Where do I begin? I have been thinking a lot about writing this, composing bits and pieces in my head and then never quite making it to my laptop. Having an infant will do that for you. I call Master Safaie my Tyrannical Overlord (and sometimes much worse things than that) although I suspect he is probably more similar to Johnny Vegas on a binge; constantly demanding something to drink and prone to angry outbursts, falling asleep, throwing up or soiling himself. But I digress.
After Mum died we kept very busy. After the big move from London to Lincolnshire there were still quite a lot of boxes to be unpacked due to the fact that unpacking is a rubbish job and there are better things to do with limited time and energy. With both time and energy, Mr Mason Jr and I decide to tackle Mum’s office. We both feel quite upset doing this, mainly because we come across many new items. Some things are clearly gifts for other people whilst others are things that she has bought for herself and never used. It feels like a sad, tragic waste. I wished that she had gotten the chance to use and enjoy all these things that she had bought or had been able to give them to the people she intended them for. She took great pleasure in buying things for other people and really thought about what others might like. I am happy to find the wooden toys that she told me she bought for Master Safaie (before he was ever conceived I might add and I think before I was even married which Mr Safaie found a bit peculiar when Mum told us these items existed) and I squirrel them away for when he is a little older. I come across lots of art supplies and several ‘Mindful Colouring’ books. Mum took a mindfulness course a few years ago and much to my annoyance was forever going on at me to practice mindfulness in my life (probably because I am prone to the odd explosion). “Nooooooo! My brain won’t let me, Mum! It doesn’t work, I can’t only think about one thing at a time!“ I wailed. She went on about it so much that in seeking validation I actually Googled ‘Mindfulness is a load of bollocks’. Believe it or not, at the time it was not one of Google’s suggested searches, much to my chagrin. Coming across these books now, I decide that I will keep one and some of the coloured pens and pencils for myself and have a go. Not really proper mindfulness I don’t think, but I’ll chalk this one up as a win to you, Mum. We also come across Mum’s large selection of wigs and because it is probably the law, we put them on Master Safaie and he looks a bit like a little troll, or maybe one of the Real Housewives of New Jersey after a rough night. In addition to the nice stuff, there is a lot of totally pointless crap that only Mum would have bought. For example, we find an entire laundry basket full of bandannas of all different colours and patterns. Were they for Mum when she lost her hair at various stages? No. They were for the dogs. A whole basket full of them. Mr Mason Jr and I roll our eyes and exclaim a lot during our ruthless sorting/ sibling therapy session.
Mr Safaie flies back from Thailand for moral and practical support with Master Safaie and we all take a trip to the undertakers. Mr Safaie walks around Spilsby with the baby while the Mason men and I talk about the arrangements. We have had a change of heart about what Mum should be wearing and decide that she should really have on her skull and crossbones trousers that she wore in defiance to so many of her chemotherapy infusions. The funeral director looks a little bemused but smiles politely and tells us to drop off the clothes once we have them sorted out. We then go on to haggle with the funeral director over dates. As it turns out, the earliest available date for the funeral was the date I was due to fly back to Thailand. My poker face is rubbish and I am unable to hide my frustration that it will be almost 3 weeks after Mum died. I worry that Mr Safaie will be put in a difficult position with work since he has taken so much time off this year and is already well over his allocated allowance. As is turns out he was due to go on a work trip to New York and with the dates of the funeral he could still go and be back in time. He suggests that I join him and I decide that actually, yes I would like to go. I worry about it being a crappy thing to do to Mr Mason but he tells me to go too and so I set about sorting out the travel arrangements and the ESTA for the States (the advanced visa thingy where you fill out a load of info and they grant you permission to enter the country or not). As I am filling them out I chuckle to Mr Safaie that he will be getting a cavity search. Amongst questions such as “Are you a terrorist?” they ask if you have ever held a passport from another country. Mr Safaie held an Iranian passport back when he was a child so I note this down on his application. The ESTA was granted so we think no more of it until we are at the gate at Heathrow and are invited to pre-board on account of Master Safaie. The woman at the gate scans our boarding passes and then shuffles off for a moment. “Oh, you have been randomly selected for an additional security check, Sir” she says. As a half Iranian man with a very Iranian name, Mr Safaie is quite used to ‘random’ security checks. We are lead away and his belongings are rifled through by 2 security personnel. He gets the all clear and we head to the plane. “Phew I got away with that one” he says to me. I ask him what he means and he grins that there was a book that he forgot about on ‘The Rise of Isis’ in his backpack. Genius move, husband! Our flight is delayed by a woman who, as the plane is taxying to the runway, barrels down the cabin to vomit on one of the air hostesses. We then have to wait 2 hours for the paramedics to come and collect her during which time Master Safaie becomes increasingly impatient sitting on my knee. Mr Safaie takes him for a bounce around the plane and returns with gossip that according to the air hostesses, the woman is sick because she took anti-anxiety tablets with loads of wine just before flying. Having left the house at 3am that morning for the drive down to Heathrow, I lament that we could have had 2 more hours in bed. At least the entertainment system is working.
