Letting go

3 Mar

On 8 August 2021 I wrote:

There’s a new design a-coming.

It’s been a tough couple of days, with little stitching time. Somehow I held the tears back till I was about to drive back home again… not sure when they’ll end, so you may need to wait awhile for the new design. (You’re going to love it).

Some years before Mum’s dementia entered our lives, but after Dad had died, Mum called a Family Meeting, with her three children – myself and my two brothers. She wanted to tell us together what her wishes were for her remaining years, including details of what was in her Will, and her desire that we focus on quality of life, not length of it – she has always been very much in the DNR camp, but it was, I think, good for us all to hear this together so we all have clarity about ‘what Mum would want’ as she became unable to express it herself, or even to work out what the question was that she was being asked.

There is tradition on Mum’s side of our family to identify what things we might get on someone’s death, so I have a small side table that has a label with Mum’s name on it in the drawer, written in her GranBunnie’s handwriting.. There are other bits of furniture still at Mum’s with those same labels, others with initials written in chalk on the underside of the drawer by my Grandmother.

At the Family Meeting Mum wanted to go around the house with us, marking up who would get what. It was all written in The Book. This process of giving a future life to her treasures I think gave her pleasure, a satisfaction knowing that we would continue to love some objects that felt almost like an extension of her.

But, after Mum had moved out of the family home we just left everything as it was. The jars of various teas sat by the kettle (Assam in the morning, “David’s Special Tea” at 4 o’clock, chamomile or peppermint for visitors); the bottles of oils and vinegars and wee jars of favourite herbs and spices were by the Rayburn; the TV remote controls remained on the side table next to where she would sit; her favourite blanket draped over that same chair… in every room it still looked as though she might come back any moment.

We had been busy, of course. But also we had known that clearing such stuff would open the dam, and would unleash a torrent of tears. We felt we had time, we didn’t need to do it yet.

The only thing we did was to remove most of the things that had our names attached to them.

So, on 8 August 2021, I was driving back up to my own house, with what is now known as Gordon’s Big Cock in the back of the car. This is a Tibetan sculpture of a cockerel, encrusted in wee cabochons of coral and turquoise. It’s a mad thing, but a thing with such history, having been given to Mum by her much-loved Uncle Walter who spent time in Tibet in the 1930s and 40s. Paintings were gone from the walls – all my life The Owl had hung above the fireplace, in the childhood home I was born in, and in this house Mum and Dad moved to after I had left home. The collection of Indian paintings had grown when Uncle Walter died and Mum inherited more of them. The display cabinet had always sparkled with bits of silver, each item with a story to tell, a part of our family history. All gone from the cabinets now, all that was left were the green goblets (bought by Mum at a house sale); the blue porcelain serving dish that Gran used to pile high with wee sandwiches for tea; a set of odd porcelain ladles that none of us cared for; some pottery animal sculptures that mum had created. We had decided to remove the things that ‘would break us’ if the house was burgled or went on fire. We also knew that now was not the time to remove everything. So there were compromises.

But on that journey back, all my heart knew was that this was the beginning of saying goodbye to Mum forever. The comfortable home, filled with stories and memories and beauty was being dismantled; some of her treasures would live on and be loved in other homes, but not everything, there was an inevitability that many of these things that we held so dear would also be gone from our lives. And on the journey home, this was all too much for me to bear.

Some days I wonder if I feel so strongly about the association of the Things with their Stories and our Memories because Mum has dementia, and her stories have been washed away with her own memories? Or have I always had this strong connection, and desire to imbue everything with meaning, with connection? It makes it much harder to let things go when it feels like you are letting go of those connections too; but with practice, a lot of practice, I am getting better at it.


This series of posts starts here, with Taking Smock of the Situation, an embroidery project I started after I realised Mum might have dementia. There I was, embroidering her old fisherman’s smock with symbols relating to her life; while her memories were slipping away, like me at a party I don’t want to be at.

If you want a bit of cooking inspiration then you could check out my recipes here. Not sure there’s anything much that would make it to a Carer’s CookBook… but if you’re interested I will add some ideas for meals if you are caring for someone you love (and you both love good food!)

One Response to “Letting go”


  1. Taking Smock of the Situation | Shewolfinthevalley - March 3, 2023

    […] Letting go […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: