Last year, around this time, I tried to write about how I feel every Christmas, being a mum but without my own mother. I didn’t get very far.
I drafted a few sentences and then I had to stop to cry and I gave up. It was too painful – 15 years after her death.
Time is a tricky beast; it zooms past when your kids are growing up, so that they are no longer tiny tots who believe in Father Christmas but sulky teenagers or pre-teens ( prenagers?) who don’t want to go to the carol concert any more. But when it comes to missing someone dear, time stands still.
Christmas is always a bittersweet time because I am a Mum and my own Mum never got to see my children at all. I know she would have been a wonderful grandmother; she was brilliant with my brother’s kids. I remember all the things she did with me at Christmas time when I was little – decorating the tree, making cakes, wrapping presents. She was the hub of everything, in the kitchen, running the show.
I remember the last Christmas I had with my mother, long before my children were born, before I met my husband.
I can still see her struggling with the pain of cancer, her immune system shot to pieces, her mouth full of ulcers from the chemotherapy. We managed to get her home for a few days and she sobbed at the table, knowing that this would be the last time we would all be together at this special time of the year. When she was so ill she had to return to hospital, we sang carols around her bed and tried not to cry again.
Years later, she never saw my first baby’s steps on Boxing Day, across her living room. She never saw my second child learning how to sledge in the snow in the park near her house.
I think the real spirit of Christmas is learning to hold all those feelings, somehow, and to find a way through it. Sometimes, I’m not very good at it. I try not to get depressed, I try not to cry. I always do fun things with my boys – ice-skating, running around the park, watching films together, playing games. I try to make sure every Christmas for them is a happy time.
It can’t stop me regretting that my mum died so young, that my children never got to have Christmas with her.
In the still of the night on Christmas Eve, when everyone else dreams of the presents under the tree, I am walking up the front path, having driven up from London to make it home, just like I did all those years ago, before she fell ill. It’s freezing cold outside but the lights burn brightly in the house and she opens the front door to greet me.
Beezy Marsh is a best-selling author and journalist. Her book, Keeping My Sisters’ Secrets, is published by PanMacmillan and her romantic romp through motherhood, Mr Make Believe, is published by Ipso Books. Follow her on Twitter or on her website