‘I miss you, Mum. These are the things I wish I could tell you.’

Words by Maddy Holmes.

My mum passed away when I was 14.

And although in the lead up to her death I knew her cancer was getting worse, I always had this weird mentality that my she was some kind of superhero. She was my mum… she couldn’t possibly die.

I remember the day my sister told me she had “taken a turn”. Nobody needed to clarify what that meant. We gathered in her hospital room and set up for the night. Silently we sat there, waiting for my mum’s laboured breathing to stop.

One of the last things mum ever said to me was “I’m not afraid to die. I’m afraid to leave you.” I have never forgotten those words, and I don’t think I ever will in my life.

When she took her final breath, it was like time had frozen. I waited and waited, but nothing happened. That’s when I found myself alone with my mum for the very last time. The room was dark, and she was so still I had no idea what to do.  

As the baby of my family, I held a lot of anger towards my siblings for a long time. They were lucky to get more time with mum, and it just felt so unfair. I didn’t get to have my mother at my formal or my graduation, or watch me get my licence or go off to uni. Every single time a major event in my life rolled around, it was as if there were a huge weight on my chest and I couldn’t enjoy what was happening around me.

maddie and mum feature

Maddy (left), her close family friend and her mother.

I was asked to give a speech at her funeral, but I have no idea what I said.

I remember standing there and crying while trying to force out words but nothing happened. My sobbing was so uncontrollable, somebody was sent up to hold my hand while I stood there, tear after tear streaming down my face no matter how much I tried to collect myself. 

The one thing I remember saying? “I love you mum”. It was the second time I had said those words in my life, and I prayed that she hadn’t yet moved on to whatever afterlife there is to hear it. 

I was a shitty kid in high school who wanted to hang out with her friends, thinking I was too cool to say the words “I love you.”

These days, I try to not dwell on the mistakes I made, and I’ve accepted that I was too young to know better.

Still, more than anything in my life, I regret not saying those words more.

For the first few years, I spent a lot of time being angry.

Angry at the world.

Angry at my dad for daring to find love again.

Angry at the therapist I was shipped off to, who happened to have the same name as my mum. (Seriously, what kind of twisted joke is this, World?)

I skipped the stages of grief and launched straight into anger.

I’d like to write that this experience has made me stronger in some way. I’d even like to think that I’m somewhat of a hard ass now. I think if anything, it made me grow up faster.

Maybe one day I’ll look back and realise just what an impact my mum’s death had on me. But here I am, 20-years-old, having breakdowns on the regular about how I wish she were here to give me advice. Because for some reason, ringing up my dad and saying “Dad, I have no fucking idea what I’m doing with my life. Can you please give me direction?” isn’t the same.

In so many ways, I need my mum. 

maddy and mum hospital

Maddy with her mum in the hospital.

There’s not a single day that I don’t think about her. I think about funny things she used to do and say.

I wonder if she would have a new career, because by now, after 20 years of being a stay-at-home mum, she would have returned to the workforce.

I wonder if I’d have more direction if she’d been around to support me and give advice.

I think about how much she would love my sister’s daughters.

I wear her rings that she refused to give me, but left to me to “look after”.

And sometimes I see people on the street that look so much like her, I have to check twice.

So here I am Mum, I’m (sort of) an adult now. I graduated and I’m going to university. I haven’t lost any of your rings yet. I live independently and pay my own rent. I even pay my own phone bill.

Is that enough to make me a real adult?

I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time, and Dad won’t tell me what to do either. If you could send me some kind of miracle sign, that would be swell.

P.S. I got a tattoo of one of your paintings. And I love it.

Maddy Holmes is an emerging 20-year-old writer from North Queensland.

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