And so the unthinkable happened. My beautiful Mum, living in my native UK, some five thousand-plus miles away from my current base in Mexico, took her last breath on the evening of Friday, 3rd February 2017, just two weeks before she was due to turn 73. Whilst she had not been in great health for a while, due to an ever-growing list of ailments plaguing her over recent years, the news of her death, which was sudden and unexpected, came as a horrible shock to us all. I had been due to fly home for a visit at the end of February, so that she could meet, for the first time, her sparkly-eyed 8-month old granddaughter, and so that she could spend more precious time with her cheeky chappy 3.5-year old grandson. My anticipated travel date turned out to be three weeks too late. The reality of her passing, and her absence from our lives, is still too raw to have processed properly, and not something I’m ready to talk about publicly here just yet (or possibly ever). The pain of the time together lost, and the aching regrets about things I should have or could have done differently – regrets that are all the more poignant as a result of my extended time spent living abroad – come in surging waves that either subtly creep up on me, or otherwise come crashing down on me at any given moment, before subsiding again for a while. Being a bit of a wallflower by nature, never in a million years did I anticipate ever wanting to write publicly about something so personal and painful as this. Yet here I am, fingers tapping away at the keyboard, albeit clumsily and without a hope in hell of ever being able to do justice to the whirlwind of feelings attempting to batter away at me from all angles.
Whilst I really have no idea what to expect over the next few weeks, months or years in terms of grappling with the myriad of sentiments swirling around my increasingly exhausted old head, one thought that has occurred to me is this: whilst I cannot undo what has been done, or fix the mistakes already made, I can, as a starting point, aim to make the best of what is to come – for my loved ones, for myself, and for my wonderful Mum, who I believe is watching over me with a close eye, expectations high. I can aim to live a life filled with love, kindness, and consideration for others, which were her trademark qualities (along with a true appreciation for a good glass of vino… a trait I will also endeavour to carry on, in her honour – it would surely be disrespectful not to). I can try to pursue my passions, which include travel, language learning, laughter, writing, and hanging out with genuinely lovely folk – namely by cherishing and enhancing relationships with family and good friends, both old and new. I can try to push myself beyond my comfort zone (though given my current Mumming abroad gig, I’m pretty confident I’ve got that one covered, thanks) and remain smiley and positive throughout (err, yep – that’ll be a work in progress, I imagine). Last but not least, bringing me back to the original intention of this website (i.e. amongst the many plans that were in the pipeline before my world as I knew it came ever so slightly crashing down around my ears), I can strive to seek out the people, projects and places doing or promoting positive stuff in the world. I can try to work with them, and for them, in a bid to raise their voices about kick-ass initiatives helping to make society just that little bit better. I can aim to gather stories of good will, and curate acts of kindness – both big and small – showcasing their ability to spread happiness in the lives of others. I can re-focus on the important stuff – spending time with loved ones, getting out in nature, strutting my funky stuff on the dancefloor, etc – and pay more attention to life’s simple pleasures, which, I believe, tend to reap benefits far richer than material wealth.
I’ve got to admit I’m not entirely sure where this little foray into the blogosphere will take me, or whether my offerings will be warmly received by an external audience or not, but well, when the chips are down, what else have I got to lose at this point? And if I’ve learned anything at all from the past few weeks, it’s that when morale is low, a helping hand is usually just a stone’s throw away. The kindness of friends and family who’ve been dropping their plans at an instant and rallying around to support me in my hour of need; the warm smiles of strangers in the street, often coupled with an eager offer to hold the door open for me, or carry my coffee to the table (baby-wearing comes with its perks, apparently); the easy-flowing, uninterrupted chit-chat with retirees who are dedicating precious hours of their well-earned free time to library story time sessions or face painting activities for the wee ones…. Even in the midst of my grief-stricken fog – where activities during recent weeks have been somewhat limited to keeping myself and a wriggly 9-month old alive and healthy – I have found that the acts of kindness bestowed on me, both big and small, have been bountiful. And as I appreciate now more than ever, kindness goes a long way. Through this rather rambly First Ever Post, I wish to extend a heart-felt thanks to all of those who have helped to lift my spirits, put a little spring back in my step, and help me find a glimmer of hope in my darkest hour. In this context, I would ask you to join Mama Durbin and I in raising a glass to kindness, to the generous-hearted, and to the all-round good eggs… Salud… Chin chin… and cheers! May this new journey – ups, downs n’ all – begin.