Like home

When you look into your mother’s eyes, you know that is the purest love you can find on this earth. – Mitch Albom, For one more day

This week Mum would have turned 63. I think of her often now I am trying to raise a daughter of my own, but am particularly reflective this week and can’t help but think that others would be too.

There are her work colleagues, who constantly talk about her serenity. Her grace. Her quiet wisdom. They mimic her mannerisms and chuckle at the way she would just smile and say ‘hmm,mm’ whenever confronted with a, shall we say ‘different’ situation. They fondly remember the tools and processes and systems she put in place and worked so hard to institutionalise in their place of work and how they couldn’t imagine things being unlike that anymore. They proudly introduce myself and my sister to some of mum’s old students as Mrs Day’s daughters, as if we should be on pedestals. Because that’s where they put our Mum.

Then there are her students. When mum was still alive, she would avoid restaurants and eateries her students and their parents frequented. We only forced her to do it once. It was a nightmare. None of us were able to eat our food, there was a constant stream of students and parents (current and past!), coming over to see Mrs Day, just to shoot the breeze… to brag about what they’re up to now, to remind her who they were (she never needed reminding, she knew and remembered every single one of her kids) and to remind her just how important she was to them. They say a teacher touches a life forever- they’d be right. All these kids who she helped shape, who she encouraged, who she cared for, they will never forget her, just as we will never forget her.

There are her friends. The ones she drank coffee with – white, no sugar, I’m sweet enough, thank you. The ones she and dad did their road trips with – Wyndham, Kununurra, Esperance, Albany, Coober Pedy, Uluru… and everywhere in between. The ones she polished off bottles of wine with, went shopping with, saw shows with, daggy danced to Abba with. There are those she just sat with. The ones she counselled. The ones she laughed with – that booming, I-don’t-give-a-fuck laugh that could be heard miles away. That laugh that would have you looking for whatever it was she was laughing at so you could share the joy, if only just for a moment. And of course, the ones she cried with. When I happen to run into them now, they hug me as if I were one of their own, they are eager to share news and updates on how I’ve been. They are eager to hold onto the memories and they are eager to remember.

There are our friends. The people we grew up with who also have an almost lifetime of memories of our Mum. They’d come to our home and be as comfortable as if they were with their own family. They always knew if Leonie was picking them up, they’d be late, but they’d get there. They always knew they could rely on Kristi’s/Lisa’s/Melanie’s/Jeremy’s Mum to be there if they needed anything. They always knew they were welcome. They always knew they could talk to her about anything. They always knew she would never waiver, never falter. That she was strict, but fair. And as they grew into adults, they became her friends… not just because of us kids, but because they wanted to. They’ll let a ‘remember when your mum…’ slip and look at us to see if they’ve said something wrong, to get the green light to continue, and be relieved when they can share the memory, the story, the laughs, the tears.

There’s her brothers, her sisters in law, her nieces and nephews, who all have their own special stories of their sister, aunt, friend. Of the way she was a part of their every day. Of how they watched her grow, and how she watched them grow. Of how they wanted to be just like her. Of how they could never imagine their lives without her. Of how she taught them. Of how she loved them. Of how they loved her, regardless of the time or distance between them.

There’s her grandchildren – the little girl who wasn’t even two when her granny passed away, but who points to her photo and says, ‘That’s my grandma.’ The little girl who was in my tummy when mum passed away who points at her and says, ‘There she is’ when I ask where her grandma is amongst all the photos in our house. The little girls who will never know her, but will always have a part of her in their hearts. The little girls who will grow up hearing just how wonderful she was, soaking up all the stories everyone around them will delight in sharing.

And of course, there’s us. Her kids. The ones who have no words sometimes, but so many words at other times. The ones who want to talk about her and never stop. The ones who could think of no better person to call their mum. The ones who are still a teensy, weensy (OK, a hell of a lot) bitter that it was their Mum taken too soon. The ones whose stories are so many and so detailed that they sometimes worry they are forgetting things. The ones who will stop everything they are doing because something, somewhere has just reminded them of their Mum. The ones who have nothing but memories to carry in their hearts. The ones whose memories can’t be explained, really, because they are like sunshine bouncing off the ocean. They are like ice-cream dripping down your arm on a hot summer’s day. They are like laughter. They are like good wine.

