Hi Mum

Sorry I’ve not written lately. Ever since you left things have been very hectic for all of us, we’ve not really had a chance to stand by and be affected, which is of course what you wanted. Christmas was obviously upon us almost immediately, and that was a little strange. Chris and I did got the decanter you asked for, Dad absolutely loves it, it’s taken its place where the canary used to live. Chris found it in Selfridges of course. We went to Colette & Keith’s for Christmas Day, which was nice. Eric wanted to make a speech at the dinner table about what had happened and how much we all missed you, but he couldn’t, his voice stuck and his eyes filled with tears. It didn’t matter though, we all knew what he wanted to say.

It’s funny, imagining the house with you, Wooster and the canary in it seems very strange now. It’s quite surreal, very little has changed inside the house, and yet it’s as if it’s always just been Adam and Dad living there. Dad bought a telly for the bedroom, making it the 5th telly in the house, between just the two of them! Dad has also bought a new boat, he sold the Laser and bought a Solo and he’s met a whole new group of blokes down a the sailing club, it’s almost as if the Solo sailors form a sailing club of their own. He keeps inviting me to try it out but of course I probably never will.

Chris went out to Canada on the weekend before Christmas, as usual. However, as you know I went out to join him on January 5th, which made Christmas more bearable. Hrishi and I met at the airport, and I got upgraded to business class! Hrishi of course then got upgraded to first class, but we won’t talk about that. Canada was really really splendid, a fantastic place. A friend of mine says that he’s yet to meet someone who didn’t like Canada and he’s absolutely right. Chris bought the apartment off his parents while he was out there, and so it’s ours now and we can use it every year, so the trip to Canada is going to be an annual event. It’s a shame you never got to see it, as I know you and Dad were planning to go one year very soon.

We’ve seen a tremendous amount of the family since we got back from Canada. Chris and I have visited Collette and Keith; Alexa and George by ourselves, and La Famille Atkins with Dad and Adam, not to mention several evenings with Sandra and Eric, both at their house and in our flat. I never thought it was possible for a family to become closer than we were already, but it seems I was wrong. Mike went back to Canada a couple of weeks ago, after having spent a few weeks with Sandra and Eric. Emma of course went back shortly after New Year.

An extraordinary thing happened when we were at Collette and Keith’s. Whilst we were watching Harry Potter, I had all three kids around me. Isobelle was sitting next to me, and I had Alice on one knee and Harry (who the girls now call Harry Potty to reflect his current level of housetraining) on the other. The part of the film where Potter finds the mirror that shows you what you want came up, and the girls explained its purpose to me. I asked them what they would see in the mirror if they looked in it, and they said the predictable things that small girls so. Harry Potter then looked in the mirror and saw his dead parents, smiling at him. Alice then turned to me and said “do you miss your Mummy?”. I looked at her briefly, quite astonished that a 4 year old girl would be aware of what had recently happened. “Yes, I do”, I replied.

Dad’s been doing his annual trade shows over the past few weeks. It’s always a busy time of year for him which I think has helped him a great deal. Unfortunately I had to pull out of the France skiing holiday a couple of days ago, which I know dissapointed him terribly. I really wanted to go, and I know how important it was to him because of course you won’t be going, but I’ve just got too much work on at the moment as it’s a busy time for me too, ever since we returned from Canada both Chris and I have been rushed off our feet. I’m taking him to the pub next week anyway, he’s asked for the usual array of country and western CDs for his birthday.

Chris and I bought another car, quite unexpectedly really. It’s a 12 month old BMW 530i sport with a custom paint job and loads of options. Chris found it by chance and we both fell in love with it. The old green BMW was part exchanged for it because it had started to cost money, as old cars do eventually. I was sad to see it go, and strangely enough I still miss it, despite its replacement being worlds better. I’m not sure why that is. I was never very good at seeing cars go, remember the time I was in tears when the Fiesta was towed away? That seems so long ago now.

It all seems so long ago now, and yet it’s less than three months. Indeed, three months ago you were in hospital, and had been for ten days. You weren’t very well, but your recovery was still very much on the cards. At that time I simply assumed that you would get better. It wasn’t until 4 days before you went that I truly realised how serious everything was. How naiive. Having said that, when I did realise how bad things were, I don’t think everyone else did. It was almost as if I overtook them. But even then, the Monday before you went, I believed that there was still at least another week or 10 days to go, even though I knew that you were going to go. But it wasn’t to be.

