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BEL MOONEY: How do I celebrate my loving late mum’s life? 


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DEAR BEL, 

My mum died on Monday, February 5, and I’m on my own for the first time. I do feel so very alone, but I just wanted to tell someone what a wonderful mum she has been.

She would have been 81 next week and still worked at Asda. She was a minor celeb in the shop — they were all so kind to her.

What’s hard to remember is that she had such a tough life. She was so tired some days, but the bit of money she earned meant she could stay in the house I was born in 45 years ago and in which my dad passed away 35 years ago.

Like the reader, Bel has been deeply affected’ by the death of a very old, dear friend

Mum was widowed when she was 45 and brought up two small children working three jobs. She never remarried but, however hard it must have been, she was always there for us.

My sister emigrated 13 years ago and had little contact with us afterwards. I spoke to or saw Mum every day — and that used to cost me a fortune when I was away on holiday. She got the flu the week before last and I found her collapsed on the floor.

It turned into sepsis and pneumonia and she remained in intensive care until she died, with me by her side. Life support was withdrawn and I held her hand to the end.

My sister came back. We have lost two of Mum’s sisters in the past nine months, so I have a funeral of the second auntie coming up as well as organising Mum’s.

My mother was always the first to put money into charity boxes and always kept a pound in her pocket should someone need it more than her (that’s what she said).

I dread having to find new homes for her three beloved cats. She would take in any stray animal and try to make it better.

I can celebrate her as the best mum, but perhaps not such a hard life . . .

Perhaps you will be able to help me if you know of a poem that I can dedicate to her. That would be lovely. I do need things to help — anything that you can suggest.

Tears are flowing now so I had better go, but thank you for listening.

ROSE

This week it was impossible not to choose your letter, as I have been left deeply affected by the death (last Sunday) of a very old, dear friend.

Thought for the week 

Men and boughs break; 

Praise life while you walk and wake,

It is only lent

David Campbell (Australian poet, 1915-1979)

He was a good, kind, noble spirit, a marvellous husband, father and citizen. Our children grew up together; the world is a worse place without him in it. But then, that’s how you feel, too, isn’t it, Rose? Every single loss diminishes us, as John Donne so memorably said, but the death of a beloved mother cuts right through the heart.

I am so sorry to read of your sorrow and touched that you chose to write to me just two days later.

Your father died when you were ten and you witnessed how hard your wonderful mother worked to take care of you and your sister. Since your sister emigrated, it’s all been about you and your mum, hasn’t it?

The new emptiness at the centre of your life must loom so dark and cold, and I would not presume to try to offer any easy words of condolence. Yet I will suggest that you don’t look back at her life so negatively as to regret that it was ‘hard’ and ‘tough’.

Yes, she grew tired, especially as she was working in the supermarket right up to the end. But that work gave her pride and independence, don’t forget — and the fact that her co-workers thought so highly of her must have given her much pleasure.

Would she have changed that aspect of her life? Somehow I doubt it. I’m sure she was proud of what she made of things. And of you.

So now comes the time ahead — when, wherever you are, your mum is there, too. There is a lovely little poem by Jeanne Willis that expresses this thought:

Where do people go to when they die?

Somewhere down below, or in the sky?

‘I can’t be sure,’ said Grandad, ‘but it seems

‘They simply set up home inside our dreams.’

You ask me for a poem for your mum and I could give you an armful, like a bouquet, if I had more space.

I know people can find the wisdom of others comforting — when it seems impossible to find the words to express grief or despair, and when all feels dark and confusing.

But perhaps you could try to write your own. Not rhymes of course, just short thoughts.

Take a piece of paper and write down five things to summon her image to your mind. Did she have an old handbag in which she kept all sorts of essentials? What was her laugh like? Did she wear loose dresses on summer days when you were young?

Memories are powerful. For example, if I close my eyes I remember my grandmother walking along in Liverpool, balanced each side by two heavy shopping bags. Yes, I can see her, even though she died when I was 23.

So what music did your mum sing along to? Play it and write down your own memories, your own poem, your own love.

But, in the meantime, here is an extract from the Victorian poet Matthew Arnold:

Her mirth the world required

She bathed it in smiles of glee.

But her heart was tired, tired,

And now they let her be.

Her life was turning, turning,

In mazes of heat and sound.

But for peace her heart was yearning,

And now peace laps her round.