They are like home.

10 things for Kalee to know

  1. imageI am sorry. I am sorry for all the times I didn’t know what I was doing. The times I literally fumbled my way through the ups and downs of being a Mum. I am sorry for anything I ever did that upset you or let you down. What I need you to understand, is that everything I did, every decision I made and every time I said ‘No’ – I did it all because I thought it was what was best for you.
  2. Take the time to enjoy the quiet. It is not a bad thing to want to be alone. Before too long the time will come when you will yearn for quiet Saturday nights on the couch. Enjoy the moments of being lost in a daydream, or a good book. Or the quiet that comes when it’s just you and your thoughts. Those times are precious.
  3. The people in your life will hurt you. You will get your heart broken. Your best friend will hurt you. You will be disappointed in the decisions others make. It is a fact of life that people come and go, whether for a reason, a season or lifetime, you will not know until after the fact. You will have no control over this, so don’t try to wrestle it into your corner. You will also learn from those broken hearts and you will be better for them. Sailing through life without any heartache, while a nice thought, is not a reality you will experience. And it is from these difficult experiences you will understand just how strong you really are.
  4. I wish you could see yourself through the eyes of those who love you. If you could, you’d know just how wonderful you are. You’d know that you don’t need anyone else to ‘complete you’. You are better than Snow White. Do not sit around waiting for Prince Charming to ride in on his horse, sweep you off your feet and make you his housewife. You have independence, you have abilities and the capability to be the master of your own ‘happily ever after’. Don’t leave that up to anyone else.
  5. No matter what you say or do to me, I will love you with every inch of my being. Before I know it, you’ll be slamming doors in my face and unleashing all your teenage angst and hormones in my direction. Probably before this stage, you would have worked out I am not really that smart, or cool. One thing you can always count on, despite all the ‘I hate yous’ I expect to be thrown my way, I will always, always be here for you. You are a part of me and when you smile, my heart sings. When you are sad, my heart aches. I will always be ready to listen, to laugh, to just sit with you and enjoy the time we have together.
  6. Make mistakes so you can learn from them. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be perfect all the time – making mistakes is how you make things better, and how you make things distinctly yours.  It doesn’t matter what you do, who you are with or where you are, I will always worry about you. You could just be out the front of the house and I’d be worried. All this worry doesn’t mean I am going to hover over you or not let you fall and graze your knee. You need to know that all the times I seemed like I was turning the other way, I was just giving you the space to get a few bruises, so that when I’m not around anymore you’re capable of dealing with these on your own.
  7. Respect yourself. You deserve that much.
  8. Memories last a lifetime, so make them. Do stuff! Try new things, not because you want to look cool, but because they make your soul sing.
  9. The sun will always rise on a new day. John Lennon said once, “Everything will be OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end”… You will face a lot of things that will seem like the worst thing ever, but eventually you will look back on all these times and what you have learned from them and smile. Things never seem so bad in hindsight. So try not to darken your heart with thoughts that things are too hard…
  10. There will never be enough time to learn everything you should know, but it is never too late to be who you want to be. Don’t settle. Make your life extraordinary.

What’s in a name?

“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I’ve never been able to believe it. I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.” — Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery 

I silently berate my parents every time I have to spell my name for someone, or shake my head ‘nothing’ at the question, ‘What’s that short for?’ I’m usually more content to leave the misspellings (Kristy, Christie, Christy, Krystie, Kristee) and mispronunciations (Kirsty, Kristen, Kristine) as they are, rather than make any kind of deal about it and correcting them. Clearly with a name like Kristi, the chances of my name being spelled correctly first time are zero to none.

I’m also the most picky person you’ll ever meet when it comes to spelling and grammar.

