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Quote of the day: ‘Grief is the price we pay for love.’ - Queen Elizabeth the Second

Grief is a sly little devil.

It’s pièce de resistance is the ability to sneak up on you and shout ‘Bang!’ in your ear when you least expect it.

Whipping the rug out from under your feet in a heartbeat.

Picking that scab of vulnerability.

It can reduce you to tears without you even knowing it’s going to happen, or that you even felt you were close to tears.

Grief leaves you bewildered and unable to rationalise, aching within your heart and unshielded to every emotional threat.

My mother died over four years ago. It wasn’t sudden. We were expecting it for a very long time. Natural when you reach 100 years of age you would think. It was the natural course of events. She was a very old lady indeed.

Much as my heart and head hates me saying this, initially and totally selfishly, I know I was not alone in feeling a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. The last four years in particular of her life had been incredibly hard for everyone, including Mummy.

Personally, I was commuting back and forth to the UK from France at one stage every three weeks to give respite care to my two sisters, who both lived next door to my mum. One of my sisters in particular bore the brunt of this care. I can only speak for myself in saying I helped all I could, although I know several people who thought and openly voiced to me and others, that I should have abandoned my life in France and moved back to the UK. I did what I could and despite what those other people thought, going back and forth was never the easy option they thought it was.

I was living in a foreign country with all that entails; learning to speak a language that was not my mother tongue; running a gite business; running a design and landscaping business; doing three design-and-landscaping weeks work in slightly more than two; attempting to help renovate two properties; trying and most likely making a shit job of being a wife. It was a tall order.

The day my mother died, the undertaker said to me and my sister ’Don’t be surprised if grief catches up with you in a big way at some stage. Your mother may have been very old indeed but she was a part of your lives for an incredibly long time. Know that you will not escape it, despite the relief you may feel now.’

Wise words indeed.

The first year was ‘fine’, probably everything was pretty much as I expected if I had ever thought about losing my mum in the past. I wouldn’t recommend going through it but I felt I coped OK.

As settling Mummy’s estate dragged on and on, my mental health took a significant turn for the worse. I knew it was happening but couldn’t stop the slide down into the abyss. Problems with her house sale, specifically with executors/solicitors, meant that stress levels were raging on an unyielding and daily basis.

A crisis point was reached well over two years after Mummy’s death one Monday morning in March 2021. An upsetting chain of events resulted in the third potential house sale falling through. This all sounds somewhat innocuous when I leave out the unbelievable raft of inadequacies and incompetence by people that were meant to be working for us as legal experts, which contributed significantly to the vileness of that time.

That morning was the straw that broke my camel’s back and I plunged into a very dark place indeed. Simon said he saw something in my eyes that he had never seen. It frightened him and it frightened me too. Without much help from a very talented therapist called Melissa, things would be very different here today.

But thankfully things are different here. Generally they are good, but when the going gets a bit tough, or that old chum ‘Grief’ taps me on the shoulder unexpectedly, the darkness starts to show itself in the background again.

Thankfully, I now have the mental tools to shake it off.

However, wouldn’t I just love to have a chat with my father again? Twenty six years without having a chat to your dad is a long bloody time! Sometimes I really need to talk to him. Once, very weirdly, he did talk to me, but that is very definitely another spooky story.

Or give Mummy a hug too? With that same softness and ’Mummy’ smell that she always had.

As well, I’d love to have a walk round Auntie Marj’s garden again with her and a glass of wine, early one summer evening.

I’d also love another few glasses of wine and a late, drunken night with my friend Caroline - thirty something is far too young to die.

This afternoon I was doing one of the very few things I can do without too much huffing, puffing and discomfort post-surgery. With the continual building work, there is a continual layer of thick dust everywhere in the house. Just occasionally and very infrequently, the sight of it all gets the better of me and I reach for the duster and polish. Our bedroom usually gets left, but today I could bear it no longer.

Out came the duster. Sometimes I look and think a spade would be better, but today a duster was sufficient.

It was my reflection in the mirror that really did it.

Mummy’s mirror, no less.

I’ve caught it a few times, but today her eyes shone from within mine.

Her hair curled exactly the same ridiculous one-sided way that mine does.

Our shapes are the same. Those Bedborough thighs. Thanks for them, but no thanks, Mummy.

I felt totally kiboshed with the similarities that I have never noticed being in plain sight before, but dusted on.

There was a Christmas card on the chest of drawers tucked among some toiletries. Small, picture of a robin on it. Normal sort of thing.

I almost went to throw it in the bin but opened it before doing so.

There was my mother’s writing shining back at me, with a jolly little Christmas note and wishes, before she became too weak to write. A treasure I could and can not bear to part with.

Just one scab too many.

That rug was whisked from under me, dissolving me into tears immediately. I looked around and all I could then see were objects that came from her house when we cleared it out or items she had given me as a young girl.

Chests of drawers, little pieces of glassware, the chaise longue, her dressing table mirror, a dressing table set I received for my eighth birthday, a thread bare rug, and of course, that reflection in the mirror.



Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I’m Jill, a RHS gold medal winning English professional gardener, garden designer and landscaper living in South West France since 2012. This is a personal account of my gardening life, some of the jolly and occasionally not so jolly japes that ensued while working, that probably caused my subsequent back problems.

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