I am studying graphic design at college and for my second year project I have been asked to explore the topic ‘Finding myself’.
I think this is the first time I have really stopped to look back on the death of my mum eight years ago when I was 11 years old. I’m finding this project both painful and enlightening.
I am the oldest of five children, having three brothers and a sister. Looking back to 2010, I was just finishing primary school and starting at a challney high school for girls. Life for all of us was busy, filled with meals, school drop-off and pick-ups. In short, our lives were like many others.
As well as us five children, who were between the ages of 4 and 11, my mum also looked after my grandma who had something wrong with her legs that meant she was in a wheelchair.
In July 2010 my mum had noticed a lump on her neck and she was getting a rash. She used creams for a couple of months, but they weren’t really making a difference.
I clearly remember one October evening in 2010 when I heard my mum screaming. I got out of bed to find my dad calling for an ambulance. My mum was saying she could see her soul and I remember my dad saying he was worried that she was having a heart attack.
As the medics were taking my mum to the ambulance, she said to my grandma, ‘Look after the children.’ My grandma was crying and everything seemed so confusing and upsetting.
Two days later my mum was diagnosed with lymphoma. Although the lump was in mum’s neck, the cancer was widespread and was affecting her kidney and lungs, making her care particularly challenging for the doctors.
On 15 December 2010 my mum died. My mum was originally from Pakistan and so it was arranged that her body would be returned to Pakistan to be buried. I remember travelling to Pakistan as it was one of the rare days that it snowed in the UK and our flight was delayed. I think about my mum’s funeral and know she was surrounded by family.
My brothers and sisters were still at primary school and had quite a bit of help and support following mum’s death. I can’t remember talking much about it, and don’t recall having any counselling, which I think would have helped.
My grandma looked after us. Because of her disability, she was limited in what she could do. She would be there in her wheelchair instructing us on cooking, cleaning, helping with our homework – everything. Sadly, my grandma died in 2016. She was an amazing women and we are all enormously grateful for everything she did for us. It wasn’t the same as having mum, but she made us all very independent.
We are lucky that we have a strong community around us that have helped over the years with straightforward things like food or helping with problems. But there is no-one like your mum. I hear friends talking about what they have been doing with their mum’s and it hurts. I am missing that best friend you can confide in.
We all visited my mum’s grave in 2017 and hope to return as often as possible. I want to support charities as a way of remembering my mum – I feel I need to have something tangible to remember her by.
So when I was asked to write about ‘Finding myself’ and illustrating it with watercolours, I couldn’t think of a better way to explore the feelings about losing my mum and to celebrate her life.
Sonia's picture of her family.
Sonia's picture of herself, her sister and her grandma.