It wasn't a surprise. My mum was 97, had been suffering from dementia for several years, and this summer marked a real downturn in her health. Doctors had warned there was nothing they could do, and one morning we received the 'come quickly' phone call that we'd been dreading, then spent three anxious days sitting by mum's bedside - but there's a world of difference between expecting such an event, and it actually occurring.
Since then, life has been one long whirlwind, chasing round trying to keep up with all the bureaucracy that follows death. Instead of taking time to come to terms with the shock, we had to be out and about visiting doctors, funeral directors, and registrars. There are forms to be filled, decisions to be made - about flowers, cars, a notice in the local paper, what we'd like to do with the ashes (fortunately my dad seemed better prepared for some of these than I was). Neighbours and distant relatives have to be informed. Wardrobes had to be checked for suitable funeral attire, and my dad taken on a shopping trip for new shoes. I've learned about official 'registry' ink (it turns from blue to black as it dries, and etches the words into the paper). For the first time ever, I've been into the pub next door to the house I grew up in. And one day, wanting to be sure we'd got funeral arrangements and memorials sorted exactly as my dad wants, we went to visit the local churchyard. I remember playing there as a child, when it was overrun with long grass which hid grass snakes; now it's looked after by the council, the grass is regularly cut, and presumably the snakes have gone elsewhere, but it's far bleaker and windier than I remember.
It's left me feeling like one of those cartoon characters run over by a steamroller - an absolutely flat, two dimensional, cardboard cut-out of a person. And in amongst all this there seems to have been little time to grieve.
Evening has been the only free part of the day, and by then I've just been ready to flop on a sofa and sleep. I've always found though that getting outside, either pottering round the garden or walking, helps reduce stress for me, so one day, in last week's strangely warm weather, I went out dog walking at sunset, and collected seeds from ash, beech, sweet chestnut, and rowan which, along with a conker from the care home car park, will hopefully grow into a bonsai remembrance wood for my mum.
Through all this, my favourite support group, social media, has been there with sympathy, virtual hugs, love, and advice, and I can't thank everyone enough for all their support.
We've now reached a hiatus. All the immediate paperwork is sorted, but the funeral can't be held for several weeks. It's a strange, numb time, and, although I feel comparatively ok for now, I fear grief is waiting like a huge 'seventh wave' to rush back in.