On grief, good and bad

On Boxing Day it will be five months since Mum died.

Never have I felt so exposed to emotional turbulence as in the time since. A sublime passage of music can reduce me to a bubbling heap, while sustained laughter leaves my body feeling as though it were flooded with opiates.

The first few weeks were spent wading through a mire of unquellable emotions, adjustment and reflection, barely an hour passing without having to check myself, swallow hard and soldier on. It must have been the same for my sisters and brother. I say must have, for it’s impossible to stay abreast of the nuances of each other’s sorrow. Grief evolves with neither pattern nor pity. We must each solve our own conundrum: how to fill an unfillable gap.

It was a summer to remember for positive reasons – a rare heatwave, Andy Murray winning Wimbledon – and their opposite: Mum’s certain and irreversible sinking into the maw of death, her voice, her functions and finally her fire extinguished.

Five months. One day it will be a year, and then two; and there will come a time when Ann Gray Guthrie has been in the loving hands of her God for a decade. Ten years gone. How many times will I have wept to My Sweet Lord by then? How often will I have shuddered at the void she has left come 2023? Material reminders – her binoculars, a set of coffee cups – are scant comfort.

At the time of Mum’s passing, Karen, my elder sister by 15 months (my parents’ generation didn’t shilly-shally), had made the skeleton and muscle of a documentary charting how Mum and the family dealt with her stroke (or strokes – so much about this ruinous condition is still unknown), and what it meant for her relationship with our father, her now ex-husband, Ian.

A working artist and doughty self-starter, Karen has scrabbled funding from various sources (not to mention pointed the camera, held the boom mic and done most else besides) and is within touching distance of putting the skin on the muscle.

By hook or by crook, the film will be completed, and perhaps the issues it highlights – how we care for the elderly, how best to live after being visited by the tactless brutality of stroke – will receive a fillip. The Closer We Get, it’s called. Google it, or if you’re on Twitter you can follow @thecloserweget. Don’t let the fact I’m in it put you off.

On a personal level, I look forward to having a permanent reminder of just how hardy my mother was. Knowing I share her genes will make growing old a little less frightening.

Watch the trailer for The Closer We Get below.

Reproduced with permission of Herald & Times Group.

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