“Do something incredible” I looked up from my phone at the sound of her voice “anything in particular?” I asked, mock in my voice. “Anything” she confirmed seriously “it doesn’t have to be big or incredible to anyone else, just as long as it’s incredible to you” she smiled at me. “Just think Becs, if we both did one incredible thing a year, and we started now, by the time you’re 60 and I’m 90, we’ll both have done 30 incredible things each. And by the time you’re 90, you’ll have done 60 incredible things! Think about that! A lifetime of being incredible” she took a sip of wine and looked at me over the rim, “ok” I answered.
‘Can she do it? I don’t think the old bags got it in her! She’s going to stumble at the final hurdle! No, no she’s trying! She might have this! She’s going for the zip! She’s got it! She’s got it! The Brit has just made history! She has zipped the bag shut and the crowd has gone wild! We have a new British hero folks, the first person to ever zip an overstuffed bag shut! We’ll I don’t think we’ll ever see such an achievement in our lifetime again!‘ I was spread eagled across my suitcase, sweating and swearing at the challenge to fit a years worth of travel into one bag.
Blonde and Geo had departed a week earlier; with a goodbye meal we toasted cocktails to the trip and tried to laugh off the fights. They left the next morning for Costa Rica before Geo returned home and Blonde went on to Europe to visit family. We made promises to meet up in London but the approaching winter was too cold for her summer blood, she cut the trip off early and returned to Oz before we were able to reconnect.
As soon as the door clicked shut a wave of nostalgia washed over me, the room felt suddenly very empty, I missed them instantly. Alaska however bounced up and down on the bed “they’re gone!! Now it’s just you and me! You and me. You and meeeee” he burst into song and jumped to the floor, trying to spin me into a kiss which I rejected, unaffected he danced around the room.
We moved back up the coast to a hotel where we spent our final week in a tango of affection and fire, flaring up before finding tender moments to promise each other the future was possible.
On our final day, Alaska left for the airport with the waking day, a sleepy departure full of hugs and whispered ‘I love yous’. And with the click of another door, he too was gone, leaving me alone once again. He flew to the UK for Christmas however unbeknown to me, he’d already slept with a girl back home by then. We broke up pretty soon after that.
I sat in Cancun airport a few hours after Alaska had flown out; plugged into a pillar, I watched the world go by from kneecap level, a sea of flip flops, wheelie bags and whining kids. I didn’t know what I was going home to, all I knew was that there was no home to return. No one would be at the airport and I was under no illusions that there was some fairy tale happy ending waiting for me.
What I did know however, was that although the world hadn’t changed, I had. Before this all began, I’d never done anything on my own, never travelled alone. I relied on someone to hold my hand through everything. I avoided confrontation, convinced if I said ‘no’ people might not like me and what could possibly be worse that being liked?
The fear of loneliness hovered in my mind for just a moment on that airport floor, but it didn’t hold the same power it once had. I’d see the Facebook posts of parties, the groups of people giggling over lunch, couples squishing their faces together in pictures, family picnics, holidays; on and on it went and with it, I’d compare, always coming up short, feeling much worse for it. The truth was, everyone has those things, but those moments are only a snapshot, behind them lies all the insecurity, despair, heartache, frustrations and loneliness that make up being human. I wasn’t adrift from the rest of society, I just couldn’t see through the fog to realise we all feel alone sometimes and what’s more, that’s perfectly normal.
I stepped off the plane to the grey skies of Britain. There is was, exactly two years to the day of her death, the entire grief cycle having spun its course. Two years sounded like an awfully long time to the rest of the world, for me it was but a blink of the eye. Just because time has passed and it gets easier to breath, doesn’t mean the pain clears, I’m not sure it ever will but you learn to live with it. It changes you that kind of pain, making you question things, things that were lost like boyfriends and friendships, dignity and confidence. It makes you lash out and act like a jerk at times in unexplainable outbursts that you’d like to be forgiven for.
But through it all, you learn and grow and hope that somewhere your mother will be proud of you. After all, you are your mothers daughter.
I’d love to say I walked through those airport doors with my head held high, but this is real life and it was raining. I sat on the floor, jet lagged and cold, waiting an hour for the taxi I’d luxuriously booked as the last treat to end my trip with.
According to the psychologists, grief takes two years to get over. I don’t believe you ever truly get over the loss, but the waves get more manageable and those intense emotions aren’t so all consuming as they once were. For awhile I walked around London like a ghost in the background of other peoples happy lives, unsure of my own footing, the London life I’d once inhabited having died with my mother.
My mother and I arrived in this world with the beginning of spring, she left at the end of a September, never a fan of the cold, preferring to burn out with the summer. After my return to England, through the bitter adjustment of winter, finally the leaves began to bud and with it, little by little whispers grew louder, confidence returned and happiness started to warm my edges once again.
I’d been fighting myself for so long, this journey was never really about my mother, it was about myself, about accepting who I was for every hormonal, difficult, embarrassing flaw and accepting that. I wasn’t perfect but then no one but myself ever said I had to be. And I was finally ok, being the multilayed, pain in the arse but mildly amicable person I was.
I will always mourn for my mother, I’ll crave for the relationship we had and the one I’ll never know. For the moments we won’t share, the grandchilden she’ll never know, I’ll look at the person walking me down the aisle and just for a moment I’ll feel a lump in my throat. I won’t know who to call in the middle of the night when things go wrong. I will miss her forever but that’s ok too because she taught me to face the storm and to trust myself. It might have taken a trip around the globe, Santa Claus and perhaps one or two meltdowns but I got there eventually.
My mother always said people never know how to end well. Perhaps that’s because stories never truly end, strong characters will always live on in our hearts. And after all, down the rabbit’s hole, at the back of the wardrobe, through the platform, after the second star on the right or at the end of a kites tail,…there is always another adventure just waiting to be had.