Do you ever read something and it resonates so much with your moment in time and space that the words leap off the page and slap you in the face? Or maybe it's a lyric that rings in your ears long after the song has stopped? I read this last night, and it nearly stopped my heart:
A mother draws a map for her child and places herself at the centre of it. Her death wipes that map clean. She leaves you knowing that you must redraw it to survive, and yet not knowing where to start.
My mum didn't die but the map was wiped clean when she had her stroke. Those three lines sum up how I've felt over the last two years, and how I have struggled not only to redraw the map, but to figure our how or where to even start.
Grief is more than an emotion. It becomes a physical part of you - like shrapnel embedded in your flesh - as real, and permanent as your arm and leg. It is always there, although we might seem to heal and live with the scars, it is hidden in your muscles and your bones, your brain and your heart.
Every day I mourn the loss of all that could be, as much as what was. People say time is a healer, but it is also the blunt knife that cuts deeper. Sure, time softens the pain and the heart-stoppping terror, leaving behind a low-level ache. But the knife of time also cuts deeper, reminding us over and over again that as life is moving on, we are leaving someone behind.
My mum lies in suspended animation, a still frame in a world of moving pictures. Poppy turned five last month, and danced in her first ballet show. Daisy is writing stories and singing songs, and Ruby is full of wonder. We have adventures, we make plans, we live our days, and my mum is missing it all. But worse, we are missing her.
I know that over the last year, no-one would have devoted more time to sitting on the sofa hearing Daisy read than her. I know she would have started to write letters to Daisy, and get replies, just like mum and me wrote to each other all our lives. I know she would have been measuring every centimeter Poppy has grown this last year as her gluten-free diet kicks in, and listened avidly as Poppy regales tales of her imaginary friend, Heart. I know Ruby would be wearing little dresses ("I just couldn't help myself") that mum would bring down, and my mum would be bending the ears of everyone she knew with Ruby's minxy antics.
I know that, because my mum was the centre of my map and those are the roads that lay ahead of us. Now I stumble down new tracks, unmapped areas and try to mark my way. All I can do is take the navigation tools she taught me and hope I find my way.