d used too many big words. He did what I couldn’t, though, and for that I’m so grateful.

My sister was inconsolable, bless her beautiful heart. She was sobbing so hard when the minister delivered the committal and the curtain closed around my Mum’s coffin. We all remained British and kept to our seats, when I know that everyone in the room – myself included, of course – wanted to go over and wrap our arms around her. She had her own sons beside her, though, and we knew they were looking after her as well as we could hope to.

We children of Brenda Veronica Floyd lined up, shook hands and hugged those who had attended the ceremony, then the close family went to a pub in Carlisle to reminisce and contemplate life without her.

I know what I’m experiencing isn’t unique to the world, but it’s unique to me. I have been offered so many comforting words from others, relating to the passing of their own parents and family, and I have now learnt through experience a more acute sense of empathy with the countless other souls on the planet who have faced this greatest loss.

Present awareness has saved me. I know that the ‘old me’ would be wanting a rope right now… and not because he’d just read 50 Shades of Grey.

Instead, I want to do more with my life, in tribute to the woman who gifted me this whole Universe and made it my playground.

I want to thank everyone for their inspiring kindness and comforting words.

Life does go on… love does go on…


  1. So beautiful. She must have been so proud of you. The pain of loss does diminish in time and life does go on. I lost my mother in 1993 so I do know.

  2. Having just lost my mother this was a comfort to me as well. Your words are beautiful. Your mother heard them too and was proud.
    Chin up, it does get easier but it never goes away as it shouldn't.
    Arms around you.

  3. I love your eulogy it was from your heart and your Brother did you proud to read it out. Time will ease the pain eventually but not erase the wonderful love and memories you have with your Mum. There may be times when you get emotional for no particular reason it is normal. Keep blogging you are brave too! xox

  4. Thinking of you, Les. Your mum gave you the gift of love, and you share that gift with all of us who follow you on Twitter and read your blog. We'll probably never meet you, but we'll have been touched by the loving kindness you have inherited from her - thank you so much x

  5. Les, my heart goes out to you and your family. Your mom sounds like a wonderful person. I know she will be looking out for you like I feel my dad does me.
    Sammi Sutherland

  6. Beautifully put as always. My thoughts are with you and your family.

    AD *hugs*

  7. It is tough to comprehend that we’ll never see her again; that no more will we hear her voice or listen to her laughter; we can’t call her; we won’t be able to hold her tightly in our arms one last time and let her know how much she is loved...Les, if you read the books: "Miracles Happen" by Dr. Brian Weiss and "Within the Light" by Cherie Sutherland, as well as any by Elisabeth Kuebler Ross, you will find that this is not so...your writing is tremendous, I admire you. All the best, Uta Burke

  8. That was beautiful Les x Paula-D

  9. Yes - life does go on. A few years ago my mother passed away. But each time I see a butterfly ( she loved them ) I think about her and know she is with me. My sister is in her last weeks/months of fighting lung cancer and so I will be saying good-bye to her soon.
    Our life is short on earth, so do enjoy every day and I know something will remind you of your mom, so watch as she is with you.

  10. As I am suffering from a neurological disease, it's quite impossible for me to concentrate on anything. But your writing.. and all the things you say are so powerful, I can't help myself reading it all. And believe me, as I don't have a lot of energy, I really have to be careful not to waste it for something that is not important in the end. Which means, that your posts are really worth it... Especially this one - since I've never been able to relate to anyone before, about grief experience. Your testimony means a lot to me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, they are a source of fulfillment ...

  11. Beautifully put,Les.
    I so recognise the British stiff upper lip bit.
    Something I really struggle with. I simply don't understand this business of hiding ones genuine emotions. I'm hoping in my next life to be born into a hugging/crying Italian family.
    Meanwhile, allow yourself to be...yourself.
    And thanks for sharing.

  12. LaJuana Murphy Brann27 March 2013 at 15:18

    So beautifully written. The love does go on … and so does the inspiration. I know from experience.

  13. Wish I'd known it was today, would have come for support. Xx

  14. My Mom, 94, passed on Nov 4, 2012. She was bed-ridden at her home for two years and 3 months. She had home health aids 8 hours a day. Her 2 sisters, also very advanced in age, took over after the home health aids for dinner and the rest of the evening. Three days a week I would spend several nights away from my husband and children and comfort of home on Long Island, NY to relieve them. This was done so that my Mom could have her wish of dying at home fulfilled. None of us wanted her in a nursing home. The length of time it took for her to pass was extremely taxing on all of us. For the entire time I feared her death, yet at the same time also prayed for it. She passed away right after Hurricane Sandy struck our area. The Hurricane brought my husband, son, daughter and 2 cats to crash at her house while our Long Island home lost power for a week. It seems Mom needed every last one of our very small family around in order for her to depart peacefully. We'd all been there together around her many times before. However, she had often asked for her cat who had passed years earlier. We held the cat up to her and placed her hand over the soft fur. Although my Mom was barely conscious at the moment, I believe the cat's presence brought her the peace she needed in order to go. I cannot begin to explain the amount of psychological pain her impending death caused me, her only child, for over 2 years. When she passed, I cannot impart the sense of peace that surrounded her. I feared nothing anymore. In essence, I had mourned ahead of time. A 27 month long ordeal of her dementia, diaper changing, Hoyer Lift use, wheel chair transferring because she was completely bed-ridden the entire time and her legs did not hold her, it was finally over. She was no longer a prisoner of that bed. When death doesn't come quickly, one prays for the person you love most in the world to be taken. Your eulogy was beautiful. Nothing compares to the love between parents and children. We all experience things differently. Now I feel my mom is with me more than ever and so, I rarely cry except when pondering her suffering.

