I cannot begin to comprehend how three years have gone by since you left this world.
On one hand it seems like just yesterday we were nattering away on the phone, heading out to share a cream tea or off to the theatre together. On the other hand I feel like it has been forever since I have seen your warm smile and heard your infectious giggle (which would escalate into hysterics, tears streaming down your face).
I miss you. I miss you so, so much. I miss your calming, nurturing ways. I miss the way I could call you with any problem - no matter how trivial - and you would talk me through it and help me to find the perfect solution. I miss linking my arm through yours. I miss your hugs.
I have not forgotten the advice that you gave me in your final days - to allow myself to feel whatever I feel. I had a tough start with that, admittedly. I bottled things up and I put on a brave face - my, 'I'm Okay' mask - which I have observed as such a natural reaction for anyone who has lost a loved one. The trickiest of them all was being able to embrace moments of happiness without the sharp pain of guilt because you are not here. I'm getting there.
I have always been a terrible sleeper, as you know. I was once torn apart by nightmares that would haunt me night after night. Waking up from those was like losing you all over again. But, in the past year I have started to dream about you - beautiful you. Now there are times when I wake up and I feel like you have been right there beside me.
I have so much to thank you for, Mum. I don't even know where to begin. Thank you for being so patient with me as a teen, when I probably had a few moments of being a bit of a sarcastic madam (she still makes the odd appearance). Thank you for passing down your love of crosswords, although somehow it seems your intelligence didn't make it so I am yet to complete one. Thank you for encouraging me to follow both my head and my heart. Most importantly, thank you for teaching me that family comes above all else and for showing me, Dad and the girls, so much love.
Now, this may seem a strange one but I would also like to thank you for my 28th Birthday gift of Eurostar vouchers. I always thought we would be able to go to Paris together someday. How I wish we'd had more time. But I want you to know that I put those vouchers to good use.
I was certain that you must still be a part of the trip so I decided to go to Paris to celebrate your 60th Birthday. While I was there, I left a creative tribute for you around the city. You would never believe how much has happened and how much your legacy has grown since that weekend. You are such an inspirational woman it is no wonder that there is so much magic behind it all.
You may be wondering why I am writing to you so openly. Well, you always taught me to be an honest person and as someone who wears their heart on their sleeve, sharing our story and my experience of grief through the written word has helped me immensely. On top of that, it seems to have opened up a discussion - a heart wrenching but necessary one - and with death as such a taboo in society, this can only be a good thing. By sharing our thoughts and feelings with each other it can help us to feel less alone. I know you would be a massive advocate of this.
I will never look for 'acceptance' and 'closure' or even begin to try to make sense of what has happened. I know that your death will stay with me forever. But I will continue to stay as strong as I can for you - finding my own way to deal with it day by day, month by month and year by year. I will never stop trying to make you proud. You always made me believe that I could take on the world and, as time has gone on, I have started to believe this again.
Saying goodbye now is easier than before. Because really, you are not gone, Mum.
I am taking you with me every step of the way.