An Irish expatriate and daughter reveals how the dreaded news from home that her mother had died added incredible poignancy to the the last phone call between the two.
My mother died four months ago. I received the dreaded long awaited call from Ireland at noon that day.
As an expat I knew the call would come and was just a matter of time.
It couldn’t have come at a worst time, though, as I was just 10 days after major surgery and five days before we were moving into our new home.
I had spoken to her a few days before as she called me in a bit of a state.
I answered the phone and before I could finish saying hello she asked me “What age were you when I left”.
“What Mammy” I asked.
“What age were you when I left for England."
“I was 14 Mam,” I said.
My mother had a hard life.
She essentially raised all four of us on her own. I was the youngest of four and when i was 14-years-old she decided that leaving Ireland to pursue a higher paid job as a nurse would be best for the family.
She eventually went on to Saudi Arabia all the while sending home money and coming home once or twice a year.
Looking back now as a mother myself I don’t know how she did it, I know why but I don’t know how.
I was so proud of her when she went to Saudi telling all my friends about my cool mom traveling for work.
I grew up very fast, I had to.
At 16 I had an apartment as my relationship with my father was strained. I worked a job and finished my leaving cert at the same time.
I got four D’s in my leaving cert with was completely reflective of my effort.
I didn’t need my leaving cert as I knew I was going to America I was just simply waiting my time until the opportunity came, somehow someway I would get a visa.
My mother told me from a very young age that I was great. We would walk into town on a Saturday with her arm around my shoulder telling her friends we met along the way how great I was.
So I knew I apparently was great yet I hadn’t proved it to others yet, but I knew.
This thought my mother planted in my head at a young age never left me, even in my darkest hours.
“O God how did I leave you at 14” she said on that phone call with sadness and disappointment in her voice.
I quickly responded that I was fine and look at how successful my life turned out. But really in the back of my mind I agreed with her sadness and disappointment. Yes, how could you have left?
I have a very successful career and life in America and I can only assume it’s a testament to my independence at a young age and my mothers words that I was great.
I've worked for everything I have and couldn’t imagine life any better.
What would have been the point in my being honest in that phone call with my mother?
How would it have benefited me to tell her the truth?
Yes I would have loved to have questioned her thought process of leaving me in a crappy situation but this would only serve to hurt her. What’s done is done.
I’m stronger, wiser and more appreciative of everything I have and everything my children have because I've been on the other side. And I would never trade the wisdom I have of being on the other side for anything.
I don’t know why she was thinking so deeply and reflecting on her life that day. Did she know she was going to die soon?
She wasn’t sick. She died suddenly while eating a scone and having a cup of tea and off she went.
My father rose to the occasion at her funeral. As we stood by her casket he spoke of the four amazing children she has left him with and in that moment I forgave him too.
My lesson learned here is this ... We all make mistakes but don’t make a mistake of not forgiving. Yes I am great but actually we all are. Go find your great.
The author's name is with the editor.
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