"One night while I was sleeping, upon a feather bed,
An angel came from Heaven, to tell me Mum was dead.
I woke up in the morning, to see if it was true,
Yes my Mum went to Heaven, above the sky so blue.
So if you love your Mummy, please do as you are told,
Because if you lose your Mummy, you lose a heart of gold."
(The lullaby my Mum made up).
I always knew that my Mother's addiction to alcohol would be responsible for her death. It was fated. From a very young age I realised that she wasn't comfortable in her own skin so she turned to the drink to drown out the voices that tortured her mind and soul.
My Mum suffered with severe agoraphobia and panic and anxiety attacks. Her way of coping was a two-fold process: in order to avoid having panic attacks she hid from the world and stayed indoors or, if she had to go out to attend a a doctors appointment, she would drown her demons in white cider, suppressing them with her dutch courage.
The most haunting memory I have of my mother’s illness is this: she lived the last eight years of her life by remaining in her comfort zone. She sat in her flat, in the same place, in the same chair, watching the world revolve around her through the same window pane.
Eight times she watched the winter months strip the blossom from the cherry tree that grew outside of her flat. Eight times she watched the lukewarm rays of the awakening sun spring into action and thaw the sheets of ice that clung to the tree's barren trunk and branches. Then, the long-awaited shades of spring, emeralds, jades, and greens would appear in kaleidoscopic flashes. Eight times she watched the summer sun shower the landscape with its free, fortified, vitamin D enriched rays and finally, she watched eight autumns pass her by in their solemn, funeral-like processions, signalling the end of the summer and the beginning of another winter.
Her anxiety trapped her. Her fears paralysed her. She was a prisoner of her own mind. She was bound by the shackles of her own entrapped soul until one day she faded away like one of the many different seasons she had witnessed dissipating before her. She looked out of the window no more.
It was the 27th of April 2010. I woke up to a beautiful day. The sun shone through my window, reflected rays bounced off my mirror glittering the room with gold. I got up and called my Mum to tell her that I would be coming round in an hour but there was no answer. She must still be asleep. After all, it was only 9.30am. I decided to get ready and call her back later.
I jumped in the shower and tried to ignore the feeling in my gut that was telling me that something wasn't right. It was nearly 11am by the time I had finished. Surely she'd be up by now. I sent her a text message, "put the kettle on, I'm on my way!" I waited nervously for a response. The ticking of the clock got louder and louder until it was booming like a drum.
I couldn't take it any longer. I grabbed my bag and tried calling her again as I made my way out of the house. There was still no answer. Ian, her ex partner, worked in the Tesco Express at the end of the road. I had to go past it to get to Mum's so I popped in to see him. "Have you heard from Mum today?" It was another dead end. He hadn't heard from her since yesterday morning. Why wasn't she answering her phone? What was going on? My mind told me that she was simply still asleep but my gut didn't agree.
It took me just under half an hour to get to hers and with every step I took and every failed attempt to get through to her, the worry and panic worsened. Finally I arrived at her block of flats. "Mum" I shouted "open the door". I ran up the two flights of concrete stairs but I wasn't greeted by her, instead I was greeted by a door that was boarded up. Alarm bells began to ring. What had happened here? Where was she? Why wasn't she answering her phone? I shouted for her even though it was obvious that she wasn't there.
In hindsight, I think that when I saw the door, a part of me knew that she was gone but I didn't want to acknowledge the thought. I told myself that welsh Zara must've kicked her door down looking for me. She had this crazy notion that I'd stolen her bike. She'd text me a few days earlier saying if I didn't bring it back she'd come find me and give me a good hiding. She wouldn't listen to me when I told her I didn't have it. I knew who did: I told her as much but the woman was deranged, probably from sleep deprivation due to all the base she took.
Anyway, that was the story I told myself. Mum must've got her friend Mark to pick her up and take her to his. I didnt have his number though and although I had been to his place before I didn't know how to get there. As I walked back down the stairs I knocked on Georgie and Tyler's door to see if they knew anything but they didn't answer either.
I began to walk back to mine. My mind argued with my instincts as it tried to come up with a rational explanation. I went back in to Tesco's and told Ian about the door, "Have you heard from her yet?" The answer was the same as before. I asked him to call Mark to see if she was there but he didn't have his number. "I'll go round his after my shift has finished" he said. All the while the sun continued to shine.
As I got back to mine, I saw a police car parked on the other side of the road. I had a horrible sinking feeling but I continued to ignore it, telling myself that I was worrying over nothing. All I could do now was wait for Ian to finish his shift at 4pm so he could go to Mark's and see if she was there. I made my way to my room and put some music on to try and distract me. I called my best friend and told her what was going on. She was just about to go shopping but she said she'd call me when she got back. As I looked out of the window I thought I saw her car parked a few houses down but it couldn't be hers: she was doing her weekly shop at Asda on the other side of town.
I was getting increasingly frustrated so I did what I always did when I didn't like the way I was feeling; I opened one of the 4 cans of Stella I bought in Tesco's. I knocked it back quickly. I'd been back for almost an hour now and I still hadn't heard from Mum. I called my friend to see if she had finished shopping yet but now she wasn't answering her phone either. "Why is everyone ignoring my calls today?" I opened my second can and took a long swig. I wanted the alcohol to numb the ominous feeling that was emanating from my gut. I looked out of my window again. The police car was still there.