These two things combined meant that choosing a name for my daughter was something I agonised over for months.

We finally agreed on Kalee.

Kalee, I’m sorry. You will spend the rest of your days spelling and pronouncing your name for people. But here are the reasons why we ended up with it.

  • Not Kaylee – I didn’t want people to abbreviate her name to Kay.
  • Not Kaelie – this is how I really wanted it spelled. Her dad’s response to this one: ‘It’s our daughter’s name, not a spelling contest’.
  • Not Kaley – because if I couldn’t have Kaelie, I wasn’t budging on the double e, for no other reason than I think it’s pretty. It’s the one argument I won with Kalee’s dad when we decided on the spelling, and while we’re on the topic, I think just because I like it is as good a reason as any.

This got me thinking.

I wonder if people who call their kids such gems as D-r (pron: Dasher) are deliberately being obtuse or if they just think having four daughters with the names Molly, Polly, Dolly and Lollie is pretty or cute? Perhaps I am too harsh a judge.

I will be horrified if I hear that someone has been judging Kalee’s name, is that how Shaznalina’s parents feel too, when people snigger behind their backs?

Surely not… surely calling your kid Abcd (pron: Abeecity) is more than just giving your child a name you think is pretty. There’s something to be said about making an example of your child simply because you have attention-seeking issues. Just ask my friend who works at Centrelink and sees all manner of names and awkward spellings.

At the end of the day, when you first meet someone, your name represents who you are. Imagine trying to employ a chemical engineer and seeing the name Fairy Elektra on the top of a resume. Imagine taking a booking at a restaurant under the name of Princess Leia. Imagine hearing your teacher call out the names of twin brothers Furkin and Gurkin during roll call in class.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for unique and beautiful names. The biggest focus for Kalee’s dad and I was to choose a name that wouldn’t hit the Top 100 ‘most popular’ list for the year she was born, but we were also cognisant of the fact that we needed to be fair to her. I think more parents could benefit from using the ‘resume litmus test’ to ensure the moniker they give their son or daughter will fair them well over the course of time.

Save the non-resume-appropriate names for your next goldfish.

LUPIN: And this is Nymphadora
TONKS: Don’t call me Nymphadora, Remus. It’s Tonks.
LUPIN: Nymphadora Tonks, who prefers to be known by her surname only.
TONKS: So would you if your fool of a mother had called you ‘Nymphadora. — Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling

This makes me a bit shirty

We are lucky to live in a society where the objectification of women is not only frowned upon, but quite simply considered unacceptable. So, if we are absolutely-not-going-to-enter-into-discussion-about-the objectification of women, why on earth is it okay for women to objectify men?

I recently attended a ‘Ladies Night’ fundraiser, where about halfway through the night, a young girl wandered around the tables, asking if people wanted to donate money so the male entertainer would take his shirt off. I said no, and was promptly scoffed at. But, seriously, no, I had no interest in seeing him take his shirt off and I’m sure he probably didn’t want to be squealed at by hundreds of drunk women who were at least ten to fifteen years older than him… at least. But, money was raised and the shirt came off, and yes, there was screaming.

The only saving grace with that example was that it was a private function and the audience was limited… Not the case with last weekend’s Telethon. When is Channel 7 going to realise it is tacky, not funny, to dare guys to take their shirts off on national television? It’s not just the act of the shirt coming off, it’s the way they go about it, and it’s the audience that bothers me. Men and women alike on the panel, senior news presenters who quite frankly should know better, encouraging the audience of mainly teenage girls and their parents to scream and holler for the men to get their kit off. Why are we encouraging such behaviour, especially on a show that is intended to raise money for the kids, and therefore has a lot of kids watching? What values are we instilling in these children? It all seems so backward to me and it certainly doesn’t add anything to the telecast of what is otherwise a fantastic display of a community coming together as one.

