It’s been a rotten afternoon.

My mother has been ill for a while. She had suffered from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) for a decade. I did my best to care for her but was regarded as a nuisance, someone who was telling her what to do. Our relationship was fractious – but she was still my mother. She was a tough old boot, with a smart mouth and the final word. She was impossible, but she would also do anything for you. She was a conundrum wrapped in an enigma – I never truly understood her, maybe I was never meant to understand her. She was a force of nature, but over the years that force diminished and even though we all have a limited time on this planet, it’s hard when your mother dies.

The police arrived at 4.30pm this afternoon and I had to go with them to identify the body. She had been living with us recently, but in May had gone to live in sheltered accommodation due to her failing health and the children wearing her out. It didn’t seem fair to any of us – she wanted to go, but she didn’t. She told me, I might as well be dead now when she moved out. In a way, she got her wish.

But she was still my mother – you know.

She could be utterly wicked to me – and I’d return the favour. But then she could be caring and be the most valuable player on your team.

I used to think she would outlive me – such was her tenacity and the way she’d bounce back after health scare, after health scare. Sometimes, she appeared as fit as a fiddle and I thought the doctors had made a mistake. Some days she could barely walk to the end of the road. Such is the nature of COPD.

So for the third time in my life I identified a dead body – and I knew what to expect. The meal from the previous evening had been in the oven, cooking overnight and it was a miracle the house hadn’t burnt down. But then, Mum never wanted to be cremated. She was on the sofa, seemingly asleep – her dog by her side. There was no pain, or anguish or sign of distress on her features. It looked as if she’d prepared her meal and simply fell asleep. Again, COPD does that to you. Once minute you can be doing something and the next you can be asleep on your feet.

So now we have another dog to care for and I’ve had Verity doing her best to cheer me up.

I’ve emailed my dad, but I don’t know if I’ve done the right thing in doing that. What kind of son would I be if I didn’t email him? Sometimes I just don’t know what to do for the best. Maybe I shouldn’t even be writing this…

I keep crying and I feel sick to my stomach. Yet I knew this day would come. It comes to all of us. The living grieve for the living, not the dead. We grieve for ourselves and the broken relationship that can never be repaired.

I know we had our differences and you thought I was a complete arsehole, but I will always love you, Mum.

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