47 days and counting…

Me and Mum

My birthday is coming up. For me it’s an important one.

I’ll have reached 53. (For those of you who didn’t know – I share my date of birth with Madonna, who, on the face of it looks better than I do. BUT, I do not have millions to hire a chef and trainer so…).

Why is 53 so important?

My mother never made it that far.

I have lots of relatives that lived, and are living, long lives. They look pretty good too.

But my mother’s death at 52 has always haunted me.

Technically I have already lived longer than my mother.

Yet that number – 53 – has always been there. A goal I had to reach.

As it gets closer so does my desire to actually celebrate it.

I am not morbidly concerned with dying – truth is I rarely worry it.

And yet…all through my life I have wondered. Will I make it past 52?

Even dead, she has had her influence, because that thought was always bubbling around my brain.

I don’t know – but I don’t think any of her other children have been overly concerned about it. All but two of us have long since passed that number.

My oldest sister Cathy died quite young. I barely knew her.

Of my mother’s children I am the baby. The youngest of nine. She died when I was twelve.

That morning never leaves me.

I woke with a feeling of disturbance. We had slept together in a double bed back at the family home (this one we’d lived in for longer than three months – so I thought of it as our home).

She’d been sick – so we’d come back to it after living in a boarding house she’d been running. I was happy to be back. My favourite brother in the world was back there at the time, and I couldn’t spend enough hours with him.

Six days before I’d celebrated turning twelve in this home.

I had the first birthday party I actually remember having. It was a surprise. Friends from my high school started turning up, and eventually I clicked. I even got the present of a lifetime. A camera. It was a good time in my life.


Six days of runaway happiness.

Day seven it all fell apart.

The feeling – the disturbance.

It was August. Winter. Chilly. Too chilly, for being cocooned under the blankets.

And damp.

Why was it damp?

I rolled over.

The bed under me, my pyjamas, were wet. Wet and cold, clingy against my skin.

I thought for a time I had done something unthinkable for a twelve-year-old.

Did I wet the bed?


The cold clingy damp lay only on the side of my pyjamas.

Death is not always serene.

Mum lay still, undisturbed by the cold, the damp, the rustling I caused as I twisted about trying to understand what it all meant.

I shook her, and shook her, and shook her.

I thought the coldness I felt under my hand came from the damp I had been feeling.

Not from Mum. Mum was warmth. Always warmth. A personal sun I revolved around. It could not come from Mum.

I called to her, over and over and over.

She was not moved by my gestures or cries.

How long is time?


I have no measure for how long I stayed there – shaking – calling – pleading – praying – realising – denying.

The damp.

I realised it came from her.

It connected us – like an umbilical cord. Joined as we had been at my birth by blood, her expelled urine connected us at her death.

Time. Slowed.

Like a film reel that has slipped free of the cogs.

It juddered back and forth.

Stuck on a moment. Refusing to go forward to the next scene. Stubborn. Hanging on. Dragged into a new moment of time.

Unwillingly I left the bed, the room, called to my brothers.

Shattered the last illusion that this was a not a step into another lifetime.

A lifetime without my own personal sun.



By routine. Showers, meals, people coming and going.

Trying to stay invisible in a corner.

Please don’t hug me, don’t touch me, don’t speak.

The ringing in my ears – I can’t hear you anyway.

An ice-cold wall is forming under my skin. Solid. Fragile at the same time. Don’t touch it or it may crumble.

I may crumble.

She left on a trolley. Grey metal and a squeaky wheel.

Squeak, squeak, squeak up the hallway, though the lounge, out the door. Squeak. Squeak.

They squeaked her away from me.

One hundred and fifteen days short of her 53rd birthday.

Showcased at the Jingle Poetry Potluck Week 42


  1. That was powerful. I know something about what you feel though. My father died at 67 and I have that as my mile marker of an age I need to make it to. I have seven more years. I hope I go beyond that time with good health, but lately the realization of getting nearer to the end is growing stronger.

