This particular blog post has been on my mind for at least the last year. Even more so the last several months. I had intended to have it written and published on the 20th of June, but life got in the way.
10 years ago on the 20th of June I was sitting in my year 9 french class, it was a Friday and I believe it was period four. I had just received a great mark for my poster that I’d worked incredibly hard on, so the day in theory should have been going well.
Earlier in the week however I had been woken by the sound of my family rushing up and down the hallway and the back door slamming open against the wall. For some households this might be a normal thing, but for me this meant something was seriously wrong.
My mum had in January been diagnosed with a late stage of pancreatic cancer. Hearing all the commotion in the hallway sent me to the worst possible conclusion, that she had died in her sleep. She hadn’t, but she had gotten worse in the night and was being taken into hospital.
Half of my family encouraged me to keep getting ready for school and I would be picked up after school and taken into the hospital. My saviour, Aunty Wendy, took me for a day shopping with iced chocolates and treats instead, before taking me into the hospital at midday.
Even then I could see my mum was fading away before my eyes, but I never contemplated what life would be like without her.
Even though mum and I had serious talks about what life would be like, I never believed it for a second. She apologised to me for the fact she wasn’t going to be there for my first boyfriend, first heartbreak, first school formal, getting a car and license, graduating high school, moving out of home, starting university, failing university, the many bad dates and heart breaks, 18th birthday, 21st birthday, turning dirty thirty, getting married and having children.
Even though it’s not her fault, I have been incredibly mad at her for not being there. Seeing how close my friends are with their mothers has made me so jealous and filled with anger. I know the bond that I had with mum would have just solidified over the years and we would have this incredible adult friendship now. At 23 I finally forgive her.
She didn’t choose to get sick leaving behind my three young brothers and I. Which sounds like common sense, but that goes out the window when you add in 10 years of a broken heart.
The day she died started relatively the same, except I didn’t get to have a quick snuggle with mum before running down to the bus stop, as she was still in hospital. So the slobbery kisses from my 3 year old brother had to suffice.
This was the day that mum was meant to be coming back home from the hospital. I remember jokingly saying to my family that the ambulance can pick me up from school on the way home. No idea to this day why I thought the ambulance would be taking mum home from the hospital, but I was 13.
School was going fine, but I couldn’t help have a terrible feeling in my gut that something wasn’t right. In each class I sat my favourite photo of mum, my photo block of my family, and mums bracelet on top of my desk. It helped me feel close to her when she was so far away in Christchurch hospital. Which at 13 with no car and no money seemed like worlds away.
Sitting in french class I noticed that the guy I had the biggest secret crush on wasn’t there. He turned out to be the schools runner for the day. This boy that I thought was going to be my future husband was the same boy that came into my class with a note for the teacher asking me to go to the office. Neither the teacher or this kid knew this was the moment I found out my life was never going to be the same ever again.
My heart sank as I walked across the road and back into the school office. I was hoping that my family just wanted to pick me up and take me home to see mum. Deep down I knew that wasn’t it at all. I had to sit in the counsellors office for a couple of minutes before my step dad and Aunty arrived. Those minutes seemed like the longest minutes in my whole life.
When they told me the news I didn’t cry, they were crying but none of my tears came out. I had to go out to the courtyard to get something from a friend, telling them that she’d died still didn’t bring any tears. I had a huge group of year nines around me. Some were friends, some didn’t even know me but didn’t want to miss the drama. To cope, I was smiling and cracking jokes.
The thing that made me cry was when we picked up my younger brother from primary school, he was 11. Seeing him and realising that even though most of the time we hated each other, that it was now us against the world, made the tears flow. That was the moment that I knew I was in charge now and I had to be strong for this kid.
Even though I knew this day was coming, I didn’t realise it was going to happen so soon.
More so I didn’t realise it would be a permanent thing. Which sounds ridiculous, but as a 13 year old the only deaths I had experienced were those of much older relatives that you hardly saw anyway.
When mum was sick, I didn’t put as much effort into hanging out with her as I should’ve. The guilt has been eating me up inside for the last 10 years. I’ve finally managed to begin forgiving myself.
To say that I loved mum with all my heart is an understatement! Before she was sick we hung out all the time. We would wear coordinating outfits and would regularly go on late night shopping trips. When we’d get home from shopping we would put on runway shows for my step dad of all the new purchases. When we lived on the coast, each weekend we would walk down to the morning markets, hand in hand (even though I was 12/13). We were best friends and we did everything together.
When she was sick we hung out less and less. She was bed bound most of the time, so choosing not to hang out was my choice. Seeing my beautiful, vibrant, bubbly full of life, personality, love and energy mother starting to fade away was hands down one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to experience. While I wanted to spend time with her and find out everything she knew, it was hard visually seeing her get sicker by the minute. I am so thankful that she kept her brains throughout the whole time. There was only a couple of times where she was to tired that some funny sentences came out.
As I got older I got angrier with myself for not foreseeing things that would happen in my future and be able to ask her questions about it. Silly things that at 13 I couldn’t even comprehend happening in my life. Daily there are things that I wish I could ask her about her life that I’ll never get answers for.
It’s hard for me to get over the guilt I have held for such a long time. But at 23 I finally understand that I was just a kid when this horrible thing happened to my family. I get mad at myself for not coping with it better and for not being as strong as I could be. Most of my memories of mum are from before she got sick, and I’m understanding that this was the best thing for me. I remember mum how she was, the best mum, the loving, snuggly, devoted mum that all my friends were jealous of. Just because I can’t make new memories with her, doesn’t make any of the old memories any less precious to me.
I am not 13 any more. Thank goodness. 2008 was one of the hardest years I ever hope to face. But I made it through with my family. I’ve always looked at it so negatively that this happened. If we can get through that terrible year at such young ages, life has nothing on us.