The whole mindset and ensuing activity is so hypocritical, and I think this is what is frustrating me the most. Women have fought for equality for decades, why are we now encouraging the exact behaviours we have been trying so hard to eradicate? The behaviours we (rightly) consider to be belittling to females… why are we seeing more and more that whatever is good for the goose is not so for the gander? More often than not when out for a few drinks, you’ll see a woman grab the backside of the male waiter assigned to her table. It’s more commonplace for women to ogle the guys walking past them at the bar. It’s more of a regular occurrence to hear crude remarks coming from the squawky voice of a chardonnayed woman, than that of a man. If a man did any of these things, they’d likely be ejected from the premise and there would be an all mighty uproar at his disgusting and demeaning behaviour. But when it’s a woman inflicting the degrading acts, it’s considered funny.

Objectifying others is not something that is cool, it is not something we should be encouraging our children to do – and we all know they see more than we think they do. So it got me thinking, what example are we showing them? Is it okay to behave this way, and to be treated this way in return? We always teach children that they should treat others the way they would want to be treated. Or am I making assumptions about what adults teach their own children? Personally I think we are opening a massive Pandora’s Box by going down this path… Just ask all the women in the generations before us what it was like for them growing up. Let’s not be the reason this all happens again.

Bogan lady

SCOUT: “Atticus, he was real nice.”
ATTICUS: “Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.” — To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

I was at the shopping centre recently, picking up something for dinner when a boy pointed at me and asked his mum, “Is she a bogan?”

I wasn’t sure whether to be horrified or not at the idea that some 10 year old was calling me a bogan.

Then I had a long, hard think about it. Well, really it was a quick think, it didn’t take long to deduce that perhaps the kid was onto something…

I have tattoos. One the length of my forearm, which is what prompted the question from the boy. I have piercings, I wear tracky dacks to the shops, I live in thongs in summer and Ugg boots in winter, I am an unmarried mother, I drink, I swear, I’m loud and I love to rock out to music. All that is missing from the stereotype is the packet of Winnie Blues shoved up the sleeve of my flanno.

But the truth of the matter is I’ve always thought of myself as more geek than bogan. Because as well as all the above, I’m also incredibly shy, I like to read, I like butterflies, I always tuck my blouse into my slacks at work, I’m more sensible ponytail than mullet, and I think specs are the best accessory a girl can have!

Somewhere along the line, the polarities of the spectrum have become very blurred and on reflection the beginning of this sentence reinforces my geek-not-bogan claim.

My schizophrenic personality is demonstrated by the fact that I am too busy (and don’t care enough) to think about getting myself ‘public-ready’. Yet, once I’m out, dressed in nothing more than tracksuit pants, thongs and a t-shirt, I shudder at the obvious comparison I draw between myself and a barefoot Britney Spears wandering through the service station!

It’s a legacy of my entire twenties. A decade of wasted time and energy caring about what others thought of me. Thank goodness 30 came along when it did, bringing with it a sense of comfort, and even contentment, about who I am.

I’m interested in the connotations of the stereotypical bogan these days. I think I fit the stereotype, don’t get me wrong, but is it the negative stereotype it used to be? Do we conjure up images of Cronulla riots when we think of bogans? Or do we think of the larrikins satirised so often in Australian comedy? Or even Shane Warne pre-Liz Hurley?

Times they are a changin’…

Tattoos are commonplace, marriage isn’t the only gateway to your ‘happily ever after’, women are more likely to have careers now instead of waiting for Prince Charming to come along to ‘complete’ their lives. I dread the day my daughter looks up at me and tells me she wants to be a princess when she grows up…more on that point another time.

Does it matter that some boy called me a bogan? No. Not anymore. Once upon a time it would have – but that’s more about me than anyone else. So, it seems for me that while I have spent 30 odd years trying to stifle my inner bogan, my focus for the next 30 odd years is to embrace who I truly am. This should be fun!

