Thursday, 27 March 2008


Five years ago today, my sister rang me. I had just got home from work, was still in my work uniform. I remember sitting on the pine bench in our grungy kitchen, chatting to her. She rang to tell me that my Mum had been taken to the hospital. At the time my Mum had been with a friend, so we all had to be phoned and then make our way to the hospital, an hour's drive away.

I had to call my cousin to drive me there. I remember it being a strange sort of journey, one of not quite knowing what would be at the end - but also not thinking of what would be at the end, and of having no experience of what could be at the end.

I'm not sure I have written about this before, possibly I have. But really, right now - I need to say it all again.

As soon as I walked into the hospital emergency room, and they called my Dad to tell him I was there, I knew what it was. The rest of my family weren't there yet, just my Dad, and then me. I will never forget the weight with which he fell onto me; the hug he gave me. How could I not know, from that feeling of utter astonishment and anguish and fear and pain and terrible terrible shock that I felt dripping off my Dad.

How could I not know, in that moment, that my Mum was dead. But, I went in, and talked to her and told her she wasn't dead. That once, when I was a baby doctors had told her I would die (of pneumonia), and that this was the same. Yet, I knew. I tried to sit and read to her - a book she had lent me and I was returning, not having had time to read it; The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

In that little curtained room, where my Mother lay. With a machine breathing for her. With the quiet noise of other peoples' dramas happening behind and around.

No-one else turned up for a long time. My Dad had told my cousin to go and get my Grandma. My sisters and brother were collecting baby carseats and driving together, not knowing what lay ahead of them.

After some time, of me sitting and Dad sort of floating, the nurses took us into another little room. Some sort of quiet room, with chairs and carpet. I guess a place to take family to be alone, in these moments. We were offered cups of tea. I rang Sam, who was at home, and had no way of getting to me. I lay on the floor, not sure what to do with my thoughts or my body.

The hospital staff were preparing my Mother's body, and taking her upstairs where we could have some privacy from the emergency rooms.

In another room the family gathered. None of them knew what or why they were there. The staff hadn't told them anything, only taken them all together. Sitting, talking, waiting. Such realities never actually go into your head at the moment of unknowing.

I remember walking in, and saying she's gone. Dad said something, I'm not sure what, but I guess to tell them quietly, not so suddenly, abruptly.
Memories of parts of that night float through my head at odd times during my days. Of us being told that we would have to turn off a machine at some stage, but for now we could have some time. Of all of us taking moments on our own, to be with the woman who was everything to us, for us, of us.

Ashra was there too, only a little creature of 10mths. At the time of us finally switching that switch, he called out. A loud and certain sound, sad in it's knowledge. My Mum was like a second Mum to him, more than a Grandmother.

During the past five years, I feel like I have lived many lifetimes over and over. I have grieved my Mother throughout everything, sometimes more desperately intense, other times simply a thudding ache.

I have given birth to two children who will never meet her. I have grown in myself, and become a Mother, a person who my own Mother will never meet.

Yet, inside of me I carry the knowledge that I am of her, and she is of me. And in that way she will always know me, and my children.

And my Mother, the woman who gave me so much, gave me peace with death. I think sometimes over these past years I have thought maybe I wasn't grieving enough, intense enough, crazily enough. That I have actually coped through, and survived my Mother's death. Sometimes I feel that I have too easily gotten on with my life. Yet, when I saw my Mum, in that hospital, lying on that bed, I saw a peace. Deep, utter, free peace. No fear with death, of death.

Tomorrow we will go down to my Dad's house. We will have a lovely, simple, quiet - yet noisy - time with my family. Those people who mean life to me. My father, my two sisters, my brother, and our children. We will try to talk to them about who she was, this woman they will never know as we have known her. But, we won't be able to capture who she was.

I have stopped wanting to ring her, having that forget:remember thing that happens at the early stages of loss. Sometimes, still - though rarely - I do have a thought or do something, and I think oh, I'll just ring Mum and tell her about that. Not so often anymore. I guess the mind gets used to things quickly. Humans are adaptable, renewable. Some days I don't think about her, but that's okay. Some days I think about her too much, that's okay too.


  1. Oh, Ellie. My heart is going out to you today.

  2. Tears are just dripping down my face.

    No words.

    That photo though, of your mom? She looks like a beautiful soul.

  3. Anonymous6:04 am

    Words cannot express the feelings I have after reading that post. Thank you for sharing a piece of your soul with us.

    Beautiful picture of you Mom.

    Have a lovely trip, I'll be thinking of you.

  4. Thanks for sharing the story and photos. Everytime you mention your mother, it sounds like a very special person who I would have loved to get to know.

    Have a lovely family gathering and hope to see you soon.

  5. What to say? Thank you for sharing, she sounds like a special person and it sounds like she helped make you special too.

  6. Beautifully written Ellie - sad - but so beautiful. You look so much like your Mum.

    How's the knitting going? I'm addicted.


  7. hi ellie. i just found you via cloth.paper.string.

    march 28 was nine years since my dad passed away. and though the circumstances of his death sound very different from your mom's passing, the remembrances of losing a parent are so familiar in your words. sigh. what else is there to say? except that my heart goes out to you. and we had cake to remember my dad, too.

  8. this is such a beautiful post...i hope it bought you comfort to write, thanks for sharing...

  9. Chloe8:25 pm

    hi ell pell, just got your email, and clicked onto your blog, didn't even know it existed! and then scrolling through seeing the photos stopped on these words. i remember many things from that day some overlapping with yours and sitting here crying.

    miss you. and our lives interconnecting more. as so many of my memories growing up involve playing at your house or with you guys at the local river bed or at the beach or shelly's chai on the stove at u.c.c. anyway...wanted to say hello and send my love to you

    love chlo

  10. Anonymous11:37 pm

    A truly beautiful post....

  11. oh how i wish i could pop over and bring you a basket filled with warm bread and quince jelly right now.


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