My mum had been a little bit unwell for a few days recently. But to my surprise, a few hours before we were due to board the plane to Corsica and the GR 20, I got a phone call from my dad telling me that she had died, very suddenly indeed.
The doctor was equally surprised, since she only arrived a few minutes after my dad had found my mum lying peacefully in the hall.
It was very hard for my dad to find her that way, but we all know that it was the way she much preferred to go. She absolutely hated hospitals and doctors and the idea of ending her days in a hospital bed filled her with horror.
Everyone thinks they have a great mum I’m sure. My brother and I are no different. But the fact is, she was a great mum.
She was endlessly kind and self sacrificing. Despite being very grumpy about anything in the world that wasn’t done the way she thought it should be, she let us do exactly as we liked, whenever we liked. Never judging us harshly, no matter what daftness we got up to. For that, I have often been very grateful. There is no substitute whatsoever for being allowed to make your own mistakes, and your own successes.
And she always cooked proper, nourishing, traditional British food. Every day no matter how she felt.
I remember when her mum died, she still couldn’t be persuaded from putting a good plate of food on the table. I know now not only how hard that is to do every day without fail, but just how important it is for health and happiness to eat real food, not some rubbish from a packet.
And it wasn’t just us. She was always feeding some animal or other whether it was the succession of pets we had over the years or the birds and other wild-life wandering about in the garden. It’ll be a leaner time for many a creature around the Wood house, though dad is already planning to carry on where she left off.
And with my dad having a back injury and having great difficulty balancing, she took on more things even as she found it more difficult to get about herself. It wasn’t that dad asked her, she just did things, and couldn’t be dissuaded from doing them, even when unwell. He has a lot of adjustments to make and things to learn in the time ahead but he’s already working out plans to cope with daily things that mum used to do for him. It’s very impressive to see.
In the mean time, the Big Walk crew are making their way across Corsica on the GR 20 without us. After a great deal of agonising we’ve decided to go anyway (two weeks later than planned), and might even catch up with one of them to bag the highest peak on the island.
For now, we have the usual melee of things to work through and work out in the days and weeks ahead. Things that must be done when anyone leaves us like this. But once that is over, there will always be an awful gap in our lives where once we had mum.
(Those that knew her probably know that Mum hated money being spent on flowers at funerals and always preferred to make a charitable donation instead).