24th September, Mum's 54th birthday (or do you stop counting when someone dies?) passed, just as every other day has. People often say that they hope their loved ones are celebrating wherever they are but I'm not sure I believe in heaven, or an afterlife. I'm not sure I believe that Mum is alive in another world, space or time. I think she's probably just dead. But her spirit and everything she's taught us will live on in us.
It is really weird knowing that if I lose a memory, and only Mum would have remembered it, it is now a nothing. It's a gap. I don't know where it went or what it turned into but it's not there anymore. It's been replaced by space and silence. For the rest of my life, that gap will always be a gap; there will never again be a piece of memory that perfectly fits.
When I ordered new bedding (my new place has a bigger bed), it reminded me of that day I spent with Mum in York. A happy memory, but a memory nonetheless, one that can never be repeated. Packing up my things, I relived moments that have happened in that room. It was my home, my safe place, throughout Mum's illness.
Last week, I sat down with someone and was airing some of my frustrations, they looked at me and basically said "Naomi, your Mum died last week". Mum died and my body is grieving. It's why some days feel like sludge. It's why I'm so tired all the time no matter how much I sleep. It's frustrating and annoying but it's how my life is.
I can't imagine how it must feel to wonder which part of your body might fail on you next, to know that you might not live to the weekend and will never feel the sun on your skin again. Yet, she faces it with a dignity and grace that most of us can't muster when faced with the prospect of a half-hour trip on a weird smelling bus, never mind much else.
Cancer will never take all the things she taught me (not to mention other people), the impact she's leaving in the medical world, or the impression she's made on everyone she's ever met. Cancer can't take her love for me and my brothers, her pride in what we achieve, or her hopes and dreams for our futures.
Though it may be a life without my Mum, there is a life waiting for me. Whatever happens outside of me, I am still me and I can still achieve amazing things. Hope and gratitude are so fragile, but so important. I am grateful for the brilliant people around me who lift me up, inspire me to hope for the future, and be the best version of myself that I can be.
Ever since Mum's diagnosis, we have tried to keep life as normal as possible and on the whole, I think we're doing a pretty good job. One thing that we constantly struggle with though, is planning. Despite what books and movies say, cancer is not linear or predictable, and Mum's has often proven even less predictable than most.
My Dad is a carer - he cares for Mum. We're lucky in that Mum is relatively independent at the moment, she can do most things herself... Carers are incredible, they really are. They are hidden, hardworking and humble. Please try and notice them this week. Please reach out to them. If anyone deserves an hour of your time, it's them.
Mum probably won't still be here when I graduate. She will probably die whilst I'm still at uni. I have to cram twenty or thirty years of visits into twenty or thirty days/weeks/months. I have to ask all my questions now; predict what I might want to know in years to come. Each birthday might be Mum's last, so rather than forget it I want to make it special.
As a young person living with a parent who has a terminal diagnosis, I've discovered a fairly considerable hole in the people-dying-support-system stuff. There is a lot of support out there for children with a close family member who is dying; there is a fair amount of support for spouses and for parents of people who are dying.