My cheating boyfriend has a baby son 

DEAR BEL, 

I am in a relationship, but my boyfriend cheated and had a child by someone else. He did not tell me about the child. I found out what had happened by going through his phone.

I have asked him to get a blood test to prove paternity, but he keeps saying: ‘My mother says he looks like me.’ I think he may be scared to know one way or the other.

He continues to take care of this child and does not seem to care about how I feel.

I don’t feel like I should be in this relationship if he doesn’t have enough respect for me to take the DNA test. Can you let me know your opinion on this situation? 

Thanks!

MEL

Your very terse email (where I even had to insert words for clarification) made me wonder whether young people like you (I’m guessing you are under 30) have, because of texting and social media, lost the ability to communicate properly with anybody.

It’s a serious question and not meant in any way to be a put-down.

You see, I would have liked so much more information — such as how old you are, how long you have been dating, whether or not you have moved in together, whether your boyfriend formed a relationship with the other girl or was it a one-night stand? And is he actually paying child support? That kind of thing.

I ask you to consider whether, when you communicate with friends, family and your boyfriend, you give due thought to what you are saying and how you say it.

Please think about this, because in the long run it may help you. You need to give in order to receive.

Without any more information I shall have to reply with a quick, gut-level response. Sometimes those are the best, given the hopeless messes people make of their lives and the convoluted emotional hoops they jump through to justify that chaos. Sometimes you just have to cut to the chase.

So yes, it will be obvious to any sensible person that you certainly should not continue with this relationship.

Your boyfriend’s mother has met the poor baby he fathered so carelessly, and thinks it looks like him. Does that suggest she doesn’t care much about your relationship with her son?

If he doubted the paternity for a minute, then surely he’d be willing to take the DNA test? Since he doesn’t want to find out, that probably indicates he feels involved with the baby and feels some sort of bond with the mother (and I should jolly well hope so!).

The fact that he cheated on you and is now continuing a sort of relationship with mother and baby seems ample proof that he has no intention of committing himself to you — now or in the future.

Therefore I would like you to look in the mirror for a while and then say aloud: ‘Hey, girlfriend, listen to me — why the hell are you wasting your precious time?’

Then repeat it a couple of times more, getting louder.

I think many of us would benefit from this mirror-interrogation. Ask yourself whether that face in the glass looks like someone who is respected, or disrespected, by the man she loves.

But what am I thinking? You didn’t use the word ‘love’ at all.

You might have been in too much of a hurry to press ‘send’, or maybe you don’t truly care for the man at all, but just want to have a boyfriend. Some women are like that, aren’t they?

It seems to me that the way forward is to cut your losses, end this entanglement and spend some time on your own to work out who you are, what you can bring to a mature relationship, and what you most want for the rest of your life.

And finally… Hope lifts a heart jaded by history

Twenty-nine years ago, I was preparing to set off for Germany and Romania, alone, for a daunting research project. It resulted in a screenplay, a novel, a story for older children and a magazine short story.

There was snow on the streets of Timisoara (where the uprising against the communist tyrant Ceausescu started) and many little candlelit shrines in Bucharest, marking where people were killed.

I made two long visits to Romania and met cowed people suddenly full of hope. How disappointing it is to realise that today Romania (an EU member) has one of the highest child poverty rates in the developed world . . .

Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week. 

Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email bel.mooney@dailymail.co.uk. 

A pseudonym will be used if you wish. 

Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

Anyway, I’ve recently had a delightful email exchange (through my website) with a 12-year-old in Bucharest who’s reading my novel, The Voices Of Silence, set in 1989 at the time of the revolution. I’m so pleased!

She asked me various questions, including who the main character was based on. Nobody, I replied, because novelists can make things up. She wrote back: ‘I didn’t think Flora was a made-up character because she sounds so realistic. I hope that something devastating like the Romanian Revolution doesn’t happen again in Romania or in the world.’

Ah, my dear, I thought, but it will . . . and sometimes (as in Romania) the upheaval heralds a change for the better.

Surely children in former Eastern Bloc countries are taught what communism was like? When everybody was terrified of the Secret Police? When there was nothing in the shops, and only the elite had access to the all-powerful dollar? That was on-going devastation.

Just lately, dear readers, I confess I’ve been feeling jaded. Those of us who have lived through political changes, seen lying leaders come and go, listened to the latest nonsense, witnessed the hypocrisy of the ‘virtuous’, heard the angry shrieks of the young . . . no wonder we feel there’s nothing new under the sun. Except sad, freshly minted hopes.

 

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