A New Day

It is a beautiful evening. The marina is quiet; MasterB is curled up opposite me and purring; birds are trilling, the sun is beginning to set. I am glad of the calm and the sun. Both feel respectful and right.
Mother died this morning. It was early, half past six; the time in days past when she used to get up. The connection here failed and I did not learn of her death for a further two hours. I lost the butter. Somehow between the call and coffee I misplaced it. I found it tonight in a cupboard where it does not belong.
I took my time. MasterB had some shore leave, and then I went to see her. My nephews were already there, but left me for some minutes alone with her. I drew back the closed curtains and let the light in. Mother loved daylight. She opened her curtains at night before she went to bed so that it would fill the room in the morning. For a moment it looked like she was breathing, but she was too flat, too still. I anointed her forehead with lavender oil and kissed her, told her again that I loved her. When the boys came back, it seemed natural to include her in our conversation, lying there as she was between us. Her face was recognisable, but less like herself and more like John Milton’s death mask.
It was time to go, to let the undertakers come and collect her. Once more the boys let me have some time alone with her, just a few moments, another goodbye.

We went to the station to meet the train and Nephew’s wife. Then went to lunch in a wonderful pub none of us has ever been to before. We ate, drank, were moderately merry, and started outlining what we want in the funeral.
The phone rang, it was the undertaker. I met him a couple of years ago, a nice man and a dog lover. Mother would approve. He advised me about death certificates and registers and we arranged to meet him in an hour. I spent half an hour calling and making appointments and then we we piled into Other Nephew’s car and went to discuss coffins and practicalities.
The family Labrador was in the car park, so he was loved and fussed by all of us before we went inside. His predecessor’s ashes are in a little urn adorned by a model of a yellow Labrador asking to play, and his portrait hangs in the hall. It was curiously relaxing. And funny. At one point four of us were pouring over pictures of cardboard coffins, picking out the most tasteless ones. Who in the world would choose a coffin showing fish and chips in newspaper? We were fairly sure of what we wanted, having seen it two years ago. Our nice undertaker went to make sure we could see the range he had in stock and we went on reading. I was fascinated, in a slightly appalled way, by the teddy bear where you zip your loved ones’ ashes inside.
Back at the home we stood in Mother’s room to discuss more practicalities. Other Nephew took her clock, Nephew and Wife left with photos to scan for the funeral order of service, and her bible. Outside, Nephew handed me a card and a present. Today is my birthday. It has been an unforgettable one, and somehow, it feels right that Mother died today. It has been a painful privilege these last few days to be with her as she was dying. She showed dignity, graciousness and gratitude. I am immensely proud of her. Her death doesn’t stop me loving her. For me, she was, and remains, the best mum in the world.


61 thoughts on “A New Day

  1. Your birthday. Oh Isobel I’m sorry for your loss. It’s been a privilege to share a little of your journey. I’m sure you have been the best daughter. Take care dear.

    • Thank you Gilly. The next few days seem already full of paperwork and business. I plan to stay afloat for the weekend, with friends joining me on Sunday. I hope for moments of quiet and reflection where I can remember her.

  2. Bless you……bless her……the symmetry of your Mother’s passing on the day of your birth is so full of a kind of peace and love I’m just speechless.

    A heartfelt hug for you Isobel……….from a far away friend.

    • Thank-you Pam. Obviously it has been on the cards, and I have had time to think about it. I realised it didn’t ‘spoil’ my day, as celebrations were not going to happen. Instead it somehow makes my link with Mother all the closer. And oddly, I did end up having a meal out!

    • Thanks Ingrid. The support I have felt through this blog has been tremendous. I am sure I shall continue to write about Mother in the days, weeks, months and years to come.it will be nice to think some of those eating have felt a closeness with her in her last days.

  3. I’m sorry for your loss. More importantly, I’m so pleased you could spend some precious time and just love her and cherish her. And I’m so glad you could share with us too!

    • Thanks Cee. My blog is a diary if sorts. Recording the last few days has been a way of helping me to process what has been happening. I am grateful that others have felt able t read and to comment. It has helped, believe me.

  4. It seems wrong to click that I liked your blog…don’t like that your mom died, but am grateful to have your reflections on the journey. The symmetry, as another one said, of your birthday and your mom’s passing is astonishing. Thoughts and prayers wing their way to you over the ocean.

    • Thank you. We weren’t allowed to use ‘like’ in our English work at school because it was said to be too inexact a word. Here, that inexactitude may work!

    • Thanks Sue. It has been a long day, and it is nice to have time to sit now and think about her. I keep thinking about the speech at the beginning of Macbeth when the death of the Thane of Cawdor is reported, though I do not think my mother threw away her life as though it was a trifle, yet she managed to die with tremendous dignity and gentleness.

  5. Isobel, you write so beautifully and so eloquently, and my heart goes out to you.

    “Her hand came out from under the covers and clasped mine. There is no price you can put on a moment like that. Magic.” Always remember and treasure that moment! xxx

    • Thanks Sophie. The eloquence is my mother’s. She provided an ongoing lesson in being gracious.

      It was a wonderful moment, and I am so glad I was able to spend this time with her. What a mum!

  6. Oh Isobel, I’m so sorry for your loss, & honoured that you’ve shared this part of the journey. Your mother was a great character and you’ve such a strong bond.

  7. Dear Isobel.

    It’s not unexpected but my sincere condolences on your loss. As you know, I have grown fond of your mother and felt I knew her through your words and thoughts on this blog.

    It has been a privilege to have had this insight, and shared your concern and love for your mother.

    A lovely lady with a special daughter.

