The last Christmas that my Mum was around for (in 2017) was a very difficult day.
Christmas had always been something we cherished together. We had always loved doing Christmas shopping, wrapping presents, trying new festive foods, going to Christmas markets, making dinner, watching films together, driving around just to see Christmas lights, and visiting family around Christmas. It was like it was our thing.
We always spoiled and surprised each other, we were best friends and really got each other.
There was one Christmas (I’ll always remember this), where 13 Going on 30 had just been released on DVD. It was a film that we both wanted to see but we just missed out on it at the cinema, so she bought the DVD for me for Christmas. My brother was upstairs playing whatever PlayStation game he’d been given that year, and Mum and I were downstairs tidying up and didn’t have anything to do when we’d finished.
Our Christmas tree was placed so that it was in the middle of the wall beside the television and in front of the sofas. Mum and I put the DVD on and watched it together, in our pyjamas, eating crap, sitting on the floor against the sofa under a blanket with the Christmas tree lit and the big light turned off, as if it were our own little sleepover. We laughed and chatted, and she plaited my hair. It was perfect.
The last Christmas we had with her was so far from 13 Going on 30 that I struggle to believe these two situations happened with the same person.
She was always so excited to wake up and open presents, one year she couldn’t wait any longer and woke me up at 7am because she’d been awake since 5am! In 2017, I had to wake her up and bring the presents into her bedroom because she didn’t have the strength to come downstairs.
She always loved a fry up for breakfast and would have everything going. In 2017, she had a special nutrition milkshake for breakfast and brought half of it back up, needing to change her pyjamas.
One year, Mum went shopping at 5am on Christmas Eve because “we didn’t have enough pigs in blankets and Sainsbury’s was opening extra early!” She got back at 7:15am, when I was getting ready for work. I’d been tip toeing around that morning to be extra quiet as I thought she was still in bed, and when she threw herself into the house with 5 shopping bags she scared the life out of me (which she found hilarious). Christmas Eve 2017, I’d been at work all day and got home to my Mum sleeping in exactly the same position she’d been in when I left that morning.
Every year since I’ve been able to, I’ve gone to the pub with my friends on Christmas Eve and my darling Mummy would come to pick me up to make sure I got home safe (often past midnight so we’d always wish each other Merry Christmas when I got in the car.) In 2017, I was too mentally and emotionally worn out to even think about going anywhere. I sat alone in my bedroom.
Every year, she would ask what I’d be wearing on Christmas Day and would get excited to wear a party dress just to sit at the dinner table. In 2017, she had sent me out a few weeks prior to get her a dress because she’d lost so much weight that nothing she owned fit her anymore. Mum’s body had started to very slowly shut down, and because of this she was too tired to get changed again after being sick, so she stayed in her pyjamas all day. Her 2017 Christmas dress never got worn. It stayed hung up on her wardrobe door, forlorn and empty.
Mum had always loved sneaking a roast potato before dinner, and she would have 100 on her plate if she could. In 2017 she managed to eat two.
We usually had people round – my Nan, my brother and his girlfriend sometimes, my Mum’s best friend and her family, so some years there could be ten people in the house for Christmas Day. In 2017 there was three people because Mum was too tired, too weak, and vulnerable to infection.
Mum always watched Christmas specials – Emerdale/Eastenders/Corrie, the Queens’ speech, her favourite festive films that were on, a comedy special. In 2017 she took herself to bed at 4:00pm, so promptly I did the same. I was too sad to be around this and watch her not enjoy herself. I cried all afternoon in bed by myself, I cried myself to sleep.
I wish I would have told her that I was sad that day, and that I didn’t want to see another Christmas without her, but I didn’t know how to. I wish that our last Christmas together hadn’t been so heart-breaking and difficult. I wish I’d have asked how she was feeling and spent more time talking to her about our feelings.
I’m so thankful that Mum always tried to make Christmas so magical and enjoyable for me. Her infectious enthusiasm for giving and seeing other people happy will echo throughout every important occasion in life.