    Tossing It Out


    1. Thank you for you lovely words. After this my mile marker is 86 – that’s how old Dad was when he died. So hopefully it will be long and fruitful – and healthy. 🙂


  2. Aw, Jo…what a post. Incredible. What a memory to carry with you, so vibrant-raw all these years later. I wish I had the money to bring you out here to me…to check off some of your bucket list. I want the whole of the rest of your life to be PACKED with love and joy. OK? I mean it:)


    1. Brynne, I don’t know how to reply to such a beautiful comment. Growing up was tough at times – but there is love and joy in my life. Some of that love travels many miles. It is carried on the wind with the salty seaspray from far away friends such as yourself.
      Thank you. 🙂


  3. Very powerful, but such a beautiful tribute. That memory can’t be easy, but your painfully beautiful and emotionally raw remembrance was really something to read. Your view really was the thing that unpacked your prose poem for me. I hope you can celebrate your own life for your Mom’s memory the rest of your days as you did so well in this post.


  4. Oh Jo….you never cease to blow me away! I can’t believe how much pain and suffering you had to endure as a child. It has definitely shaped the wonderful woman that you are today. I look foward to cheersing you on your long awaited 53rd Birthday, girlfriend! : D XXX


    1. Dear Toni – I’m looking forward to the cheersing.
      funny girl gif
      LOL. Maybe you should hop on a plane and come on over ?????????????? I’ll keep hoping. 🙂


  5. Jo, what a poignant and powerful piece!!! My words cannot do it justice. The vivid imagery after all of these years is incredibly raw and full of emotion – yet at the same time has some sweet tenderness to it. Here’s to celebrating the life of your mother, and your upcoming milestone and birthday.


  6. Oh, the sad details you provided. The hearbreak. “They squeaked her away from me.” How shocking to be sleeping next to her and find out she had died. I’m so sorry for your loss. Of course, you’ll celebrate 53.


  7. Wow, I don’t know how to say elequent words. But reading this makes me respect your beauty all the more. Cheers to 53 AND 89. Here is me telling your inner little girl, “You can make it, and then some! mums fate is not yours.” xo


  8. This was very, very beautifully written, I could not stop reading until I had completed, may be because it was truth and there were emotions, depiction is not easy and I respect that you shared such an important belief of yours with us.


    1. Thank you. it was a surprising piece for me. I had been thinking about my upcoming birthday and it poured out. I looked at the screen when I had finished writing and wondered where it had come from. I got lost in the memory – I had not realised how vivid – how raw it still was until this was being written.


  9. What a poignant piece… I too lost my mother when young (not quite as young as you)… her at the tender age of 52 as well. I can so relate to your landmark birthday. A number of years later, I lost a brother, to the same thing, he at the age of 47… I have surpassed that landmark and now count the years and days like you, until that 53 comes along. Your words were filled with such raw emotion, yet pieced perfectly like a puzzle forming the amazingly beautiful picture. Thank you for sharing.


  10. heart breaking,

    my mother got sick and i felt like shaking and dying when I was young..it is too sad to lose loved ones at a young age.
    Thanks for the beautiful tribe.

    Happy Potluck!


  11. Oh my goodness Jo this is such a huge thing and you express your experience of it so artfully. I was completely gripped. I’m so sorry to learn that you had such a profound loss and it seems completely understandable that you would be thinking about it as you approach your birthday. Time and memories are so much a part of us, perhaps more so as we get older and your expression here is just beautiful, albeit painful. Loved it 🙂
    Ps are you the baby in the photo?


  12. This just broke my heart and affected me very deeply especially right now my mom is 52 (August 14th so close to you) and she’s sick right now, quite sick. *hugs* beautiful post brought tears to my ears


  13. big hugs. big big hugs!
    i know how you feel sort of. see i was told i wouldnt live to see this birthday. so when may came around and my deadline
    was coming up i waited with baited breathe. and not only did i live to see my birthday, but i also finished my book.
    i now feel like i have a new lease on life, sortof. because now well i made it. and that is what counts.
    blessings upon you.


    1. Luna – thank you so much for you wonderful comment. I am so glad you made it past your birthday and so happy you finished your book. Thank you for your blessings and I send my own back to you. 🙂


Comments are closed.