What would you say to your mother this Sunday, if you could?
If she was still on this Earth, and you were seated on a bench together, how would the conversation flow?
I’d ask my mum about the shepherd’s pie she always made, and what ingredient might be missing from the one I now serve up.
I’d ask her whether you ever stop worrying about your own children, and how might I have eased that, just a little.
I’d ask about being born in the 1930s, what time she would have to climb out of bed each morning to milk the cows before heading off to school on the back of a horse with her big band of siblings.
I’d ask how she handled the loss of a brother as a child. And her own mother, too. I’d ask her how she coped, not having a mum, but still having all the questions only a mum can answer.
Did she ever resent, even a little bit, having to give up school while still a child herself, to help raise her toddler siblings?
I’d ask what she might have done, with 100 per cent in Latin and 96 per cent in French. Did she ever want to travel, or did she not even dare to dream of a life like that?
Why did the washing take eight long hours? And what was it like to have a pet hare? Did God mean more or less to her, as she lay on her death bed knowing the end was near?
Was she proud of me? What in particular? Was she ready, or heartbroken, at dying?
I’d ask her, too, how she knew she was nearing the end in that last week, when no-one else did, including her own doctors. What prompted her to say ‘goodbye’ to those closest to her?
I’d say I wish I’d been there, to take that final ride by ambulance with her. And how desperately happy I am that I arrived, just in time, to hold her hand as she closed her eyes for the last time.
I’d say ‘sorry’ for not wearing the stupid frilly dress she made me in year 6. Did it matter that I hated it?
I’d tell her that I see her, daily, in my oldest daughter; in the old-fashioned sayings she’s made new again, her kindness towards others, and the reflective way she looks at the world.
And my youngest, I’d tell her, had inherited her gift of the gab, and her uncanny ability to prosecute an argument. She also has her love of politics. Both have her wicked sense of humour.
I’d tell her, too, that being a mother always looked easy from a distance, but is so much harder close up. I’d tell her I wish I knew that back then.
I’d tell her that I still have her phone number on direct dial, ready to call with a piece of news or a question or a worry, but knowing it probably belongs to someone else’s mother now.
I’d tell her that it’s not the big things I miss, but the little things. Her face, as I walked up the aisle to marry the love of my life. Her smile, the first time she met her grandchildren. The cheekiness. The laugh. The smell of a home-cooked meal. The picture of her knitting.
But mostly, this Mother’s Day, I’d tell her how much I loved her.
Don’t miss that opportunity, if you still have it.