5 more minutes

On a Thursday in September 2020, we finally heard from the hospital: it was cancer. In true mum style, she apologised profusely for giving us this bad news. She didn’t want to hurt us, even if she was hurting more.

I was instantly petrified. I had just qualified as a solicitor and was in the office when the news landed. I stopped in my tracks and was overwhelmed with that weird out of body experience you sometimes get when you’re overwhelmed or maybe, in my case, over-caffeinated. I was like a fly on the wall, silently watching my own reaction to this news like I was watching one of those tragic documentaries about strangers that I often watch on the BBC. 

My eyes blurred as I started to contemplate what this meant. A few rounds of chemo, and all will be back to normal, right? This only happens to other people, not us or our mum, I thought. She was a good Christian woman who cared so deeply, and spent her life putting everyone else first. But yet, that wasn’t an antidote – her good deeds hadn’t protected her and it was so unfair. She didn’t deserve it. Of course she didn’t, no-one ever does.

Huge marble-like tears filled my eyes and fell onto my sterile wood-effect desk, littered with two biros, stray staples and a printed contract held together with an enormous paperclip. I couldn’t be here, I thought. I needed to see mum, needed to go to her immediately (remember what I said about being all action first?). I couldn’t peruse a contract or negotiate a tricky bit of drafting – that would be impossible. Everything else paled in comparison.

I booked a train ticket and cornered a poor colleague to tell her what has happened. She was very uncomfortable with this news (quite rightly, I was uncomfy with it too!). She tried to comfort me, but  I reassured her I was okay and went on my way. 

I told mum I was on the way home, and to expect me in a couple of hours. “You don’t need to do that Hat! You’ve just started your new job!”. Imagine that! She was such a woman of duty with a stellar work ethic; she always wanted us to do our best – “Nothing is ever wasted”, she would say. But, for the first time EVER, she was wrong!

I carried on my journey to Bath, and met Sophie and mum and we went for lunch. Somehow it was like a bombshell hadn’t been detonated into our family chat – we sat, ate sandwiches and laughed at silly things – just like normal. We had a few moments of sombre chat discussing what this meant and what would happen – but mum seemed resolute and I think she was oddly relieved to finally know what she was facing. I was just happy to be with them, and to show mum that she could count on us, whatever happened. 

Out of everything in the world, I wish I could have that lunch again. I wish I could see her index finger gingerly holding the scalding hot lid of the teapot as she poured her tea (this stops the teapot dribbling, she would explain). I wish I could see her add the smallest drop of milk, and almost immediately take a sip. I wish I could see her holding her cup in two hands, smiling across the table at me. I wish I could tell her I didn’t want to share my crisps, she would have to get her own! I wish for 5 more minutes with my beautiful little mum. 

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