Words Fall Out

If we’re lucky, it visits us a few times before taking us away; Death.
I remember the death of our dog.  That first aching glimpse into the yawning chasm of ‘gone forever’.  And the death of a grandparent; quiet censored whisperings of adults and the hurried ushering of the children away from the coffin.  Gone forever. First one person, then a sprinkling of elderly others.  Watching the grief in my mothers eyes spill over into tears.  She didn’t usually cry.  It sent a chill of foreboding through me, seeing her mourn her own mother.  I was fourteen then, and beginning to comprehend.  Death loomed close to my imagination. An irrefutable, unescapable, cruel end and a bitter suffering.

Then, facing the shock news of a car crash, a cousin, close to my own age. Another friend too, another car. Somehow so much more tragic than losing the elderly; more personal, more real.  The horror of knowing they are gone.  Forever.  And it could just as well have been you.  You contemplate all the things that you get to still do that they don’t.  You think about the future they’ll never have.  You marvel at how the birds still sing, but they cannot.  You can’t absorb the fact that everything they were, the entirety of their being, is gone. It’s too frightening. Too close to your bones. A whisper too near to your ear.

You let the tomorrows slowly ease your mortal fears.  Time anaesthetising you from the truth.  We die.  One day that will be my funeral.  One day it will be yours.  We try to forget that immutable fact. We are expert at it.  We close our eyes and batten down the hatches.

We pretend that we will live forever.

But we won’t.

Any of us, at any moment are a hairs-breadth away from it…  why don’t we live like that is so? Why do we pretend?  Diminishing our existence by living as if there will always be a tomorrow?  Another chance? Limiting what we see and ring-fencing our hopes, saving them for another day?

Why do we do that?

Death is on my mind today because this is the anniversary of the day my Mum took her last breath.  I remember staying with her through the night of New Year’s Eve.   She was so tired.  In so much pain. Throughout the night I had counted her breaths, and the terrible pauses between, the gasp and rasp as she fought for air again.  I was terrified about how death would come. When she opened her eyes the next morning, her barely audible whisper: “am I still alive?”.
“You are Mum.  You’re here.  It’s a New Year” her tiny amount of energy collapsed her tiny frame, deeper into the bed, lost in defeat.  “Still here” she mouthed, this time, no sound escaping her mouth as she closed her eyes against the day, the year, the endless struggle of her ending.

I didn’t see her open them again. I left my shift of the bedside vigil and went to sit at the beach.  My brother called me when it happened.  She had gone when they had stepped out of her room. I wondered if she had waited for them to go, to save them the torment of hearing the last breath, of counting the pause that would never be broken with another rasp.

I sat there on the dunes and watched the skies as her spirit flew past.  North to the Bay of Islands, and on to Cape Reinga. She was free.  I knew I should be able to breathe easier knowing that.  But what settled on my chest was a heavy weight of knowing.  She was gone forever.   Forever is a long time to be motherless.  And I cried like the baby I am.  Her baby.  Cried because I didn’t know how I could do it.  This life.  How could I do it without a mother?   I felt lost and cut loose of the only tie that truly binds.  Her freedom became my burden.  My debt to her, paid in grief and measured out across my own forever.

Thank you Mum, for loving me.  I miss you.

I was in the car this morning, coming back from a morning out with the horses.  It had all been far too much for me. I was half-sleeping, listening to the music.  Kellie’s song came on the radio.  My eyes were shut and my head lolling against the head rest.  Her song pops up at interesting times.  I always listen.  Think about her, miss her.  Wish she was still here, wisecracking on my blog, or messaging me about something.  Another gone forever girl.  Breaking our hearts with her absence.  Filling our days with remembrances and regrets for all the things we never said.

I wonder what would happen if you say what you want to say,
let the words fall out

I want to see you be brave.
(Sarah Bareilles, Brave)

Death is not a palatable subject.  People don’t like to read about it.  We don’t want to be reminded.
We go to such great lengths to ignore the truth and fight the realisations.  We all want to live forever; I get it, me too.  But what I want to say today is hard to read.
Wake up! We all die, people.
My words are falling out.


Don’t push it away, not this day.
Do it for the memory of my Mumma, for the memory of Kellie, or for the memory of someone you loved and lost. Do it for yourself, as an act of wilful rebellion against the denial we usually prefer. Live like there’s no tomorrow, in whatever way that would be for you.
What would you tell your children?
How long would you hold your lover’s gaze?
What would you say that needs to be said?
Who would you forgive? Who would you ask it from?
What would you do today?
What would you choose to look at, to feel, to notice?
If this was it.  What would it be?

