The Queen sends her condolences

Today would have been my father’s birthday. He and my mother were close to celebrating 60 years of marriage when she died in 1996.

I must be one of the few people in the country to have received a letter of condolence from Buckingham Palace! I had arranged for my parents to receive the customary congratulatory card from the Queen but then cancelled it when my mother died.

So my dad never knew. But he probably wouldn’t have wanted any reminders.

I was remembering how – only a couple of days after my mother died – my father was quite insistent that I came to their home and cleared out all her things.

I realise now that this was not because he did not love her but because he loved her so much.

Remembering

After my mother died

My father did not want

Anything of hers

And asked me to

Clear it all away

He also removed all photographs.

We each have our way

Of grieving

And I did not ask or question

But emptied her drawers

Of the little there was

And stuffed black bags

With her clothes

and gave them to

Her grateful cleaner

Who hauled them behind her

down the street.

All that my mother

Had hoarded

So neatly

So scrupulously

Over all the years

I threw it all away

Strings and ribbons

Wrapping paper

Elastic bands

And carrier bags

All the detritus of life

I kept the knife

She had used

To cut the cakes she baked

And the secateurs she used

To prune the flowers she

Grew so lovingly.

And then

At the back of

A kitchen drawer

There was a paper bag

Inside were seeds

Of what I didn’t know

But put them in my pocket

To take home.

Now every year

A sweet pea blooms

In the corner of our garden

A fragrant reminder

Of my lovely mum.

My mother

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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