In the weeks before my mum died, there was a kaleidoscope of butterflies everywhere and they were blue – her favourite colour.
We were staying at a friend’s beach house during the lockdown so my husband could be close to work.
I would spend a part of almost every day walking along the coastal path looking at the sea, the sand, and hundreds upon hundreds of butterflies.
Some days I would walk for an hour, other days two or more.
Sometimes, I walked so far in one direction that I had to ask Josh to collect me because my legs couldn’t carry me back again.
Back then, though, it was coronavirus fear that I was trying to make peace with.
Now, I also recognise that it was the first time in years that I wasn’t feeling guilty about not going to see mum, because we couldn’t.
The lockdown had closed the doors on the dementia facility and, little did I know, on my chance to see her one more time.
When the day we had all been expecting came, strangely it was like we had no time at all to prepare.
She is not doing very well, they said.
We’ll let you in at 9am the next day, they told us the afternoon before.
So, that morning, after a broken sleep, I sat drinking coffee with my husband, preparing myself to perhaps say goodbye to her.
Are you ready, he asked me? No, I said.
I was in the shower when she died.
A mere one and half hours before our allotted visitation time.
My phone was blinking with many missed calls when I walked into my bedroom – and I knew.
But I wasn’t going to hear the news that had long been coming while swathed in a bath towel.
So, I put on the bright orange dress I was always going to wear that day, sat on the edge of my bed and called my sister.
Less than two hours later, my family walked into our mum’s room for the final time.
The next few days I was mostly vacant and silent.
Dozens of messages of condolence were sent to my phone, which took me a while to acknowledge.
Flowers and care packages turned up on my doorstep from people that surprised me.
A few days later, friends who had lost a parent called me and shared stories of what it was that I was feeling.
I will be one of those people now.
As the days ticked over, I started to recognise that I felt different.
It was like this strange calmness had washed over me that, in the beginning, I thought was simply grief.
Now, more than a month on, I am not so sure.
I have started to understand that for the past eight years, as Alzheimer’s robbed us of our mother and all the things that made her extraordinary, my wheels had been spinning faster and faster with each passing moment.
For four years, I had steeled myself each time I would visit her.
Not only was a dementia facility not a pleasant place to frequent, each time she would be a little less than what she was before.
My soul was left raw and exposed after every visit.
My husband would sometimes suggest I didn’t go to see her on those days when normal life was already making my wheels fall off.
Clearly, he could see something that I couldn’t… back then.
It’s a miracle he fell in love with me in those days, because in hindsight I was sometimes a bit of a lunatic.
I understand now why I didn’t write one word for this blog for more than a year.
I said to him the other day that I thought I had become boring because my massive highs and lows seem to have disappeared.
He said I’d never be boring but, yes, I was a different woman than the one he married, and he loved this version of me even more.
Maybe it’s still too early to say that what I’m feeling is peace – for me and for everyone who loved her.
But she is no longer suffering and, I understand now, nor are we.
That unusual kaleidoscope of butterflies has gone now.
But yesterday a tiny wagtail flew around and around in front of me while we sat quietly on the beach.
What a gift it is to notice such beauty again.