This song probably says what I want to say in a much better way.  Have a listen to this.  And make today matter.

18 thoughts on “Words Fall Out”

  1. Hi Rach – reading this and thinking of my mum who I lost a couple of months ago and all the others who have gone before me – some way too soon – when I realised that, playing on the radio was Sara Bareilles’ Brave – wow. Chills went down the back of my neck. I so need to be Brave this year. Thank you for your words – may they continue to fall out because they are always worth catching xxoo

    1. Wow, isn’t that a weird/cool coincidence Priscilla? I love the way life sends us these little clues and confirmations. Sorry, so sorry, about the loss of your Mum. Wishing you some big ‘brave’ to take you through 2015 Priscilla!

  2. Great questions Rach.
    We are good at living as if it goes on forever aren’t we? I know I am!
    I’m not sure I understand the notion of only tie that binds, but I am really sorry that your heart is heavy my friend.
    Keep letting the words fall out, they’re important.
    Hugs. Hugs. Hugs.

    1. I think that you understand it more than most of us, and I so wish your baby self hadn’t suffered that wrench before you could even make sense of it. It breaks my mumma heart for you, Nettie. It does. I don’t comprehend all the issues around adoption, I just think that as a Mum myself, there is something between mother and child that begins when the baby does. Broken bonds are no less painful because they occur younger. I am guessing, but my guess is that on some level it would be so much harder. Arohanui my friend X

  3. I still think every day of things to tell my Mum. I wrote to her every week from when I elft home at 16 until she dies in a car accident when I was 48 so a lt of thinking up what to say.
    It never goes away
    Love S

  4. Hi Rachel, its just a few years since I lost my mum, then it will be 2 years this Feb that I lost my dad…both to cancer. So that was two parents gone in 3 years. I was holding them both as they took their last breath. And I dont think I will ever get over it, their presence is something I miss daily. We were very close. Funny enough I find that I often will wake in the early morning around 5.30am and thats when I think about them the most… the still of the morning when I can just be alone with my thoughts. This morning in Portugal I woke up and thought about all the things they had taught my brother and I as a children, about doing things in your community, about always helping others where you can. If I think for too long it is tears that come freely….often I think maybe its just me that thinks this way about their parents…misses the unconditional love from parents…..but the next thing I did this morning was grab the IPad, still lying in bed, flicked through and saw you had a new post…. and it was a huge comfort to me to know at even at my age that others really miss there mums to. Your writing was beautiful and very heart felt. Most of all I just wish I could have a conversation with her again….I am sure you will understand that wish completely. Thanks for your post. XX

    1. I do understand that wish Nats. I do. With all my heart. A friend once posted a thing that made me full of yearning, it was picture of an empty park bench looking over an amazing bay. ‘If heaven had visiting hours, who would you see?’… or something like that. My Mum. The yearning never leaves does it? I am so sorry to hear that you lost both your parents this way, and so close together. I can’t imagine how hard that was to bear. My heart goes out to you. X It’s a rough club to be part of, isn’t it?

  5. Forever is indeed a long time to be motherless and as much as I know my mum is a part of me & always will be, I do so wish she were beside me instead of only in my heart. I miss her every day (it’s been 7 years). My thoughts often turn to tears, I can’t – and won’t – stop them. But that’s not yo say I don’t smile at the good times too. Now it’s my job to be mum and to create a bond with my own girls as my mum did with me. Tough call!

    1. Yes, it is a long time. It’s been eight years for me, I try like you to work on being a good mum for my kids, it’s what my Mum would encourage me to do if she were here. So on we go. I agree about letting the tears come Jo. Better out than in. My heart goes out to you.

  6. I try really hard to not take my Mum for granted but sometimes I slip and don’t spend quality time with her. I am so thankful that, firstly she is still here and secondly, that I am so lucky to have her live just around the corner from me. She is ageing and slowing down and that scares me. I can’t imagine my life without her. It’s like a club I don’t want to be part of. But it’s inevitable. So I will follow your advice and treat each day like it’s my last and more importantly treat each day with Mum like it’s our last. Thanks for the timely advice. x

    1. Enjoy all those treasured moments with your Mum, Deb. Ask her questions about her childhood, and yours. Go through old photos with her if you can. And hold her beautiful hand sometimes. Holding my Mum’s hand in mine is one of my strongest final memories. Our hands were so similar. I would trace the lines on hers and know that one day, my hands will have wrinkles in all the same places. Arohanui Deb. X

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