Anniversaries are hard. They build in the back of your mind in a way that makes the world feel different. More delicately balanced, as though you could touch it with a pin and it would erupt into memories: flashbacks of early-morning coffees; familiar drives; fantastic conversation. Life becomes a blur of the old and the new – and underneath it all is a thumping dread as you are once again reminded of mortality. Of endings.
Last year, on the anniversary of my Mum passing away, my friend Olly and I decided to take a trip to her grave. This was a first for me – I had been nervous to cement the finality of her passing. A year later, with a good friend, felt like the right time to go. It was hard seeing the grave – and honestly, a bit of a gut-punch. Feeling sad, we made a decision to pop to the local garden centre, where we bought loads of flowers and a hand trowel.
Together we knelt on the muddy ground, giggling as though we were being cheeky, and covered Mum’s grave in merry looking flowers. We were pretty sure she would approve. I left feeling lighter – and after lunch and good conversation – I felt like the day had taken me another step towards healing.
Leading up to Mum’s anniversary – I was very nervous. I felt as though I had to do something dramatic to pointedly remind people how amazing Mum was. My brain scattered back and forth: give to charity? Create a new piece of writing? Set up a scholarship in her name? I pressured myself into coming up with ideas – I was worried that whatever I did, it wouldn’t be enough; wouldn’t communicate how I felt about her. I spoke to a friend who calmed me down and told me that enjoying a memory, cooking a meal, having a coffee – was enough.
It was really good advice – and something I’ve taken into account. There’s a pressure to be doing, and expressing, and extraverted when you’re marking an occasion. I feel a responsibility towards others who are mourning Mum and I want them to know she is missed.
This year, I’ve looked in. Mum is a presence I carry in my heart: an evening looking over old photos; sharing memories; a smile; a lit candle. I have learnt that marking an occasion is not necessarily about doing – but about being. It’s taking the time to prepare a moment – today I plan to go for a walk – and using that time to think back on the person you have lost. There is healing in the content and quiet of stopping to reflect on memories you have shared.
Today I’ll be thinking about my Mum. How she was witty and sharp, kind and considerate – a beautiful person inside and out. She made a difference to people and we spent many lunch times searching for get-well-soon cards and gifts that would brighten people’s day. She used to leave a croissant on my desk before work from time to time. Mum was a selfless giver. She had time for every single person – took them for coffees, always picked up the phone and gave transformative advice that really made a difference. She was incredibly funny, and I like to think she’s now best friends with Victoria Wood. She was also an extraordinary writer – her copywriting was so on point that I get the same satisfaction reading it as I do picking up Olgivy on Advertising. She was the best Mum – fun, silly, not the best cook; sacrificing; loving. I don’t think I’ll ever see that much love again.
Perhaps next year will be different. I might learn a way to mark Mum’s anniversary that I really like; where I can make a difference to people in the way she used to. I imagine it will become quieter, and begin to form new and lovely memories of its own. I hope it will be an opportunity to be kind: offer advice, go the extra mile, show some love. Most importantly, it will continue to be about finding peace, and reflecting on my Mum and the time we shared together.