Wednesday, 4 November 2009

No birthday cake

I am very grateful to Josie at Sleep is for the Weak for providing the inspiration for this post on loss. This is my first attempt at the Writing Workshop, so here goes:

Can you feel loss for someone you have never known?

November 3rd was her birthday, so an observer from the windmill late in the afternoon would have seen in outline against the lonely horizon this: a woman struggling in the wind and rain with a trug of planted flowers over her left arm and a bouquet of flowers in that same hand; a heavier load weighing down the other. In fact, a car seat, containing a 15 week old baby boy. Behind, a tired little girl, running every few steps to keep apace.

The watcher would have witnessed the strange convoy heading along the flagstone path past the church and then turning right onto the grass and across a line of graves.

What that spectator could not guess is that none of the party have ever met the woman at whose grave they now lay flowers.

For that woman is my mother-in-law, who died 5 years before I met her son, and 11 years before we married. A woman who never got to know of even the possibility of the existence of her two, beautiful grandchildren.

Rosemary - for remembrance - is in the bouquet. An irony, since none of us remember. And the flowers are all pink, for this small thing I know about her: she loved pink.

And Gertie, who has not even begun to formulate a concept of mortality, and knows that we are leaving flowers because it is a birthday, asks,
"Why doesn't Grandma Janey have birthday cake, mummy?"

And I can't explain, but feel an inexplicable loss. For this woman that I never knew, whose son I know so intimately: a mother who never got to see her own children grown and married and happy. And I look at her grandchildren and hope that I will be granted this grace.


  1. Beautiful post, I'm sure she would have been very proud of her grandchildren. xx

  2. Lovely post. It is such a loss when children dont know their grandparents. I too hope you are granted the grace.

    You are doing great taking the children there to see and leave flowers in remembrance.

  3. I loved this. A while back I did some Family Tree Research, I pestered relatives for pictures, stories, about people that I'd never met. Building a picture of them in my head made me feel so close to them and mourn them even though I'd never me them.

    When ever I look at Kai I am reminded that all their combined genetic makeu-up has come together in him - one perfect little ball of fun and energy.

    Your mother-in-law will always be with you in the faces of your children, and will never be forgotten as she lives through them.

    Might write a post about this actually - you have inspired me!!

    Josie x