Mother's Day is approaching. Fast. Advertisements left right and centre telling me I should buy my mother a present to show her how much I care. Thing is, I can't. Because she's not here.
I don't believe much in Mother's Day but every year I took a deep breath and wished my Mum well, because the acknowledgement mattered to her. This year, I can't text her in the morning, or sigh as I drive over to Palmy yet again, gritting my teeth about buying into this transparently commercial invention. She's dead and all the flowers and cheesy Mother's Day cards in the world won't bring her back.
It feels painful, to see all these bloody adverts. Continuous small pricks in my sensitive skin.
I'm genuinely happy for everyone who's got their mum around and can celebrate with her. Bathe in the love! Which is why I'm posting this today, and not on Saturday. I don't wanna get in the way of all that good cheer.
But I know there are also plenty of us without our mums. Or without whoever it is that we've lost.
It's eight months and I still cry sometimes. I still miss her so very much. I don't cry every night though, and that's a win. Quite often now there are hours in my day of feeling happy, and for that I'm grateful. In the early days I didn't think happiness was possible. In fact I remember someone I went on a date with asking me if I was happy, and I started crying right there and then in the restaurant, because happiness seemed such an abstract and distant idea. I didn't get a second date. Lol. But time and distance does wonders and I'm not so numb now. I laugh with my mates, and go to the movies and am getting on with my work and I like that.
But this fcking Mother's Day advertising is making the grief feel real fresh, like how it was when I made this artwork, sleep well I am still here x , for an exhibition I had earlier this year, A private view.
I make artwork for all sorts of reasons. This one was made to give me comfort.
Because I desperately needed her, needed to feel her with me.
And those words, sleep well I am still here, are exactly what she'd text me, if she could.
The fine patterns on the artwork came from a cross-stitch pattern and my great-grandmother and Nana did cross-stitch and I thought, I'll put them in the artwork too, and then I'll have three generations of women with me as I sleep.
The thing is, it really did give me comfort. I'd walk into my bedroom during the month of the show and see the artwork, and feel her with me. I'd lay down exhausted in my bed, tears rolling down my cheeks, and I'd feel like she was saying sleep well, I'm still here to me and it'd calm me down and make me feel like everything would be okay. As she always said, sleep is a great healer. Go to sleep and in the morning, things will feel better, she'd always say. And she was right.
We all do what it takes during difficult times to get us through.
The making of this artwork, and having it beside me these few months, has been a big part of what got me through these last months. Strike that tense. What gets me through.
Since the show I've moved rooms but I took the artwork with me. It's not hung yet. It sits beside my bed, leaned up against the brown paper and just underneath the random white stripe I painted. I look at it as I go to bed and as I wake. On the days [like today] where all I want to do is to curl up and stay in bed and not face anything or anyone, knowing she's with me helps me find the strength to get up and have a shower and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I feel so fortunate to have had her as a mother. To her near me now. To feel her strongly still.
I talked to her in the bath for an hour and a half the other night. I don't know whether she was listening... she was probably off in some damn fine cafe way up there, talking to someone she hardly knows, finding out all the details of their life, just like she always did. Regardless, I told her all my worries, all my ideas for the future. Asked her advice. Went to bed, looked at the artwork, drifted to sleep imagining her stroking my hair like when I was a child. It was lovely.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not sad every moment. Life is good. I have work I love. I have friends and family and my son who I love strongly madly and deeply. I have Seth, my old faithful mate. I live in a lovely house, in a lovely town. My body is healthy, my brain is sharp and I'm still pretty good at telling funny stories and being a dick and making people laugh, when I'm in the mood.
The fact I'm grieving doesn't make life less good.
Grief is part of life. Light and shadow all at once, mofos. As Neil Finn said, four seasons in one day.
The other day, I made another version of the artwork. A simpler plainer bolder one.
I made it because a woman came to the show and didn't have it in her budget to buy the limited-edition exhibition print asked if I'd make a studioprint version. She was a lovely woman and so I said yes. I wanted her to feel the person who was gone from her was still there with her. I wanted her to have comfort, too.
Mum. You're always with me. Always will be.
I miss you like crazy but I'm glad you're not in pain.
Your strength and courage and love are my scaffold.
Thank you for staying by my side.