“The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated.” –  Pygmalion (My Fair Lady), George Bernard Shaw 

Miss Melanie Tamsyn

“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.” ― A.A. Milne

Anyone who knows me knows that this is not the usual garb for me to be getting around in. Anyone who had the privilege of knowing my sister Melanie Tamsyn would know this is right up her alley. And so on this day, her birthday, I am channeling my baby sister and remembering her with fond memories.20141008_Day8_Instaframe

Melly was always the happiest of people. Her cheeks were the rosiest, her giggle the most infectious. At her funeral, my eulogy for her was all about colour, because that is what she was. Bright, beautiful colour. No greys or pale pastels – just smack-you-in-the-face colour, usually mismatched and with some animal print thrown in for good measure!

Mel never cared what people thought of her, she would zoom around in her little car with music blaring, singing at the top of her lungs with all the windows down. She’d encourage dad to do stupid things, which would embarrass me, but which she loved so much. Her crazy hair was indicative of her crazy nature – the first to line up for the biggest rides, the first to put her hand up to try something different, the first to laugh out loud at things that tickled her fancy.

But Melly also had a considered side to her personality. She was wise beyond her years and I wish I had taken the time to learn more from her, to hear her opinions and listen to her advice.

Mel never really spoke of being scared or being worried about her cancer. After she had died we found journals of hers, where she wrote of her worry for Mum and Dad when Mum was diagnosed. But there was nothing in there about her own illness. Outwardly, she never seemed scared. She once talked about feeling like she was a burden to all of us – I told her then and I hope she really listened, that she could never be a burden, she was the most brave, independent, strong, wonderful person.

None of us thought she’d lose. Right up to the day she died. She had beaten it once before, she’d beat it again, surely?

While we weren’t as lucky second time around, what Melly has left us (besides a hole in all our hearts) is 28 years of wonderful memories and lessons for us to always remember her by. On how to make the most of every moment. On how to raise your hands up in the air and let the rollercoaster take you to that place of fear, so you can reach that place of exhilaration. On how to laugh like there is no tomorrow. On how to love till your heart is full, and then love some more. On how to notice the little things, like a bird dancing on a branch, or a raindrop sliding down the window, or the sweet taste of chocolate icecream, and to not forget how special those little things are.

One of the last things Mel saw was a news report on the catwalk styling for Melbourne’s fashion week when animal prints were all the rage… she could only open one eye, but her smile told us she knew full well what was going on. So, here Kalee and I are today in our Day 8 Animal Print Frocks, in memory of the most wonderful girl.

Melly, four years on, my heart still aches for you, I still can’t hear Izzy’s song without crying, and I’m pretty sure that will never change. We’ll have a Corona for you today and I’ll keep an eye out for the brightest coloured butterfly. I just wish you were still here. Kalee Tamsyn would have loved her Aunty Melly. Happy birthday my darling sister x

“[She] was the colour of someone buying you an ice cream cone for no reason at all.” — When did you see her last? Lemony Snicket.

Beach

I was driving down the coast today – it is a truly magnificent spring day today, it’s one of those days I wish I had a convertible, just a cheap one…nothing wankery, because the wind blowing through my open windows just isn’t enough to knot my hair completely, or carry my pumping 90s rock across the entire suburb!

While doing the worm with my right arm out the driver’s side window and screaming ‘Jeremy spoke in claaaaaaaasss today’ my mind suddenly found itself in the 1980s.beach

I was wedged in the back seat of my Mum’s maroon Marina, clearly I lost shotgun that day, between my baby sister and my even baby-er brother. The fake, tan leather seat was combining well with the sun cream and sweat on the back of my legs to create a lovely, slippery slime, and the metal seatbelt buckle was almost giving me second degree burns on my bony hip, but nothing was on my mind except for being first. As Mum drove us through the final suburb, up and down the most incredibly steep hills I had ever seen, I was hovering as high as I could over the bench seat to be the first person to see the water. I was the eldest, therefore the tallest, and I was the master of the hover without mum seeing and yelling at me to sit down properly, so even though I was stuck in the back, surely I’d be the first to see it.

“I see it!” my sister yelled from her throne in the front. Dammit. Well played, Lisa, well played.