    I will be thinking of you.


    • Thanks Araminta. We were travelling this same road two years ago weren’t we? I think we and our memories of our mothers (and their teeth) will forever make a link.

    • Thank-you. I think the red tape around death means that unfortunately the next few days will be fraught. I was told I would need Mother’s birth and marriage certificates today. I have neither. Does that mean she isn’t really dead? It is a strange world.

  8. Thank you and mum for allowing us to share in her final journey. I’m so glad you had the boys with you today and that there was laughter. My mother-in-law ( who I never met) died on my birthday so it is a special day for me and hubby but in many different ways. The next few days will have their difficult times. There is a large virtual world of suport here so do use us! xx

    • Life and death are so closely linked and yet so separate. I have thanked my mother most of my birthdays for giving birth to me. There is a double reason to remember her now on this day.

  9. Dear Isobel

    So sorry and sad to hear of your loss.

    I hope the many happy and very special memories of your lovely and loving Mother will comfort you in the times ahead … and MasterB will no doubt lend a paw.

    My thoughts are with you. Bless you all. xxx

  10. You mother will always be the best mum to you Isobel.

    I feel immensely moved at the way you have written this with quiet calm,dignity Isobel. My sympathies are with you and I hope you will keep her memories alive, talk about her often and feel, as I do with my mother, that she is never very far away. xxx

    • Thanks Jan. I hope so too. I really could not hope for her sake that she would continue this slow decline, but losing her hurts horribly. I am so glad I was able to spend these last few days with her.

  11. It does seem so right, or comforting, or appropriate – the right word doesn’t seem to come – that your mum passed from this world on the day she brought you into it. It seems to me that when a mother dies it leaves a big hole in our world. We have a very special bond with our mothers, whether or not the relationship was good. Your good memories and the relationship you had with her will help your heart to heal. I will be thinking of you – please continue to keep us posted. More virtual hugs – Pat

  12. Husband and I are very sorry for your loss, dear Isobel. And we are sending our condolence.
    We are sorry to be physically far away from you and try to make for this distance by being close to you through our love for you.
    We will be lighting a candle as an hommage to her for the next 40 days..
    May your mother-daughter bond fulfil the void of her physical absence. May her last grateful and loving words and gestures accompany you forever as a reminder of all the journey through life you did together.
    WE are sending you all our love in a big hug.

    • Thanks Maria. I am not feeling terribly sociable at the moment, so don’t feel bad about being far away. I am sure we shall catch up soon enough. In the meantime, I really appreciate your support here.

  13. Aww Isobel I am so sorry. I too feel honored to have been able to share this time with you. I love that you anoited her forehead with the lavender oil. I always remember you speaking of massaging the hand cream into her hands and thinking that touch being so special between a daughter and a mother, that touch so dear to the heart. As Laurel said we will be celebrating both of you, I will keep you and your Mother close to my heart. A huge hug from me Isobel and a prayer that the last few loving tender days you had with her, that you made so special so peaceful for her will comfort you when her not being there is hard for you. I still so don’t want you to hurt. And Isobel a thank you for your beautiful words that are so filled with emotion and comfort and love.

  14. Dear Isobel,

    I don’t know where I came across your blog, but I have greatly enjoyed reading about Master B, your reading and poetry, love of flowers, your boat, seeing your photos, and all that comes with reading along with you.

    I am very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. She was your Best Mum, and know that you were her Best Daughter.

    Lisa from NJ

  15. Dearest Isobel…I’ve followed your journey with your mother the last year or so. And I grieved with you every day when you could see her decline….and today, I’m in tears with you. But glad that you have the connection with your birthday. Since I watched my mother’s decline years ago, I have felt so much empathy for you as I went through your mother’s with you.
    May God bless and comfort you…

    • Thank-you June. Mother’s dementia has been an education. It is such a cruel illness, and yet she managed to rise above it. I salute her. It is hard when our parents suffer with dementia, but maybe we learn something about their and our shared humanity along the way.

  16. Dear isobel, I completely forgot, about your birthday, yesterday. I am sorry about that! I feel comforted though, that life used the very same door to let her part and to welcome you to a new year which I wish is full of peace and gratitude for your Mother being/having been your tender Mother and for you being/having been her loving daughter.
    A big birthday hug for you from us two, today.

  17. Pingback: Magnolias for Isobel | A New Day

  18. Dear Isobel.
    It is such a perfect gesture from your Mum. To leave you linked even closer on your birthday for all the birthdays yet to come. Having traveled this journey alongside you through your honest and poignant portrayal of both your Mum’s and your attempt to navigate these passed difficult times my heart weeps for your sorrow at this great loss. Loss…what a thing it is. But I take comfort in it. because it means I have experienced great love. Thank you for sharing this with me. I send you love and hugs across the seas.

  19. I’m sorry to hear this. I know it’s been a long journey you’ve been on and I hope you can take some solace in that your Mum’s no longer suffering.

  20. Isobel, I am late, and I am so sorry. She has been the best mum in the world and your gentle, solicitous care in the last months, your persistence, has taught me a great deal. As a Mum I know that my daughter, for all her individuality, is a celebration of the things I did right in my life. Perhaps your Mum felt the same.

    • Not late Kate. One thing. Learned when my father died was although it went off the radar for most people when the funeral was over, for us as a family it was just beginning. Even today I found myself wondering if Mother was really dead. The whole idea seems so absurd. She has been here my whole life. How can she just disappear? If I have been a good daughter it probably is down to my parents.

  21. I took the Summer off from blogging and have just been catching up – tracing back through your posts to find this one. My condolences, rather tardily on your loss. x

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