My mum died 5 years ago this week.
She was my everything. It's funny how, no matter how old you become, you still feel like a child who needs a cuddle when you think about your mum.
I am 44 and a mother of two boisterous boys (as well as step-mum to two other lovely kids) myself now. When my mum was about this age I remember thinking how OLD she was. She was, in essence, an amorphous blob who transported me from a to b and kept us fed and clean. She held no true interest for me, since she was there to be taken for granted and like a normal child, I did not stop to consider whether she had anything of value to add to modern living. As far as I was concerned she was 'just my mum'.
Blimey, is that what my kids think of me now?! Yes, of course. A child should be a child - carefree and unfettered by profound thoughts of family histories. But one day we all grow up and we find out all too late that we know so little about our parents.
My mother was, of course, truly special. Irreplaceable and immense in my life. Shortly before she died she, unwittingly inspired my second career, now in full swing. I had been through a traumatic divorce with my then-5-year-old. We were both in a bad way and I yearned for her comforts. So we went on a trip together (our last as it turned out) to the places of my childhood. Wales - home of family holidays and long hot summers in the sand dunes. We found so many memories there I found myself very emotional and conscious of her demise from the vibrant beauty she had once been....
And then, suddenly, one day in 2006 my phone rang. It was my dad. My dad never called, deferring always to the female of the house to take care of family matters. I went cold. "Mum's gone," he barely managed. I remember little else of the 200 mile journey home or the week that followed, other than the fact that there was a gigantic hole in our midst. It has been there ever since, literally and figuratively. My father and brother hugged for the first time in their adult lives, and maybe the last. Men find this so hard. And now I, the baby of the family, am the mommy, drawing them together as best I can from a distance.
Shortly after she died, I discovered that I was pregnant again. I had been in a fantastic new relationship with my now-husband for a short while - we'd dealt with the trauma of her loss together and a miscarriage, and now we were elated with this baby news. I was nearing 40 and this was surely my last chance. Of course mum never knew and my son, Ollie never met her or felt her warmth. This bothered me very much and I was determined to somehow 'connect' these two most important people in my life, so that my sons would know who she was and the family from which they have come. I wanted to be sure that mum would be more than just a faded face in a box of black and white photos.
More importantly, my children would one day have to deal with the loss of their own mother. What, I considered, would they want me to have told them about my life? What kind of a legacy would I have to show for my time here on earth? Would they know why I divorced? Would they want to hear the stories of my happy, carefree school days and youth?
Last year my hand was forced. I was made redundant and spent some time considering my next move. After much deliberation, I decided to take my passion for family nostalgia and do something about it. I launched a new family life stories website, inspired by my mum and my memories of her. It's called www.saveeverystep.com and it's where I commemorated her life in words and pictures, in chronological order on a timeline. The site is a shareable and free celebration of the big and the small events in life. We use it as a family to record the development of our kids, our holidays and days out, school work and reports, birthday parties and old boyfriends, bad fashion mistakes and house moves. It's a lifetime on a timeline and the whole family's lives can be recorded individually in one place. Life, in the order it happens, in words and pictures. The site is free to use, since writing a life story is a personal and intimate act and I am passionate about encouraging people to save their memories for the future. Press coverage has been great so far and I am delighted to say that we are going from strength to strength in my mum's memory.
I have no doubt that she would have been proud. Thankfully I now have no doubt that she will not be forgotten.