Mothers and memories…

Today is the 21st Anniversary of my mum’s death.  Her name was Robina Hillary Pamplin, nee Bickerton.  Known to all as ‘

My Mum

Robina Hiliary Pamplin, 'Bobby' - my Mum.

Bobby’. She was born on 8th August 1947.  Mum was 42 years old when she died suddenly on Saturday, 23rd June 1990, at 4.10pm, because of an undiagnosed brain tumour.

I was 19 at the time and having a ball being a typical student at Bristol doing my Social Science degree.  I was actually suffering from a rather bad hangover that day due to a couple of school friends joining me for a Friday night out in glamorous Papillion’s nightclub in downtown Bristol. 

The incessant banging on my student digs door  from the Porter that lunchtime did nothing to ease my aching head.  But he informed me that there was a phone call from my Dad down at the Security lodge.  Of course this was back in the wonderful quaint days before mobile phones, when there were pay phones everywhere and phone cards were the latest thing.  So I hurriedly got dressed and took the call.

 Get home now. 
With those three words my whole world stopped.  My life’s journey since that day began with those three words.
The rest is a blur, grabbing the first train to Paddington and talking about my mum with my flat mate Elaine.  She came with me after convincing me that driving home was not, perhaps, a good idea.  Being collected by my Grandparents and sister, shocked, pale, snappy and terribly sad.
Arriving at the hospital, seeing all the family gathered, hysterically crying in the waiting room.  And then.  And then walking into that side room, seeing my beautiful mum with a catheter in her mouth, her hair spread on the pillow, pretty nighty on and all the strain of the previous 12 years removed from her face.  I sat down, held her hand, told her I was there, that I loved her and that it was time for her to go.
With her husband and daughters by her side, 10 minutes later she slipped away quietly, silently and in no pain.  She had not regained consciousness since her emergency surgery earlier that day to try to remove the tumour they had only discovered the day before.  It had been growing for 5 years and was the size of a cauliflower.  Mum was being treated for sinusitis and migraine.  She never complained although the pain she must have been in sometimes would have been unbearable.  She had waited for me to say my goodbyes and my promises to look after everyone and then she left us.  The moment she died there was an almighty rain and hail storm and then the sun came out.  She had gone.
I went back to the visiting room, told the family and did something that I had never done before or since.  I lit a cigarette up in front of them and smoked it.  Unheard of in hospital today, but then it was a different world.
I was 19.  I had the world at my feet, I was invincible, I was loved and I thought I knew it all.
My mother was 42, 2 years older than me now.  She was funny, wise, compassionate, forgiving, full of faith, loving and generous.  She had a temper on her that came with an ability to be an excellent shot with whatever came to hand.  She had a smile that would light up the room and a dirty cackle of a laugh that would make even the most sad person laugh with her.  She was my mum and I love her.
21 years is a long time.  And yet it seems like yesterday.  From preparing her funeral, over 300 hundred people would attend, to reading her favourite biblical passage from Ecclesiastes whilst standing in front of her coffin.  On that cold June morning, in the church were she had been born again and confirmed as an Anglican, the future for me in ministry was begun. 
But the day she died was the day I stepped away from mine and her christian faith.  How could I even talk to a God of love who had taken my mother away from me so suddenly?  I didn’t talk to him for nearly 7 years until I fell pregnant with my daughter and there were complications.  He was there for me then as He has always been.  Waiting until my grief, my anger and my loss had lessened.
So it is 21 years on.  Life changed in a heartbeat for me that day.  I stepped away from God, I left my degree mid way, I met my husband and the rest is history.  I am now here doing what I love and am very blessed by my long-suffering husband and beautiful daughter.
And so I type this blog in tears for all that my mother has missed over the last 21 years.  The birth of her three grandchildren, her daughters weddings, our graduations and the next stage of our life journeys.  I know she is proud of us all and that she loves us all, that she is in Gods peaceful love now. 
My mother was someone I wish I had known better, had told her how much I loved her more and who I will always admire and emulate in all I do.  Tell your mother, if you are still blessed with her here today, that you love her.  Life is simply one gin and tonic party between funerals.  You never know when it will end for those you love.  So tell them you love them today.
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  • Helen  On 06/23/2011 at 1:23 pm

    What a wonderful, touching and genuinely gorgeous post. “Life is simply one gin and tonic between funerals”–what a quotation! I was going to get in touch with you today anyway to remind you that it’s the anniversary of our graduation from St Andrews (five years) and had no idea that this particular date was so much more powerful for you than that. In my thoughts, as ever. All the best, and much love.

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