It’s been more than seven and a half years since my mum passed away from pancreatic cancer. They say it gets easier as time goes on, whoever “they” are. I’m not sure how true that is. Certainly the pain of not having her in my life any more often comes to the forefront of my mind when I find myself wishing I had more people who could make time for me. I wonder if that would bother me as much if she was still around?
There aren’t a lot of obvious times when I’ll find myself more emotionally affected by the fact my mother is gone. The only time I expect it is the period between her birthday (March 4) and the anniversary of her death (May 3), quite likely because she was already sick on her 50th birthday before being diagnosed a couple of weeks later. During those months I have found myself trying to push away some of the people who meant most to me. I didn’t notice it the first year, probably because I got married smack in the middle of that period (April 8). I don’t remember if it affected me the other two years I was still living in Australia, but since moving to Malaysia, that’s definitely how it’s been, and it took me three years to realise it by analysing how I had developed that habit. It seems that my mind just wants to prevent me from feeling the pain of losing someone I love like that again… by trying to get rid of them itself. Recognising it’s a recurring thought process allows me to hopefully not be so nasty when they come up.
However, those thoughts can still occur at other times of the year, it’s just harder to know when they’ll come up. Different factors come into play. Listening to music that reminds me of her. Dreams. Feeling like I don’t have a very good support network (it’s not that I don’t, but sometimes there are periods where all of my friends are busy at the same time, and my husband is overseas for work). Doing things that remind me of her.
So now I’m thinking about my mum again, and missing her, for a couple of the above reasons. When I went to Thailand for my birthday last month, we went on a zipline tour with Flight of the Gibbon. Their tour had been originally set up by New Zealand professionals. The last adventure I had with my mother before she got sick was in New Zealand, less than three months before she passed away. One of the days included wearing a similar harness and helmet to what I wore in Thailand, and both of those days included abseiling. I thought about my mum a lot on that zipline tour, remembering when we were in New Zealand. My mum may have been nearly 50, but she was quite an adventurer, and I loved that she didn’t let her age stop her from doing things like that.
Left: My mum in New Zealand, preparing for caving, rock climbing and abseiling.
Right: Me abseiling down from the tree-tops in Chonburi, Thailand.
In New Zealand, along with my sister, we abseiled down into a cave, and walked a long way inside, stomach-deep in water in some places, before heading back and climbing up a rockface. It was hard to believe she could be doing things like that when about two weeks later, she was jaundiced and doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. They managed to put a stent in to clear up the jaundice, but it was still some time before she found a second opinion and got a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. No wonder she was so sick. Her entire digestive system had gone to shit with tumours. It’s still a wonder to me how it took so long for her body to show any symptoms.
So whilst I was in Thailand with my husband on that zipline tour, I imagined my mum there with me. I thought about how she would’ve been crazy enough to join me had she still been around, despite being 57 by now.
My husband had to leave Thailand before me, meaning I flew home on my own. There were various events in New Zealand, back in Thailand again, and Brazil, that kept him away from me for most of the following three weeks. I tried to reach out to some people so I had company, but apart from a few online friends here and there, it seemed like everyone was too busy for me. I felt so very alone. It didn’t occur to me until yesterday that it was partly related to mum not being here. I probably should’ve worked it out earlier given how I felt when one of the friends I wanted to talk to was busy visiting his sick mother in hospital. Then there’s the fact the mother of a lady I went to high school with also lost her mother to cancer during that period, and I felt so sad for her. Naturally it brought up more memories of having lost mine.
Mum was an amazing, inspiring woman. I miss her, and wish she was still around. Because I know she would’ve regularly come to visit us in Malaysia. She probably would have even joined us for Christmas here, because it would’ve been so much easier for her to afford to fly here than it is for us to fly a family of four to Australia. This will be our 3rd Christmas in Malaysia. Our 2nd & 3rd Christmases after moving out here were spent in the UK and Australia respectively, as that’s where Jeremy’s family was at those times. It’s really hard not being with extended family for Christmas, even if you do have other people to spend it with.