Wednesday, 13 April 2016

A missing day.

There are good days and bad days and perfectly fine days and surprising days and day that I wish were over. And then there are the missing days. Today was a missing day.

I had to clear out some things of my mother’s. We’ve done most of the big stuff. These were small unimportant things in small unimportant drawers. I had promised my stepfather I would do it before he came home, and I’d been putting it off.

The little things made me laugh and broke my heart. In one small drawer I found a fairly peculiar implement, something between a brush and a comb, which I could not identify. I squinted at it. It had writing on it. It was a hairbrush brush. My mother had a brush for her hairbrush. She must have been so delighted on the day she discovered that. Perhaps she found it in one of the catalogues she liked. Ah, she would have said, at last someone has invented something really useful. Now, she would have said, I can keep those hairbrushes in spit-spot order.

There were a few sweet necklaces which I think must have been given to her by the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren. There were some empty jewellery boxes. What was in the Cartier box, I wondered? It was old and shabby, probably from the fifties, but she had kept the empty box all these years. Perhaps my father got her a lovely jewel after a big win at Cheltenham. Perhaps the jewel went west, but the box stayed to remind her.

In the bottom drawer there were lavender bags and an elegant voile envelope with seven immaculate cambric handkerchiefs folded inside. The handkerchiefs almost finished me off. Does anyone even buy handkerchiefs any more, in this age of the disposable Kleenex? Well, my dear mother did.

Most of the time, I understand well that my mother is not here any more. I am growing used to that hard fact. One of the most important stages of grief is acceptance, and I work diligently at that one. There is no point in crying for the moon. Life is life, and facts are facts, and this is what happens to every human. Every human will miss another human. Every heart will break. I get good and stoical about that.

And then there are moments when I damn well do cry for the moon. I want her back so much I can’t stand up. I want one more joke, one more conversation, one more word of wisdom. The chair where she used to sit is so empty, so haunting, so doleful. The house is so lost without her. I am lost without her. She was my mum, and I miss her.

I take a breath, and gather up all the little things that would mean nothing to anyone else but which mean the world to me. I take the seven handkerchiefs. I gather myself, because one must always gather oneself. I go to my desk and shake my head and write 2880 words. The words are not flying free today, but have to be quarried from surly stone. Yet there they are, after hours of effort.

I let my shoulders come down and turn philosophical. This is life; this is how the missing is. Some days it is hardly there at all. Some days it knocks you to the ground. Some days I am lost; some days I am found. That is how it goes.


  1. You have captured exactly how it goes. As you always do.

    I have some immaculately ironed, see-through thin, handkerchiefs that belonged to my Grandmother and my Great Aunt. I love how they would use them with such elegance rather than pulling out a wad of tissues. xxx

  2. Beautifully written, as always, thank you, Rachel

  3. I know how it feels. My lovely dad died six weeks ago, and sometimes the grief just wraps around your heart and presses hard. I have less tears now, but boy I do sure miss him lots.

    Julie Q

  4. A lovely piece...when my mother died nine years ago I was living in Australia, and therefore rented out her house. Now we are back, living in the house, and suddenly, looking out on to her wonderful garden, it is as though she had only just died.

  5. Clearing out your parents house is a difficult thing to do. For what it's worth, I send you my sympathy.


  6. I know exactly what you mean about being so torn apart with a glut of grief you can't stand up. I can recall sliding down with my back to the wall sobbing, collapsing into an ungainly heap on the floor, after my mother died very suddenly of a brain haemorrhage when she was 66, I was 25 and my daughter a mere two years old.

    Three decades or more later I can clearly remember that it happened, but no longer feel even a ghost of that groaning. The rawness goes. We mend, and then we can recall the dear departed in tranquillity.

    All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.


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