It was around about this time last year that the first signs began to show that Mummy wasn't well. She had flu almost immediately after insisting her and dad have their flu jabs. She was feeling low and unmotivated, so we went to Waitrose to make a "start"on Christmas. Whilst we sat having a coffee, she came over all funny - flashing lights, dizzy, blurred vision. I now know that this was probably a seizure, symptomatic of a brain tumour. And that was the beginning of her demise.
Mummy and I always planned and did our Christmas preparations together, well I think it was a bit more of me organising her! Present buying would begin in earnest with a day or two shopping in John Lewis. I'm not even sure I can bring myself to go there this year. Food and plans for how we would spend the time would be made. Mummy always cooks the ham, makes the Boxing Day bubble and squeak and adorns the house with the beautiful decorations she has collected over the years. Dad makes the turkey stuffing, the brandy butter and organises the booze whilst my sister and I and our husbands fill in the gaps, mainly being on hand on the day to help things run smoothly. And that's pretty much been the pattern for the best part of 40 years.
This is exactly how we spent last Christmas - our last Christmas all together. We sat there on Boxing Day night, all rather merry, reflecting on the year gone past. Dad had been diagnosed with Oesophagus cancer in May 2013 and had successfully gone through six rounds of chemotherapy. We sat talking about how proud we felt as a family that we had pulled together to support Dad and each other through what we all felt had been our toughest year to get through as a family. Oh how bittersweet that all seems now.
So back to this Christmas. We've made plans of course for the festive period, but these plans are focused more about how we are going to get through the time, minimising as much as is possible the void we will all be feeling. And of course, I have my own two girls to focus on. I read Clover Stroud's article in the December issue of Red Magazine talking about Christmas without her own mother who died a year ago. Whilst there is a shared feeling of intense pain over our mother's loss, realisation that our lives have changed forever and the sense of responsibility we feel to shape our own children's precious memories, I have to applaud Clover for seeing Christmas as a time for renewal and an opportunity to create her own magic. I'm not ready for that. Not this year.
We will have Christmas decorations, we will sit round for Christmas lunch and no doubt the usual discussion over which TV programmes we all want to watch! We will enjoy the opportunity for some time off and the company of friends over the festive period. The girls will of course have presents, the rest of us just aren't interested. The one thing we all want we can't have.
The girls can and will indulge themselves as excitedly as always and I will be excited for them - and everyone else who loves this time of year for that matter, but if I'm being brutally honest, I wish there wasn't a Christmas this year.
Maybe (and I really do wish and hope) that once I've got through the emotional hurdle of this first Christmas without Mummy and all the other firsts that the coming months are going to bring, the "fog of sadness", which Clover Stroud so aptly describes, will lift and allow me to embrace next Christmas as an opportunity to create my own traditions, magic and memories for my girls to cherish in years to come.
Boxing Day last Christmas.