Our guest writer Wendy describes her shock at the intensity of grief she felt at the loss of her childhood home, on the death of her elderly mother.
My mother died in May. She was ninety-nine years old and had had a good life as they say. She passed away a hundred metres from where she was born in Stanley, UK. She felt her life had come full circle.
In many ways I felt I was prepared for her passing but I was wrong. When my brother, Jim and I got together in the house where we had lived all our formative years, we were each concerned for the other. We knew Mam was being well cared for but she had chosen to pass and we knew we had to let her go. Our priority was for each other. Even though we never spoke of it, we both just knew. After all there is only the two of us.
Jim lives on Vancouver Island, Canada and has a wife, children and grandchildren. They will always be there for him. I live in Sydney, Australia and am a widow with no children. I suddenly realised how alone I am in the world. I have friends but they have families, which must come first. The aloneness was almost over whelming. The need for time to talk and touch with blood relatives was urgent. I realised Jim sensed my need and felt the same.
We had to prepare for the funeral, clear out the house, check all sorts of documents, and arrange things with the lawyer and real estate agent. It was very hectic and immensely stressful yet somehow Jim and I got on and worked together better then ever before. There was so much to do but we prioritised and it worked. We recognised each other’s strengths and let each other lead as appropriate. In all the emotional turmoil, stress and chaos we communicated better than ever.
The service went well. We managed all the legal stuff, the clearing out
and the small but important things Mam had asked to be done with friends
It was time for us to leave and return home. Suddenly it dawned on us that we were leaving our home for the last time. We could never again just arrive and be welcome. No longer was it our house, our home. It was empty; it would belong to someone else. They would not know or care who we were or what the history of the house was.
I felt my deepest roots had been hacked away. I was afraid; I had nowhere to run to as a base, no refuge any more. I cried so much for that old stone terrace. I have travelled and lived all around the world. I always felt confident because I had that home to run back to if things went wrong as indeed they did from time to time. Now it was gone forever and I felt bereft.
It had a bathroom and kitchen from 1963. The shower dribbled lukewarm water; the loo flushed like thunder for ages. The kitchen was so small we called it a one bum kitchen. There was not room for two people to cook together. The living room was so small that more than three people meant we had go into the lounge room to sit. Over six and we had to use both rooms. We ate at a table pushed up against the wall and as I was the smallest (later the more agile) I had to crawl under the table to get to the fourth seat.
remembered as a child having to go over the yard to the toilet as we did
not have an inside toilet. Very inconvenient and scary in the middle of
the night especially in a British winter!! I recalled squishing up in
the settee to watch this new thing called television. It seemed to blow
valves every week. I remembered watching Newcastle United win the FA Cup
Final and all the men acting as if they had played every kick. I recall
watching the coronation, which we had all heard about but the ordinary
people had never witnessed. I laughed recalling my parents trying to get
the Christmas gifts down from the top of the wardrobe where they were
always “hidden”. My mother shushing my dad who was full of Christmas
cheer and so not his usually coordinated self. My brother and I laughing
under the bedcovers, trying not to make a noise and so spoil the
Walking away from that old, cramped, inconvenient house was unlike any pain I had ever felt. It was deep and sharp. Since then I have felt strangely adrift. Part of this is grief at losing my mother but the pain of losing my home is another, larger element and one which I had not thought about.
Is this insecurity? I know I am alone except for Jim and I think I can deal with that. It does not matter if I am in my apartment in Newport, or anywhere else, I am still alone. Is it recognising my own mortality? I thought I had come to terms with death years ago but perhaps I am wrong. Am I afraid of death? Not at all but I do want to live the life I have left as fully as I can. Is it about adaptation? I must recognise that my home is the one I bought for myself in Newport. This means I am my own person, my own entity. I am my family. I start a new chapter in my life. At my age that seems ludicrous but it seems to be true.
I recognise it is one of the many facets of grief. I grieve for my home, my parents, the happy times we had. Immediately after a death memories are painful. However after a while the same memories become precious because they are all that is left to remember the people, the events, and the home. It may seem strange to grieve for bricks and mortar but a home is as much a part of the family as the people and the pets. I shall allow myself to grieve how and when and for how long I need and want.
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