“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything” C.S.Lewis

It’s five years today since you left us Mum. Five years since I waited for the sun to come up before making the call and we stood at the gate as you were gently carried away and the neighbours who had known you for decades came out to watch you leave. Five years since we brought you home the evening before your final goodbye so that we could watch Coronation Street for one last time together and I slept beside you to keep you safe before you had to go. Its five years since I stood in your empty bedroom in the middle of the night thinking that my heart would never mend. I hope you know that I did mend Mum and that there has always been the whisper of your laughter and reassurances in whatever circumstances that have come along since the day you left. I won’t pretend that it hasn’t been hard not having you here to talk to when things have been tough and the shape of life has altered beyond recognition. I never anticipated that life would change so much or how much of my identity and security had been held within the fragile confines of professional labels and social role validation. I have learned that I am more than a job description, more than my ability to be socially adept or physically present, more than my greatest disappointments or biggest achievements. As all of those things have ebbed away, like unused muscles, I have found within the solace of those empty, still spaces that I can breathe again, not breathing in order to begin to walk back into the chaos that reigned before but breathing purely for its own sake, to live, to simply live because living is a gift that I cherish. I have nothing more to prove to anyone now Mum, my frantic efforts to survive, to overcome the fear of prognosis, to keep from sinking below the waves, to justify my lostness, to find a sense of identity and value and purpose has led me to the darkest of places and for a time I found myself working as hard to survive the impact of having been lost as I had to try to prevent it. For a while there I forgot who I was, who I had been and more importantly who I might still become in the stillness of those healing places. I sat in the hospital chapel having been told the news of my scan, career over, future uncertain and I spiralled out of control not knowing if the spinning would ever stop, it was frightening Mum and although I had always been the one to keep everything going I could no longer think straight, how to keep the house afloat, the animals fed, find financial security, emotionally mend. I tried so hard but I failed, I know what it means to hit rock bottom, how it feels to make yourself vulnerable, to bust a gut to succeed at a cost to my own self respect, what it looks like to break and how becoming mentally unravelled impacts upon those we love. I haven’t sung or played my music since February 2018, the dust covers are still over the piano, I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to keep my promise but I still write, I write and I write and I will one day have the book I promised myself. To write is to feel again and that’s ok now.

I’ve met some beautiful people Mum, people who held out their hands to help without judgement, people who inspite of their own pain have helped me to recover from mine. I’ve made some incredible friends since you left, friends for life, friends who love us and value us and who have embraced our recovery with respect and patience, knowing that we couldn’t always contribute in equal parts to those relationships. Others have gone, those who once relied on us for initiation and energy, unable to understand or challenged by their own vulnerability or impatient of grief’s unkown process and that’s ok too, I recognise that these things are sometimes transient and there is no bad feeling, we all go our own way eventually. They tell me that I’m autistic Mum, I only wish you and Dad had been here to know that, it would have answered alot of the questions you had when I was growing up. But I’m ok Mum, abit late in the game to find my place with others there but that’s ok, it’s more important that I have been introduced to myself than it is for me to be introduced to others. I’m ok. I no longer hide who I am, I embrace the difference and each day brings it own freedoms.

It’s five years today Mum and there isn’t a day that I don’t think of you, miss you and long to see you again but I’m ok, I’m back on my feet, holding my head up and living a gentle life, I love and I am loved and I do my best to be there for others who need me. I laugh alot and act the goat again and all is well. There are so many people who are losing those whom they love right now, you would be shocked to learn of the state of the world and the plight of those who have so little and have lost so much. There are so many who are standing in the rooms of their loved ones today feeling as if their own hearts will never mend. I hope in some small way that I can let them know that given time, as much time as they need, they will.

All my love as always,

Your Ju xx

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