Strangely enough, I woke up 30 minutes before you died. For no reason. I just woke up, and then went back to sleep. You were still alive then. The next thing I remember was a car coming round the back of my flat, which I assumed was Sue, but it wasn’t. There was a banging on my back door, and I jumped out of bed and flew back the curtains to see the shapes of two blokes outside wearing green wax jackets. It certainly wasn’t Sue.

“Mum’s passed away”, said Dad, after first having spent a few seconds reading my exasperated face. I’d flung open the door knowing exactly who it was, and exactly why they’d come. My pupils must’ve been the size of braille dots. I cried.

I showered and shaved, and put the kettle on. Dad and Adam went to the loo. It was pouring with rain outside, and it was still before 9.00am. I phoned Chris, who immediately made arrangements to come down from Manchester. We set off for the hospital in two cars, your Micra and my blue car, Chris had the green car up north.

There was the usual parking mayhem at the hospital, cars hanging off grass verges and on double yellows. I found a patch of grass to park on, and stood in the patch of grass behind it as Sandra and Eric approached, saving it for them. They parked up and got out, Sandra was already in tears and she went to hug Dad. Adam wandered off into the foyer of the hospital wing whilst Sandra hugged me, crying. “You know I’ve always been your second mother don’t you”, she said. Eric looked at us both with watery eyes, probably unable to say anything, which of course is a first for him!

We walked into the hospital to catch up with Adam. He was standing in the entrance hall crying into his hands as random old ladies sat on the benches staring at him. I was quite composed at this point, although I can’t for the life of me think why. We walked up the same stairs that we’d all walked up every day for the previous three weeks, knowing it would be the last time we’d ever do it. You were still lying in your bed in the ward, with the curtain round you. The nurses greeted us with solemn faces, and we made towards your bed.

As the curtain was pulled back by the nurses I laid eyes on you, and immediately froze. There was a young girl at the back of the room who had come to visit her grandmother. I looked at her, and all the blood ran out of her face, and I immediately knew it was because the same had happened to my face. She obviously had known what was behind the curtain. Someone’s mother had died and her family was on their way in, and here they are. What an awful thing.

I turned round 180 degrees on my heels, my shoes squeaking on the hospital floor, and walked back out, staring straight ahead with watery eyes. Eric was behind me and I walked into him, nearly knocking him over. I walked past him and he grabbed me and followed me out. In the corridor my vision blurred and I lost my balance, Eric propped me up and I was quickly ushered into an office.

Inside the office I said some very naughty anglo-saxon four letter words and I sobbed desperately. The sight of you lying there, lifeless and still, had been a real shock to me, for which nothing could have ever prepared me for. I don’t know how the others did it. Dad was there when you went, and so obviously he’d seen you before, but Adam and Sandra hadn’t.

After a few minutes I was alright again, angry at myself if anything. Eric and I went back into the ward and this time I wasn’t scared of what I saw. There were no tubes, there were no machines, there were no fans, and there wasn’t folders full of notes at the end of your bed. You were lying down, with just one pillow. To your side were pictures of us, and the two pictures of the cats from when they were kittens that usually reside on top of the telly. It was quiet, except for the general hospital murmur coming from outside the curtains. I said goodbye, but not before I begged you to come back.

The formalities followed, Dad being ever practical. Within 48 hours we had everything arranged, we had been to the registrar of deaths in Weybridge and the funeral was all organised. The tributes from all our friends came flooding in from all over, Dad eventually ran out of space to put up cards. The news spread like wildfire, over the following fortnight I received calls and e-mails from people that I’d not spoken to since I left school. People came from far and wide to the funeral, and packed out the little church in New Haw.

I miss you so much. I’ve not cried since the day you went, but I cried this evening. I’m a little stressed at the moment for various reasons, and I think this may be contributing to it. Everyone warned me that it might take a few months to come through.

I have to go now. I started a new project today for a new client, and it’s very important. I will write again soon, I promise.

xx Stuart