In the seven years since my dad died it has been easy to imagine that he was still around, just busy in the garden or out for a walk while we video called home. And though I knew it wasn’t really true there was a certain sort of comfort, perhaps even a sort of normalcy about that.
But some things don’t change – the picture on my parent’s video calling profile has always remained unchanged – it’s one of my dad, still in the upstairs office, staring at the camera with a frown and slightly confused expression on his face, no doubt taken in the early days of him trying to get a grip on this new way of communicating and never having bothered to change that picture again since, or possibly never having quite worked out how to.
And even in all that time – perhaps for the same reason my mum never updated the video calling profile picture of my dad to one of herself, I was never able to bring myself to change my phone entry from ‘mum and dad’ to just ‘mum’. Even though I knew my dad was gone, it just never seemed right.
Though nothing really ever stays the same and now, well now my mum is gone too and I’m not sure how to be. None of us expected this. Not now, and certainly not in this way. Not with the cruelty of a live stream from the crematorium for myself and all those whom the pandemic prevented from attending in person. I don’t really know how people just carry on but I suppose you do, you just have to. Even back in the thick of the shock from the unexpected news that my mum was suddenly so ill it felt as though the world should have stood still, but of course it never did.
Yet it’s April now and somehow we’ve made it this far already. And though I know the truth, it is still easy to imagine that my mum is just away on holiday, escaping the cold of the Scottish winter as she did every year. Nevertheless, the final WhatsApp message that will forever remain unread is a stinging reminder and all too real.
And just the same as it was with my dad, I know I won’t be able to bring myself to delete the contact ‘mum & dad’ from my phone. The number will remain etched in history now, part of me, my story, my once place of refuge, the one place I could always return to no matter what. And despite everything, even though I do know the truth, with the cold reality of that ‘home’ now being part of my past, somehow there’s still something comforting about the normalcy or pretence of that number remaining there. And I think I’m ok with it, at least, until I remember that no-one will answer if I ring.
Donations in memory of my mum have been sent to Strathcarron Hospice where she spent her final weeks.