  15. Beautifully written Les. It is so true that love goes on, and that the bonds we have with those we love aren't broken by death. Those bonds do continue. I know that from my own experience, and from the experiences of close friends. Yes, you will miss the physical presence of your Mum, but you will go on feeling her wonderful love and her beautiful spirit.

  16. Beautifully written echoes my sentiment. So sorry for your loss! RHW

  17. Wrapping the warmth & comfort of my soul around ur heart.

    You only have 1 task in life.... Just keep LIVING.

    Not existing but living. Celebrating & pursuing your passions, your dreams, your desires. Sharing your light & love and being present each day. Living.

    Our mothers all want only that of us, their children.

    To live. To be happy. For them. For ourselves.

    Find your beacon of light in others. And never doubt that your light is a beacon for others too.


  18. Dear Les,

    Although your dear Mum may no longer be physically present, her spirit, her love and her lessons remain. You can still call on her in times of need, share with her the joys of your life, and love and be loved, the same as always.

    I know this because I lost someone 21 years ago, and the love and lessons are coming thick and fast... I just had to make the realization and "wake up"! Glad I did.

    Big Love,
    p.s. There is no 'process', just what is. Embrace whatever feels right to you - there are no rules.

  19. Love never dies. It just changes form. Lots of Love. xxx

  20. Deep condolences to you and your family. I hope sharing this experience helps in your grief. I have been there, and opening up is the hardest thing you can do. The people responding to you here genuinely care and send you support through the Web.

  21. My deepest condolences on your loss. I know your pain and it is very deep and vast.

    I know this is probably to soon to share, but on the days you feel your mother around is magical.

    Here is wishing you a sunny and love filled birthday on a time that is so difficult...

    Best to you

  22. Beautiful post, Les. You do your Mum and your family proud.


  23. What an interesting and moving reflection, Les. I love that notion that one's love for others doesn't die with them. May your grieving embrace all that undying love from your mother.

  24. Blast. I'm sorry lovely Les, I didn't know. I've been so caught up in things that -- once again -- I haven't been here in a while to visit with my friend. This was a beautiful tribute, I can almost imagine you reading it. I know something of what you went through. My mother's passing was long and drawn out. She too wanted to be cremated. I thought it was an awful horror, but I saw to it. Just like I did with my father. God awful stuff. Your mother sounds simply magical. I'm so glad that you had in your life. I'll be thinking and praying for you. It takes time to move on. It's been years for me, and almost daily I miss my folks. Much love, dear Les.

  25. Les, your mum is indeed an angel. An angel who will never leave you no matter what. Your words as always come straight from your heart. I, like you would not have been able to cope with the recent death of my father if it weren't for a shift in my view about the death of the physical body and the wonderful thing that is consciousness. It's comforting to know that death is an illusion, albeit a painful one for those left behind no matter what we believe. You beautiful mum will be so proud of you. Paul.

  26. I stumbled onto your blog today. The perfect and right time for my heart to consume your pain, I think. Mother's Day in the U.S. was yesterday, and it was the second without my own dear momma, who also happened to be person I loved most in the world.

    I, too, have both wonderful, and horrifying, memories of her last year, when she was terminal, and slipping away. In the the weeks and months after her death, I was also distraught. Lost. In a dream-like state. Maneuvering through each task of the day like a robot. Not feeling, yet feeling every little thing. Absorbing every last bit of pain around me, and letting none escape me. And in those dark weeks and months after the dreaded moment of her death, I wondered would I ever feel whole again.

    The people who told me I would - I believed them to either be liars, or someone who never loved his or her mother the way I had. They couldn't possibly have moved through the pain, to the other side, and really, truly, have been as connected and a part of their mother as I had been.

    And I was wrong. The pain started to shift into something else, but I didn't notice, and didn't recognize it, until one day I was in the kitchen, watching the dishes she loved to set the table with, while her favorite meal cooked on the stove, singing to one of her favorite tunes by Cleo Laine, when I realized I also wasn't simultaneously sobbing. That is when I realized that as much as I missed her, and as much as I still needed her every day, that it wasn't quite as bad anymore. And in that moment I also realized that the reason was, in all honesty, she was still with me.

    I cherish that thought. And I think of her every day. I still speak with her all the time. And I really feel like she communicates with me even now.

    So my message to you is this... take the long road. The travel is much bumpier, and you will wear holes in your shoes, but the view at the end is much more magnificent.

  27. Found this via Twitter. I see you've not posted since losing your dear Mum. I am sincerely sorry for your loss. You are a stranger but you are a brother. I hope that in time you can come back to this blog and share again. Sending love and light.

  28. This was beautiful. Thank you for sharing it