The day that she decided to die began as insignificantly as any other. My children were young and the usual rush revolved around nappy changes, breakfast and Playschool. At 11 a.m. I waited for her call. She had started to call three or four times a day. It was a minor inconvenience that I accepted. She was my mother after all. Only my mother would use the landline.
I checked the time on my mobile phone: 12.30 p.m. and still no word. I dialed her number, marveling at how the numbers made a little pattern on the keypad; the tool I used to memorise it when I was a child. It rang out. I tried her mobile and had no luck. The kids needed their lunch, clothes needed washing and the usual humdrum of domesticity stilled my mind, for a few hours.
A month earlier I had received a call – the telephone seemed to be the method by which all bad news was delivered – from her husband.
‘Tell your mum I won’t be home tonight,’ his voice cracked, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t explain right now.’ Click, the phone went dead.
I dialed her telephone number, only this time there was no marveling at the pattern. I was to be the bearer of bad news, though she would not fly into a Shakespearean rage and shoot the messenger, rather it would be the moment when our roles were to be reversed; she would become the child and I, her mother figure.
‘Mum, it’s me, look I’m so sorry but Steve just called me, he thought you might be worried about him.’ I heard her exhale a sigh that spoke of both concern and relief. ‘I’m sorry mum but he’s not coming home, he said he’ll call you…’
As the weeks passed my mother became unrecognizable. On the outside she was the same beautiful woman. She even presented herself as calm and composed to her friends, but to me she was able to be herself: a heartbroken woman who was dangerously on the edge.
The weekend before the day she decided to die, we went away together. Her marriage was over and I listened as she spoke of her pain again and again. She didn’t cry, rather she wasn’t really there, she was trapped inside her grief and she could see no way to escape. We slept together as we had when I was a young girl; I cuddled her as I would with my young daughter. I played our childhood game, spelling out words on her back with my fingers for her to guess; I wrote the word ‘love’ over and over. Her heart was broken and mine was too.
She went home and I thought she was better for our time together. It was an uneducated arrogance of mine. Depression is a much greater beast and I was a mere foot solider in her battle. Only she could slay this beast now living inside her.
The day had arrived, the one that she decided she could no longer live with the pain anymore. Only a miracle happened that day; a friend found her barely conscious and rushed her to hospital. I don’t really believe that she wanted to die; rather she just wanted to silence the noise and numb the pain.
This happened ten years ago. Ten years that have been filled with anxiety and heartache. I cannot imagine life without my beautiful mother and although at times I find her now twice daily phone calls a challenge, they are a reminder about how blessed I am to still have her in my life. To her friend, I am forever indebted. Thank you.