Twenty years ago today, smack bang in the middle of a Mothers’ Day picnic, my beloved Mum dropped dead of a heart attack.
Twenty years is a long time ago but the loss is no less painful today than it was when I heard the devastating news over the phone from my older brother, who had been with Mum when she died and who, despite his decades of training in the Australian Army, was unable to resuscitate her.
The paramedics, who arrived within minutes of being called, similarly could do nothing for her. Mum was dead before she hit the ground. No number of medical miracles could have reversed that fate.
There are no words to fully express the impact of a sudden, unexpected death, just as there is no way to fully account for the constant ache that remains as the legacy of loss. There is no closure and time does not ease the pain.
Instead, you find a way, or ways, to live with a new reality. At least, I have. There are times, like today, when the phantom ache of Mum’s absence is especially pronounced, but there are other days when memories of her indefatigable life force remind me how lucky I was to have such an extraordinary mother who left an indelible mark on the lives of her family and, similarly, on the lives of all those who knew her.
This year, to commemorate the two decades since my darling Mum – Valda May Lee – died, I wrote a memoir of grief and loss. But most importantly, it is a memoir of the primacy and power of mother love, the greatest love of all.
The memoir can be found in the current edition of Elle magazine, with Rose Byrne on the cover.
The photograph of me and Mum above is one of my favourite pictures and never fails to make me smile. I’m about three years old, and we are at her squash club – remember squash? – with Santa. That smile!
Happy Mothers’ Day, Mum. You are never forgotten, and forever missed.
And a very happy Mothers’ Day to all you lovely Mums. Know how loved you are.