But the most important race was yet to be run… who would be the first to reach the water? I had this race down pat. The advantage was sitting in the backseat, so I could remove the thick, brown seatbelt from the ridiculously hot buckle and sit with the belt loosely hanging across my torso. Seriously, if I could whistle, I would have, so as not to draw any attention to myself…!  Thongs off, ready in my hand, no one ever won a race to the water while wearing thongs. I threw my towel around my neck where it wouldn’t get in the way or trip me over during my dash.

Into the car park, mum barely had the car out of gear before that belt was thrown off my shoulder, the car door flung open to breaking point on the hinges and I was off – down the steep steps and sinking up to my knees in the soft sand. The hot, hot, boiling hot sand that only served to make my seven-and-three-quarter legs spin faster, carrying my body on such an angle that you’d swear I’d topple at any moment and roll the whole way to the water’s edge.

I reached the point where the water regularly met the sand, and wiggled my twiggy arms out of my sundress, jogging on the spot to let my feet recover in the cooler, harder sand beneath, and before long I was off again, leaving my sundress, towel and thongs behind me.

Into the water, flinching ever so slightly at its temperature, taking a few big strides and flopping into the ocean’s embrace. Here I finally stopped, still underwater for as long as my breath would last, letting the motion of the waves rock me underwater, squinting my eyes against the salt and the reflection of the beaming sun, grinning like the Cheshire. I was finally here. And I was first.

Yep, that’s where I went during my drive along the coast today. And I loved every second of it.

“We carry oceans inside of us, in our blood and our sweat. And we are crying the oceans, in our tears.” — Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts

Frocktober

I do this thing every year where I hope to draw attention to the fact that there is no early detection test for ovarian cancer. This thing is inspired each year by my darling Mum.

My mum was pretty fucking amazing… she was the most courageous, graceful, patient, loving mother I could ever dream of having.

When she told us she had cancer, every question had a shit answer. Did they catch it early? No. Could she just have surgery and it would be gone? No. Would she need chemo? Yes. Was it terminal? We don’t know (parent code for ‘It’s not looking good’).IMG_0356

A week later – the day after Mother’s Day – she was rushed in for surgery, and the waiting game officially began. Dad was in the hospital waiting, and I had my sisters and brother over to my house to wait. There were tears as the hours ticked by and there was still no news. I remember falling asleep with my phone next to my bed – the first time I had ever done this, but a practice I would continue to do for the next five years – and being woken by Dad’s call at around midnight to say everything had went better than expected and Mum was now in recovery. The relief in his voice was palpable.

She started chemo pretty soon thereafter. Every month for a full day. It was generally a Friday and Dad wouldn’t leave her side no matter what else was going on – it was like he checked his old life in at the doors of the hospital, to be there for his beloved. Eventually, it became my job to sit with Mum. The smell of that place; I’ll never forget.

The diagnosis? Stage four ovarian cancer. So advanced she wasn’t expected to survive the surgery – not unusual in this type of disease, as there are no real symptoms and no early detection test. They say bloating is a symptom – how many women suffer bloating at some stage or another over the course of a month? They say you are lower risk if you have children and have them early… Mum had four kids by the time she was 31, how many more did she need to have? They say it could be genetic – absolutely no history of this in our family.

Despite everything, we all remained positive. She was always more circumspect. She tried on a number of occasions to talk to me about things like choosing the jewellery I wanted to have, and about the importance of never letting anything come between me and my siblings… I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve wished I had the opportunity to ask her advice about this whole mothering bizzo, or just ask her if what I was doing was ‘OK’.

Mum fought hard for almost five years. When she passed away on 6 February 2013, she was at home, in her favourite chair, holding my hand. I swear I saw her smile as she slipped away – I’m sure she was headed to an almighty welcoming party thrown by Dad and Melly.

