Yesterday would have been my mum’s birthday. Sadly, she died aged 69, far, far earlier than she should have done because non Hodkin’s lymphoma is a cruel disease. Her last years were spent in and out of hospital after a bone marrow transplant failed, but she never lost her indomitable spirit or her love of life. I miss her still and I suspect that I always will, and I’m so sad for my children and all my nieces and nephews who missed out on so much because I lost both my parents within six weeks in that awful summer.
She’s buried in a beautiful woodland graveyard, but any flowers you plant or leave there get eaten by the resident rabbit population. Besides, she hated cut flowers when she was alive, so why on earth would she want them while she was dead? In her last days, she told me not to bother with them but to take the children to the sweet shop at a nearby craft centre and treat them instead. For a long while, we did that, but then my children grew up.
So now, each year, I buy a plant (or plants if they’re only little ones) for my garden, because she loved her garden and visiting gardens. I plant it and care for it and smile every time I see it because I remember her not as she was in hospital, but as she was when she was sitting in her garden with her face lifted so that it’d catch the sun.
This year’s are some lovely little dwarf azaleas, and they’re just coming into flower in time for her birthday. They attract the butterflies and moths that she loved so much that she promised my daughter that every time she saw a butterfly it’d mean she was watching over her. And I’m sure that it’s the purest of pure coincidences that there are so many plants that are ideal for pollinators in my garden now! Because it means that mum is there more often than not as well, at least in our hearts.
If you’ve read this far then you may be wondering if there’s a point to this. Bear with me, I’m getting to it! The thing is that she was only sixty nine so barely into what should have been the last third of her life, and there’s a lot of her in Kath, one of my recurring characters in my Windy Bay series of cosy romances. I gave Kath the happy ending that my Mum didn’t get a chance to have, and as I explore the world of my older characters in the new Harbourside series which will be coming early next year I realise how much living they all still have to do and how poorly represented they are in fiction.
Why shouldn’t they be celebrated for their wisdom, their characters, their capacity for love and friendship and their courage in going on when increasingly their friends go ahead of them to the place that there’s no returning from? And why shouldn’t they live somewhere beautiful like my fictional Harbourside complex and see a view like this every single day?
So have a good week no matter how old you are. I intend to make the most of every minute because I’ve learned the hard way how precious every single one is, and that the memories you treasure so often come from the little things. A butterfly on an azalea flower. My mum, sitting smiling in the sunshine…