I’ll never ever forget that night. That horrible sunken feeling of emptiness and complete shock.

I always have my phone on silent - even in the day time - I think it comes from working in an office a lot so it just became habit.

We were staying at my in-laws as it was Waitangi (6th Feb 2020) - a public holiday in New Zealand. Jason had gone home that afternoon and I was staying an extra night and then heading back the next day.

It was around midnight and Aidan had woken up for a bottle. He was 5 1/2 months then so you know the drill! He was actually a pretty good baby and was like clockwork. So up I got and grabbed him one from the kitchen.

I always have this terrible habit of looking at my phone when I wake up and Jason had said to me the night before - don’t look at your phone when you wake, just go back to sleep! After feeding Aidan, something drew me to look at my phone - not sure what, but I did.

I turned on the screen and there it was - missed messages, phone calls and a voicemail from the UK. I knew straight away something terrible had happened and when I saw my friend Lou had tried to get hold of me as well, I knew it was serious. Lou is a police officer for the local town and as soon as I saw her name I started shaking.

I called the house phone as I walked into the hallway outside the bedroom as Aidan was asleep. Dad answered.

The rest is blurry - I remember him telling me Mum had died and something about waiting for the undertaker. At this point I had collapsed in a heap, wailing uncontrollably. My mother-in-law raced out from her bedroom - her initial thought was something had happened to Aidan and I just kept repeating “my Mum, my Mum, why, why?”

That’s pretty much all I remember from that point until the following day. Jason turned up around 1.30am - Lou had got hold of him so he drove the hour and a half journey back to comfort me and for me to comfort him. We were absolutely devastated.

The following day we had to organise flights - this was pre-Covid so it was a lot easier to arrange. Flights booked for Sunday evening and friends and family gathered round like the village I so needed at that time. I found it really hard to be a mother at this time - it was like my mind shut off from that part of my life. I just needed space to understand what was happening and space to grieve. This is something I want to talk about in another post because it’s such a valid part of my grieving process and something that really plays on my mind a lot.

Friends and family in the UK got things ready for our arrival such as clothing, a cot, pram, toys and food. It was absolutely amazing and something I will never forget.

Again I don’t remember much of the flights except, when we got to America for our connecting flight, we found my luggage had been ripped open and the suitcase was irreparable - the attendant didn’t know what to do as I broke down in the middle of Los Angeles airport with my knickers and bras on display for everyone to see - this on top of everything else that was happening was just too much to take in! I’d actually turned into that crazy person you see in the airport - I was crying and shouting “my Mum has just died why is this happening?!” That poor, poor man!

Once we got to the UK and got through customs after a lot of questions around Aidan and how long he would be in the country, we were given a brand new suitcase. The airport was relatively quiet and as we walked through the big double doors into London, I remember seeing Dad waiting for us. He looked tired and so lost. We got in the car and it was silent. We tried to make conversation but we were all so exhausted.

When we got home we spoke about the events of the night before Mum passed away. Mum had gone to bed in the spare room because she was tired and Dad was going to the pub. She didn’t want to smell the booze plus all of her things were up in the top bedroom so it was easier. They were meant to be going away that weekend with some friends and she had been working on Aidan’s room for our arrival in March so she was pretty exhausted (we were actually going over for six weeks which was booked back in November 2019). She said good night and off she went around 9.15pm. Dad went to bed about 11pm and woke up at 8am. He went downstairs, got ready and realised the time. They were meant to be leaving just after 9am to go and catch the ferry to the Isle of Wight. Dad called out to mum and no answer. He walked up the first flight calling her name “Anne, Anne” but still nothing. He then entered the bedroom and saw her lying there. Dad said she just looked like she was asleep and it wasn’t until he touched her and saw her face that he realised she was gone. Just like that - she was no longer with us. Dad then had to make the phone call to emergency services and to their friends to say they wouldn’t be on the ferry. They still went away as Mum would have wanted that, and they had as good a time as they could in Mums memory with a fair few drinks and a bit of dancing thrown in - Mum always liked a boogie especially to the 70’s.

Once the coroners report came back, it showed that Mum had passed in her sleep around 4.30am. Her arteries were blocked and blood stopped pumping and then she was gone. She always said that’s how she wanted to go - in her sleep so she got that at least. It was painless - even Lou said when she went and saw mum she looked so peaceful. That helped a lot to hear that.

One of the hardest things was the laundry basket. Mum’s laundry from the week before. It sat in their bedroom for a good couple of weeks before I finally washed it all. Washing it meant that it was all finally happening and I just couldn’t bear the thought of it.

The next few days were spent with friends and family, arranging the funeral, the flowers and then picking out what mum was going to wear including jewellery for our last visit to say good bye before the big day.

I had never seen a dead person before and I wasn’t sure what to expect. We got to the funeral directors and we were asked who would like to go in first or if we wanted to go in as a group. Dad said he wanted to go in on his own so Jason, Aidan and I sat and waited with one of mums good friends - Steph. Dad looked upset as you can imagine - you see my Dad never cries. He’s a very strong, caring person but is quite ‘old school’ when it comes to his emotions. After Dad, it was my turn. I walked up the hallway and the lady who was working there opened the door for me. There was Mum - she looked as though she was asleep but with her glasses on. Dressed in a black dress and her jewellery including her wedding ring (Dad has kept this for me), her hands were put one over the other on her chest. They had tried to cover up the blueness of her skin as much as possible but it was still visible. I sat there and sobbed for a while and spoke about Aidan. I told her I was annoyed that she didn’t write down any of her recipes for her dishes and that I’ll miss her more and more each day. Then, it went silent, but it was so peaceful which is such a weird thing to say considering I was staring at my dead mother. I told her I loved her and kissed her cold forehead and left the room.

After I went in, Jason and then Steph said their goodbyes and then I took Aidan in along with Jase so he could say goodbye to his Granny Annie. When he saw her, he smiled - it was beautiful. We put a little stuffed kiwi bird in with her from Aidan who she always called her Chuckle Bunny.

Once we had said our goodbyes we went to the pub and had a few - it was needed that’s for sure!

The funeral itself was everything we could have asked for. Over 150 people, lots of drinks and catch ups with friends and family who thought so fondly of mum. That’s the thing about grief - you are not the only one going through it. Yes it may be different for everyone but, to know you’re not alone is a huge relief especially in those very dark moments.

I’ve definitely got over the worst - I’ll never fully be over it and I’ll never forget it, but at least I know, we are all in this together.

So I guess this is where my journey with grief started. It’s been a big process and at points it’s been mentally and physically draining but all I can say is how grateful I am to have Aidan, my husband, my Dad and friends who have been the support I needed to get through this first chapter.

To you my Mummy - I love you thisssss much.