A few weeks ago I went to the supermarket baby-free (which technically speaking means I had a mini-holiday) and while I was waiting at the checkout, in front of me was a youngish man with an older woman in a wheelchair, who I presumed was his mum. They had put their items on the conveyor belt and were struggling to get through the checkout aisle. His mum’s wheelchair was just a tad too big to fit through the snug exit. I could feel this guy becoming more and more agitated, and strangely enough I think he was embarrassed. He got quite firm with his mum and blamed her for making their shopping trip 'so hard!'. She didn't say a word, instead she had this awfully sad look on her frail face. He was being so abrupt to her.
I just froze. Memories came flooding back to me of a day I was wheeling my mum in her
wheelchair along the the southern beaches. We did this 3 months before she died. I pushed her through shrubbery and up and down hills to try and get a good view of the whales that had come in to the cove. At the end of our walk we stopped to watch the waves crashing on the beach. She fell asleep while watching the waves and I remember watching her and thinking 'this is one of those moments that I won't understand how precious it is until she's gone'. And I was right. I was painfully right. At the time I was dripping with sweat, hungry for lunch and waiting for my husband to come in from the surf so we could just go and get on with our day.
I wish I had the strength to say something to that man in the supermarket. I wish I could have said 'look after her. Love her. No-one is judging you, or your mum. If anything people are looking at you with love and admiration. Some people would give anything to be in your shoes, taking their mum out shopping. Absorb this moment as much as you can because one day you'll look back and realise just how special these moments are'.
But all the memories that were swirling around in my heart were consuming all my energy. I couldn’t move my lips, I couldn’t even look away. Eventually they paid for their groceries and walked off. I remember thinking to myself
‘If I could go back in time to when mum fell asleep watching the waves, what would I do?’
I’d let her sleep and instead of rushing off to get on with the day, I'd sit and talk to her. I’d ask her every single question I could to learn more about her, about our history, about her as a mum when I was a baby. I'd talk, and love her until she'd fall asleep again. Just then I looked up and saw the young guy pushing his mum past my shopping register. He was silent and looked like he’d just finished sucking lemons for 5 days. Then I looked at his mum. She was sunken into her chair, avoiding all eye contact and you could just tell she felt like a burden and was feeling awful about herself.
I lost it. With tears starting to welt up in my eyes the cashier asked if I had hayfever…’Nope! I just miss my mum’. A 29 year old independent woman, crying at the lady in the supermarket because I miss my mummy.
Look – I understand that there were people who had their eyes fixated on this guy and his mum. I can appreciate that probably for the entire trip he had someone, somewhere watching him with his disabled/unwell mother. I understand the pressure he must have felt. I get it. I’ve been there. But this time, I was one of those people that was watching, instead of being watched.
I was watching them in owe. In owe of what he was able to do with his mum, and that he actually cared enough to take the time out to do things with her. With every moment I watched them I somehow felt closer to my mum. And I know that most of the other people watching, were watching with loving and admiring eyes. I wish he knew that.
So with me understanding this, when I notice people looking at me – why do I automatically assume that I’m being judged in a bad way? I immediately accept that I’m being judged on my weight, or my clothes or even the way I behave with my children. When in actual fact they could be admiring me, or maybe they’re enjoying my sons giggles and smiles…or maybe, just maybe that person who is looking at me has lost a daughter, wife or friend and I’m reminding them of some happy memories.
From now on when I see someone looking at me, instead of avoiding eye contact and scurrying off in the opposite direction, I’m going to look at them and smile.
Please don't take your family or your friends for granted. There are no guarantees in life. No promises that your mum will always be there to catch you in a big bear hug. No promises that your closest friend will be there to answer your calls and listen to your worries...because maybe, just maybe you will outlive them all. And that it when you will wish you had made the most of today.
This is my mum and I two months before she passed away. Although we had some intimate times before she left us, I can't help but feel I didn't make the most of when she was Earth-side with me,