America is a nice break and the weather is just gorgeous with clear blue skies and sunshine with autumn well and truly underway and fantastic colours in the trees. I find that I am surprised at just how surly Americans can be. Perhaps I am too used to the ever-smiley Thai people or maybe my perception of how they will be has been warped by years of watching Americans saying “Have a nice day!” on TV. When I say we were going to New York, we are actually going to Norwalk, Connecticut which is about an hour away from NYC. The city of Norwalk is quite pretty but we are staying very close to Mr Safaie’s office for the week in an area which reminds me of Park Royal in London; a bit industrial looking, many lanes of traffic and strip malls at regular intervals. It is not an ideal place for pedestrians but Master Safaie and I give it a good go anyway and spend most days wandering about and getting confused about when is the right time to cross the road. I investigate local florists online for Mr Mason and send him suggestions for arrangements that I think Mum would have liked. Mr Mason’s friends keep him busy by taking him out to the bubble car museum, the pub, a brewery and the beach.
Our trip goes quickly and before we know it we are back in London again. I feel a bit like I am on a travellator and observing things as they come up but not feeling fully engaged in the process. On the day of the funeral, Mr Mason Jr meets us at our hotel and we drive to Mortlake. It’s incredibly close to our hotel but Mr Safaie puts Mortlake station in to the satnav instead of Mortlake crematorium which means we drive past in and then get stuck in a bit of traffic on the way back. There is plenty of time but I feel incredibly stressed by this simple mistake and should probably have had my mindful colouring book to hand. There are a lot of people I haven’t seen for ages milling about it’s all a bit overwhelming. I speak to a few people and wonder where my husband is. Mr Safaie had been at the car putting Master Safaie into his baby carrier but is now nowhere in sight. He runs past me shortly afterwards clutching the baby with a wild look in his eye saying “it’s an emergency!” so it becomes clear that Master Safaie has committed one of his well-timed dirty protests and I wonder if there are baby changing facilities at a crematorium. I spy Mum’s sister and her family who I haven’t seen for at least 14 years and I go and hug my auntie, uncle and cousins. Families are such complicated and confusing beasts. How sad to miss out on all the assorted joys, hardships and triumphs of a decade and a half and only reconnect for the worst time of all?
Mum arrives and the flowers on top of her coffin are lovely with a mixture of Amnesia Roses and Anemones which she loved. It’s so pretty and I feel glad that we didn’t go for the traditional white lily spray. By the time we are heading in to the chapel, Mr Safaie is still nowhere to be seen so I take my brother’s arm and we go in together with Ms Atherton on the other side. I think I hear Master Safaie fussing somewhere at the back of the chapel later so I am happy they made it in. Mr Mason’s uncle is conducting the service which sadly is something of a family tradition as he only recently conducted his brother, Mr Mason Sr’s funeral in January. Mr Mason reads out a poem ‘How bright the wit’ which was very fitting and afterwards he and I held hands and cried together as The Fairport Convention song ‘Farewell Farewell’ played. People often talk about ‘a nice service’ but it really was. Not only was it nice but it had funny moments because she was funny, my Mum. We shared some laughs over Ms Marsden’s recollection of ‘The Biodanza Incident’ and remembered Mum’s tenacity as Ms Howard spoke about Mum completing the Vogalonga with an as yet undiagnosed pneumothorax and lung metastasis. We smiled and laughed some more as her friend Ms Wills-Wright read out entries from Mum’s blog about our perfectly, imperfect Christmas last year. It made her so happy to have all the family around and I still can’t quite believe we managed to pull it off.
As the curtains close around Mum and we get up to leave I see that the two Safaie boys are now sitting behind me. We leave the chapel together and stand around outside speaking to more people. People are all very kind and several ask if I plan to continue writing Mum’s blog. I wasn’t really sure and although I know that I will write a post about the funeral I don’t know if I can see myself writing on her blog beyond that. I decide later that I will set up my own and buy the domain name lifeaftermum.com but it remains to be seen if the tyrannical Master Safaie will allow me the time to write it, I will do my best. There were quite a few people who were unable to make it to the wake and who I didn’t get the chance to speak to. I feel bad about this when I realise and hope that nobody thought me rude. On entering the pub for the wake we see Jeremy Clarkson sitting and being his normal smug self. “Did you arrange Clarkson to be there?” many people ask me. “What would Mum have thought about that?” Not a lot probably, I think. We have a private room which is packed by the time I arrive. For some reason they only have one person taking orders for table service who is looking a bit overwhelmed. She keeps forgetting who has ordered what so I ask her to bring several bottles of wine in the hope that it will eliminate a bit of pressure. Mr Mason and I drink gin and tonic which was Mum’s funeral drink of choice and mill about talking to people. It still feels surreal and many people tell me that they will be keeping an eye on Mr Mason. It feels good to know that so many people will be surrounding him with their love and looking out for him. As things are winding down I speak to Ms Lavoll, Mum’s Norwegian friend. “It’s so shit” I say and she agrees but she also reminds me that I am lucky to have had Mum in my life. “Other people have mothers who live until 90 and would still never have gotten the same pleasure from their Mum that you did.” She is right but it still hurts.
