In the six months that have passed since my mom left this world, I’ve experienced some of the most drastic changes in my own life that I’ve ever witnessed, not least because I lived with her for six years beforehand. Once the rug is pulled from under you in every way, you realise you’re on your own. Your one true anchor in this world has cast off, and your only options are to sink or swim and find ways to cope and survive. You pick yourself up and try to move forward with this great big gaping hole in your chest that threatens to suffocate you and make you feel like you’ll never know happiness in any form ever again. But you have no choice, you’re still here. Wherever she is, she’s okay now. I’m left here without her, trying to make sense of this whole new dimension where part of me is forever absent, and a blank page entitled ‘Jen’s Life’ that I’m expected to fill in without her helping me or nagging me to get going.

So onwards I go, head up, marching on, saying yes to new things and really starting to enjoy the future I appear to be carving out for myself. Most nights while I’m sleeping, she pops in for a visit. She’s standing there, exactly as I knew her; she’s smiling, giving out to me and nagging me the way she used to, demanding ice-cream because I had eaten some that day and thought ‘Mam would have LOVED some of this.’ She can hear me, her deafness is gone, and we have great chats about what in the name of God I’m up to THIS week. At one point I was getting married (only in the dream, I can assure you) and I was standing there on the morning of it dressed in my gown and all that jazz. She stood there in front of the mirror with me and said “It’s not you, though, is it?” and I said “No, you’re right. I don’t want this at all.” Her reply was vintage Mammy Ronan. “Well, you know what to do then. Go make the calls.” Which I did. Metaphorically and physically. Life kicked off in many weird and wonderful ways after that. I had made a promise to her the night before we buried her, (well, one of many promises, but they’re between me and her) and it was that I would do my best to live an awesome happy life, and embrace any chances that came along which would make me happy. The act of making that promise alone kicked off something in the cosmos which I can’t explain – all I know is I haven’t had a minute’s peace in the last six months because I’ve been doing so many things and seeing so many people. I’m truly grateful. I don’t know where Mam is in general, but I know where she is most of the time where I’m concerned. Looking over my shoulder, making sure I keep my promise.

I found this poem by Maya Angelou, hence the title of this blog post. It’s about the significant loss the death of a parent leaves behind, and it hits home more than any words that I use ever could.

I love you Mom.

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Partners in crime until the very end.

When Great Trees Fall

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
“They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.”

                                                               Maya Angelou