On the morning I took this beautiful picture I was walking along the river. It was exactly two months ago today. I went for a walk that I regularly take, hiking along the banks of the river, passing underneath the Humber Bridge, and then weaving through the leafy country park.
But because of a parcel I went an hour and a half earlier than I usually would. It wasn’t even my parcel. On his way out to work, my husband asked if I’d be in all day to sign for it. I said I wouldn’t, that I absolutely had to take my walk, after all yesterday I’d been on a mental health awareness course at work, and it had reiterated what I already knew – that physical exercise is up there with good sleep in combating depression and anxiety.
We argued half-heartedly, the way you do when you’ve been married almost twenty years, and in the end I said that if I went for my walk there and then – at just after 8am instead of at 9.30am – he could hang about for the ‘bloody parcel’and just go into work late.
On the walk, in the early mist, I saw these gorgeous daffodils by the water. I took the picture, intending to maybe share it on Instagram or somewhere.
I never did.
That afternoon my phone lit up with my sister’s name. She lives in Grantham and I knew she was at work, so I frowned, knowing it must be quite important. She said, ‘She’s OK,’ first and I knew it was bad news. Someone must be in trouble, but alive.
Then she said, ‘Mum jumped off the Humber Bridge.’
I don’t actually know how I felt immediately. It’s a bit like the misty picture of the daffodils where you can’t fully see the water, and nothing of the opposite river bank. She garbled the facts, clearly in shock. Mum jumped this morning. She’s at the hospital now. A miracle she’s alive. Life-changing injuries. I called my other sister. It took ages to get hold of her because she too was at work, and with every ring I dreaded changing her life the way mine had just been changed. I’ve always liked to protect my siblings, but there was no protecting them from this.
We rushed to the hospital. My brother was waiting there. We have been together, the four of us, through so much, and this was no different. The rest is a blur of medical staff and cups of tea and lists of injuries and standing around a bed and hearing the machines and having to tell my mum’s only brother in Australia.
If I had gone on my morning walk at the usual time, I might have seen my mum walking up to the bridge and changed things. Or I might have seen her on the bridge and been able to do nothing. Or worse. And this haunts me every day. Thanks to a parcel – that never actually came that day in the end – I wasn’t there when she was.
Four days after it happened, I had to go away.
Until the day before, I wasn’t going to, but my family persuaded me that I should, that I could come home if anything else happened. A good writer friend told me to go and be Louise Beech the author, which really helped. I had an awards ceremony in London that I couldn’t miss, and a book tour that despite everything, I didn’t want to miss. I did it. I smiled and did it. But I really was broken inside.
I like making other people happy. One of my earliest memories is sitting at my mother’s feet when I was perhaps six or seven, trying to make her smile. She was depressed. I didn’t know that then. I didn’t know that nothing would have made her smile.
So it’s two months on.
And I found the photo of the daffodils on my phone, with the date 28th February.
Daffodils symbolise spring and rebirth. If you look up their meaning, they also represent memory and forgiveness. They belong to the genus narcissus, a name that comes from the Greek God Narcissus. He was so enamoured with his own reflection in the river that he drowned trying to capture his reflection. The daffodils growing along stream banks took on his name, due to the beauty of their reflected image in the water.
Anyway, I’m writing again, like I always am.
And I’m smiling again, like I always am.
But just like in the photo, there’s always way more to it.