My sister sent me a photo of her hiking up a mountain today and she reminded me of my mum with her big wide smile and energy.
My mum died on the 25th November 18 years ago and I cannot imagine how I would have coped without my sister from that day on.....
I adore my sister, she is very like my mother; down to earth, true to herself, funny, smart, kind and although she is younger than I am, she really looks out for me. She gets very mad at me when I say anything negative about myself coz she thinks I am fabulous, she 100% believes in me and would do anything for me. I know that is how mums are with their own daughters, so I realise how lucky I am to be able to admit that my sister would think those things about me too!
Naturally, the first strong bond I had in life was with my mum. The love I feel for her today is still as as strong as ever, it never fades. This is the thing about losing someone you love, they are no longer here physically but their spirit never dies. Every time I hike a mountain or cook a nice meal, I think of her because she loved food and the outdoors.
My mum was an incredibly resilient woman. Both her parents died of cancer when she was only 19 yrs old. She then battled the same sickness over 10 years. She was also diagnosed with a degenerative disease in her eyes called 'macular degeneration'. There was an overwhelming sadness with the news of her eyesight diminishing, it was like everything that she loved to do was taken away from her overnight including her independence. It was a devastating time for her.
My mum had lived a very full active life. When we grew up, she went back to college and got a degree in History of Art and Archaeology. I was so proud of her. She also studied French and went off one summer to live with a French family in Villefranche.
She loved the outdoors, even when it was raining and regularly went on hikes, bike rides or spent time gardening for hours. The garden in our house was beautiful because my mum made sure it was always at its best. She knew the names of every plant, tree and flower and got excited when she saw her planted seeds grow and the flowers in full bloom. We would always eat on that garden patio anytime there was a glimmer of sunshine.
Her favourite place to be was on top of a mountain, she always said that she felt at her most happiest when she was on a hilltop. She walked the 12 pins in Connemara, the 3 Rock mountain almost every day, went on hiking trips abroad and cycled for miles on the days she did not hike up a hill.
My mum also knew how to cook delicious food, especially veggie dishes way before vegetarian food became popular and trendy. She listened to classical music and played it loud in the kitchen while she was cooking. There was always a wonderful smell of food in our house, particularly home made brown bread which she baked almost every week and the smell of any kind of bread baking in an oven is SO good. When she died, the warm vibes and loveliness of that home disappeared. I am convinced that it is the mother who makes the home a special place, and I believe that most men would agree with me on that one.
Anyone who ever came to visit or stay with us was always made feel very welcome by my mum. She would never forget a name or details of a conversation, in other words, she was a great listener. She was sociable and loved people but she was just as content to spend time on her own. She constantly read books. I remember her vividly on a damp wet cold Sunday like today reading a book by the fire before dinner. It is a very nice memory because she is always happy in it.
I listened to her views on spirituality, her bible book on the subject was called 'Awareness' by Anthony DeMello. It had a very simple message 'be present and live in the moment' she gave me this book to read and I still keep the same copy beside my bed and regularly pick it up for a reminder nudge to be in the 'now'. My spiritual beliefs today are similar to those of my mum.
My mum would not put up with bad moods. She did not tolerate moody or grumpy, she was always encouraging us to get out there, take a chance and live life to the full. I never felt pressure from her to be anything else but myself. She was not gushy or mushy but when she said something encouraging and nice, she meant it and you would remember it.
So the photo my sister sent me today was one of her on a mountain. It made me think of my mum. It was my mother who instilled a love of the outdoors, cooking and curiosity of life in all of us. Even when she was ill, she would be positive. Her courage and strength were remarkable, she never complained or uttered an ounce of self pity with what she went through.
Since my mum died, it is true to say that I always feel best when I am on top of a mountain, listening to music, reading a good book or cooking a delicious meal....she taught me the importance of finding enjoyable things to do without needing anyone else around. It is the simple things we do in this life that eventually become the best bits and the greatest memories.
When my mum died, a friend wrote me a card and said 'mums are very special people', she could not have said it better and I will also say the same about a sister.