So, this thing I do every year to try and raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer? It’s called Frocktober. I wear a dress every day for the month of October, and now I rope my daughter into doing it with me. If I can save one child from going through what I went through with my Mum, I’ve done my job. If you would like to donate to the OCRF, you can do so here: https://frocktober2017.everydayhero.com/au/kristiandkalee

If you’ve managed to read this far, please read a little further and take the time to educate yourself, your Mum, daughters, grandmothers, aunties, cousins, friends, nieces… you get the idea… on these key points:

  • A pap smear DOES NOT detect ovarian cancer
  • Being aware of ovarian cancer is not enough to save a life.
  • Early screening is needed and right now there is NO early detection test

Women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer report four types of symptoms most frequently:

  • Abdominal or pelvic pain.
  • Increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating.
  • Needing to urinate often or urgently.
  • Feeling full after eating a small amount.

Choose touch

Those of us lucky enough to have all five senses in good working order often wonder if there was one we could absolutely, not a chance in this world, live without. I always thought sight or sound were my deal breakers. But nowadays, I choose touch, because reaching for my mum’s hand was how I would cope, or communicate, or occupy my mind towards the end… and because reaching for my daughter’s hand, or the amazing feeling of her reaching for mine, is what floats my boat these days!choose touch

It’s a dark day when you are told there’s nothing left that can be done. Your dreams plummet and you feel a primeval need to release your grief, but you also have an innate sense of wanting to appear calm. Absolutely everything about that moment is out of your control except for the way you react, that’s the one thing you can exert authority over. In that moment, I reached out and held my mum’s hand. Whether more to give her comfort, or to give me strength, I’m not sure, but I hope it did both. Whatever the reason, my instinct was to hold her hand, not look at her, and listen passively to the doctor telling her we had ‘weeks and not months’. The moment our hands touched, it felt like home.  As the doctor continued to talk and mum continued to ask questions, my mind wandered, while my hand stayed still. It let me stay with her through finding out how her body would shut itself down, what support she would need at home and what things we needed to start arranging, without ever really hearing the heartbreaking words.

She’d reach for my hand under the covers as I slept with her at night – it was like the roles had reversed, she was the child seeking comfort and I was the mother letting her know everything would be OK and that I would never let go, I would protect her. These were the most precious moments, laying in silence, listening to her breathe so softly, cradling her hand in mine.

Holding her hand once she had lost consciousness allowed me to communicate with her when words no longer were able. I would will my love and my care to make their way from my touch into her soul, where I hoped she could still hear and feel me. I would put her hand on my belly so she could feel the first flutters of her granddaughter. The granddaughter she so desperately wanted to meet, the granddaughter who is turning out to be a lot like her.  Holding her hand as she slipped away from us allowed me to grieve. It gave me a silent moment with her, wishing her well as she moved onto the other side, where I hope she can still see me and kiss my forehead with the love and devotion only a mum can give.

I have the absolute, unbridled joy of sharing beautiful moments of touch with my daughter now. Running my fingernails gently through her hair, stroking her beautifully soft, red rosy cheeks with the back of my hand, tenderly supporting her head in my palm as she falls asleep, trusting I’ll be there for her in the morning.

One of the most magical moments of being a new parent is the first time your baby understands the power of touch, and she wraps her entire hand around your finger. I remember just staring, daring not to move in case she shifted and let go. Don’t ever let go baby girl, keep holding onto me and know I will always be there with a hand for you to hold.

She’s motoring around on her own two feet now (albeit wobbly, but very determined!) but while she was learning to take those first giant steps, she would keep a firm grip on my hand. I would let her lead the dance, and eventually pulled back my support from hand, to fingers, to solitary finger, smiling at her and encouraging her to take steps on her own. Her eyes would grasp mine, slight panic clouding her baby blues as she wondered whether or not I’d be there for her. She would soon realise I wasn’t going anywhere and she’d bravely take another tentative step forward; something that would feel so huge in her little world.

I just love holding her little hand in mine. Now she squeezes my hand when I cradle hers, such a simple gesture that just means the world to me, and as she grows into the wonderful young lady I envision she’ll become, I hope she never grows tired of holding my ageing palm in hers.

There is no more tender moment than that at which a mother and daughter’s hands meet.  Choose touch.