And so it came to pass that a year that contained more than its fair share of losses ended, and new year began: 2004.
On the 28th day of January, I boarded a plane for England, hardly able to believe that at last I would be seeing Mum.
I couldn't get a direct flight to Birmingham so I flew via Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. When the flight landed in France however, we were told that there were no flights leaving for England; a snowfall had caused chaos on the roads and the airports were closed. Passengers were given meal coupons for an airport lounge. There was nothing to do but wait.
If I have a book to read and journal to write in I will be content for hours and so the eleven hours until England pulled itself together and cleared away the snow felt like a kind of comfortable limbo.
I wasn't in a hurry, I realized, now that I was on my way. Maybe I was a little scared. I had said goodbye to Mum when she boarded the plane for England in October, but so much had happened since then. Through Rob's detailed updates, I had traveled the journey with them, but it would not be fully real to me until I saw her myself. My time at the airport in Paris felt like a bridge between two parts of Mum's life.
It was 9.30 pm on the 29th, when my plane landed in Birmingham and Rob and my nephew John were waiting there for me.
We drove through the dark night, from Birmingham to Alvechurch: 42 Snake Lane. They stayed and had a couple of cups of tea, and after making sure I was settled in, they left for their own homes.
I was all alone in the house, apart from Sam, the cat. All was silent, except for the ticking of the clock, and the soft shhhhhh of the gas fire.
Mum was all around me, but she wasn't there. It felt so strange to be separated by only five or so miles, and yet she was there in hospital and I was here in her home. It felt as though we should be having a final cup of tea together before turning in for the night.
I opened Mum's Daily Light and the bookmark was at October 20th, the day Mum had the stroke. She would have read it the night before and it was waiting for her to open again; something she would never do.
Her writing pad was neatly placed beside it, probably where she left it when she finished the letter she had mailed to me moments before the stroke happened.
The house felt so strangely silent, and yet so full of Mum. Only 16 months earlier I was there with both Mum and Dad. I spotted the red and gold biscuit tin that was always beside his seat. I opened it and it was still filled with the Tuc crackers that he enjoyed sharing with me.
I thanked God that he had brought us since then, through something I could never imagine happening: Dad's death, and Mum's declining health. I thanked him for the healing time of forgiveness I experienced with Dad before I left in 2002, and that God allowed me to see him again before he died--and that he knew I was there.
I thanked God again for the four wonderful weeks with Mum in September when we had traveled to the wedding in British Columbia, and for the fact that all of Mum's great grandchildren had recent memories of her.
And now I was here for another four weeks. I had no idea what God had in store but my prayer was that I would be all to Mum that she needed. I wanted to comfort, bless and love her completely.
Paul would be joining me on February 14, for the last ten days.
But for now I needed to sleep...
To be continued.