The next day is Mr Safaie’s birthday. With everything that has gone on I haven’t bought him a single thing. I began to make him a Moonpig card but then Master Safaie demanded something or other and I never finished it. I confess that he has nothing for his birthday. ‘Oh?’ he says with a hopeful smile. ‘Sorry darling’ I say, ‘this is not one of those times where someone says they haven’t done something as a joke but then they really have.’ He looks a bit crestfallen but doesn’t make a fuss and I promise to make it up to him later. We meet Mr Mason at the crematorium to collect Mum’s ashes. She is divided between 3 scatter tubes and a biodegradable box. Mr Mason plans to put Mum with a newly planted rosebush in the garden and to scatter her ashes in 3 other spots, one of which include Portsdown Hill where his own father fell off in comedy fashion while scattering another of our relative’s ashes. The scatterings will be open to all since I know some people who wanted to come to the funeral were unable to. Once they are arranged I’ll post the details here.
After collecting Mum’s ashes we head for lunch in pub close by and Archie and Lark join us, trotting happily along wearing a couple of their aforementioned bandannas in a raffish fashion. I bring a box of photographs along to the pub that Mrs Wilson, Mum’s sister, had given me the day before. The box contains decades’ worth of pictures of Mum, Mr Mason, Mum’s family and Mr Mason Jr and I in the early years. There are some brilliant pictures of Mr Mason Jr looking young and cheeky so I send a copy to Ms Atherton. There are many photos that I have never seen before including some of my Mum holding me in hospital shortly after my birth. Going through them I feel ambivalence; a gratitude that I have them now to look through and at the thoughtfulness in bringing them but a hot cross feeling that they were not seen earlier and that Mum never got to look at them with us. I show Mr Safaie a few of the pictures and he looks at them with a puzzled expression and asks who I am with. It’s not me, of course but Mum and the resemblance between us is close enough to fool my own husband. It’s soon time to wave Mr Mason off as he makes the long drive back to Lincolnshire and we promise to see each other soon.
And so, that’s it for now. It still doesn’t feel real, for me at least. My sister in law, Mrs Larkman told me that after her Dad died, the grief hit her in waves and I think I know what she means. My grief is there, bubbling away under the surface and rises up to smack me every time I think “Oh, I must tell Mum that!” and then realise I can’t. At the airport on my way back to Thailand I feel incredibly sad and realise that I associate airports with Mum. All those times she was waiting for me with Mr Mason as I landed at Heathrow and the times I picked her up from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport. I liked to arrive early and while the time away by trying to pick out her silhouette from behind frosted glass by the way she walked. I managed it the final time in June when she came to visit Master Safaie against medical advice. I followed that silhouette as it turned the corner and became my mother, a tired but defiant woman clutching a large lilac coloured handbag and smiling broadly.
Goodnight, Mum. I miss you every day.
AKA: Mrs Safaie Jr
Although it’s about the most heartbreaking stuff, what a lovely post.
I worked with your mum from around 2012 onwards, as she worked with our organisation as a “lay” member. I always kept up with her blog to see how she was getting on, and I am so sorry to read this time that she has now died.
I will always remember how kind your mum was to me when I first started in my job, and regrettably for her, she ended up working with me! Even though it should have been the other way around, she supported me and gave me the confidence to do well in my new job and I will always remember her for that. She was genuine and hilarious, despite the crap hand she’d been dealt. I know it’s what always gets said when someone dies, but she really was so massively proud of you – she mentioned you guys a lot whenever we had a catch up.
From everyone at NICE, please know how thankful we were to your mum for her thoughtful input to the work that we do – she worked with us a lot over the years, and for those of us who knew her, we were all incredibly saddened to learn of her death. Nothing will take that pain away, but unfortunately you have to learn how to live with it in time. And you will carry your mum’s heart with you wherever you go, I am sure.
Dearest Fran, this is beautiful and brave and fitting. Shelley gave so much to so many people and although I regard myself as chief benefactor I suspect that there were an awful lot of folk who will claim the same status. Thank you for reminding me just how very special she was.
Thankyou, a lovely update, although I never New your mum personally , I felt I did, many comparisons I have to say. I can tell from your writing , mum and daughter…….canny. It is hard loosing your mum, lost mine nearl 18 months ago, it will get easier. Hugs and love to you all. Ps. Hoping you’ll continue a blog as and when you feel. Xx
This was a lovely blog and the way you wrote it reminded me so much of how your Mum wrote hers. I do hope you continue to write a blog even if it is only now and then, it’s a contact with your Mum in a way. Take care of yourselves. Mo