I was half way through my second can when suddenly there was a knock at my door. Damn it! "One minute" I replied. I hid the two remaining cans under my bed and tipped the rest of the one I was drinking down the toilet before stuffing it in my handbag with the other empty one. If I got caught drinking I'd be thrown out. I grabbed the chewing gum and put two in my mouth before answering my door. It was my support worker but she wasn't alone; my friend was with her too.
"What's going on?" By the sombre look on both of their faces I knew whatever it was, it wasn't good. "Take a seat Lorna, we have something to tell you". I knew what they were to about to say but I kept lying to myself. I didn't want to sit down so I asked them to get on with it and tell me what was happening. "Your Mum died last night". I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "No she didn't" I said but when I looked at them both, it was obvious that they were being serious. I could no longer lie to myself. My Mum was gone.
In that moment my whole world shattered; I fell to my knees and broke down. My friend hugged me tight as if she was trying to hold me together. My support worker then informed me that a policeman was waiting to talk to me. She disappeared for a minute before reappearing with him. Why did he want to speak to me I wondered? I soon found out. I was my Mum's next of kin so I had to identify her body. "I want to see my Mum" I said through floods of tears "please take me to her".
When I look back on that day, the next few hours are mainly blurred with only a few moments of clarity. I remember my friend offering to come with me and I was grateful for her support. We both got in to the back of the police car and made our way to the public and forensic mortuary at Flax Bourton.
As we drove through the winding country roads lined with hedgerows and punctuated with oak and silver birch trees I realised that I needed to inform the rest of my family. With shaking hands I scrolled through my contacts list until I found my Granny's number. As the phone began to ring, I tried to compose myself. It was the hardest phone call I've ever had to make.
My thoughts were interrupted as she said hello. I took a deep breath. "Hello Granny. There's no easy way to say this but you need to know. Mum passed away last night". The line went silent and it felt like an eternity passed before she replied, "but I spoke to her last night and she sounded fine then". I could hear the shock and disbelief in her voice and my heart broke again but this time it was for her. As I pressed the end call button, I began to cry again. I still had to call Ian but I just couldn't do it so my friend made the call for me.
I was still in shock when we arrived. I needed to prepare myself so I asked the officer if I could have 10 minutes before going in. There I stood, the sun burning brightly in the crystal clear sky with wisps of whispering clouds wandering aimlessly through the strikingly blue abyss. Golden beams of sunshine rained down on me. Frozen in the moment, my mind absorbed as much of its surroundings as it could. I didn't want to forget a single thing. This day would change me forever.
An unnatural yet comforting breeze embraced me. It felt silky soft as it seemingly wiped away the tears that fell down my cheeks. There was something different about this breeze; it was unlike any other I had felt or would ever feel again. A robin landed on the ground a few feet in front of me. I felt like it was trying to get my attention. I remember thinking that it was a sign from my Mum. She was letting me know that she was finally at peace. I took a long, slow, and deep breath, inhaling the fresh scents of Spring. A single silent moment. Bursting with quiet. Unnervingly calm. I exhaled softly. It would be a perfect day for millions of others but for me it was the day my world crumbled.
Lost in a nightmare I inhaled deeply again. Flowing into my lungs and around my body the breeze proceeded to soothe my soul as it enveloped me in its ethereal arms. It was all so surreal. Was this really happening? Or was I dreaming?
Laying on a bed no more than 20 metres behind me inside the eerily quiet but respectfully built building was my Mother's body, waiting to be identified in a picturesque area amid blankets of green. Three or four polished benches lined the chuckling brook that lazily meandered along the borders of the mortuary.
I sat down on the nearest one and with trembling hands I pulled my cigarette packet out of my bag and proceeded to light one up. As the smoke circulated around my lungs, my attention drifted to the trees. They were thin and spindly with corroding off-white bark. It reminded me of the cherry blossom tree that grew outside of my Mum's flat. It still hadn't begun to flower.
Only a few days ago, Mum and I sat in her living room, the gas fire roaring as it awoke from its slumber, and we opened the blinds, eagerly hoping to see the cherry blossom show signs of life. The buds were still closed and it was nearly May. It was an oddity that baffled us both. The meaning alluded us. In hindsight, its meaning was clear. It was an omen. It was ast knew the loss that was to come and so it grieved in its own way by refusing to bloom.
The officer approached me, his voice waking me from my daydream, pulling me back to a reality I didn't want to face. I got up slowly. Meaningless words drifted past me. As he guided me to the room my mind started to play tricks on me. Maybe there's been a mistake. Maybe it was someone else. I wanted to believe that but the logic in me prevented me from doing so.
The officer spoke again, "Lorna, its time. Are you ready?" I said yes even though I was far from it. I walked in to the designated room and there she was. "Is this your Mum? Is this Jacqueline Allan?" I nodded my head. Tears streamed down my face. "Please can I have some time alone with her?" I asked. The door closed behind me leaving us alone.
I sat next to her and held her hand. I kissed her cheek and stroked her hair and told her how much I loved her and how sorry I was for causing her so much stress and worry. I don't know how much time passed before the door reopened. "Its time to go now Lorna". I didn't want to leave her. I didn't want to let go of her hand. My friend gently touched my shoulder. "Come on hun" she said, "we have to go". As I looked at my Mum one last time I noticed that she looked as if she was smiling. She looked as if she was finally at peace.
As I stepped out in to the sunshine I had this overwhelming feeling that this was what she wanted. She was finally free from the physical and psychological pain she had been living with. I looked up in to the sky and smiled.
Until we meet again.