That phone call arrived unexpectedly, on a rainy day like any other. I was getting ready to go to work when my mobile rang, low-pitched thrills pierced the air and cut through the monotonous sound of the rain outside. With half-lidded eyes I reached for it and answered, 'Hello'.
Silence, a morbid silence, replied to me. My stomach churned as I took my time to repeat, 'Hello?'
'It's dad,' a broken voice interrupted the silence.
'Dad…is everything alright?' I hesitantly asked. A bad omen.
'It's mum…' Another silence, this time it was a broken silence. Broken because I could hear the hiccups at the other end of the line.
Suddenly, a wave of panic surged into my mind. One moment I was leaving for work, the next I was on a Skype call with my younger brother who was trying to tell me something through stuttered half-sentences.
Then I saw it, the light, white walls of a hospital. The bed with the plain white sheets and the unmistakable figure of my mum, under those sheets. The electric light was blinding me through the phone's camera and I could not see clearly. I would have joked about broken bones and sprained ankles if a gloomy feeling had not taken possess of my heart. Taking in a deep breath to counter the raising panic, I more or less yelled 'Mum what? What is it?'
My brother only stated one word before my world collapsed. Dead.
I felt as if I had become deaf, the pressure in my ears was too high and the weight of the realization threatened to crush me on the spot. I could not hear nor see what was going on, on the other side of the phone. Dead.
Tears never fell, no scream was heard. I looked down at the floor, but my sight had become blurred. I forced myself to look at the screen, where my brother was still maniacally repeating the word over and over. Dead. As if to drill it into both our minds, in a pathetic imitation of an old radio stuck in a loop. Dead. And not coming back, ever.
I never knew what sorrow was, I thought I knew, but I didn't. All air was taken out of my lungs, my eyes refused to focus on my surroundings. I could not take them away from the screen, from the image of my mum's body in plain white clothes resting on a hospital's bed. In the distance, I could hear my dad's cracked voice. '…her heart couldn't take it…'
Heart failure, that had been the cause. For a moment, the image of my mum straining herself appeared before my mind. She carelessly overexerted herself while on holidays. As usual, she had been reckless and notwithstanding the fact that she was overweight, she had walked for hours at a brisk pace, without resting. All because she got into another fight with dad over what to do and where to go. Bitterness had fuelled her legs but it had also burned her heart.
I did not want to picture how my dad must have been feeling at that moment. My own mind was a mess. It was as if everything had turned black, the borders of my room were covered in darkness. My body felt weak and worn out, all strength had left me as I tried to take a few steps. I had not realised, until my brother called out to me, that I had lost my ability to speak.
Slowly, like a zombie, I made my way to the bed and let myself fall on it. I brought my knees to my chest as my breaths sped up. Images flashed through my mind, mainly memories of happy times that had gone now, dreams and hopes that turned into regrets, then a poster I had seen months before on my College's noticeboard: "How to survive the loss of a parent", it read.
I took a mental note of contacting the people there, certain that I was never going to get over this. If I had to name what I was feeling, I would not be able to pick a word from the many languages I speak. It was immense and impending like death. It was hollow yet heavy, dry coldness tickling down my throat, a muted silence hammering my ears. It was dreadful. It was despair in its rawest form. It was agony's acme.
I felt myself curl up into a ball trying to fight the pain; I wanted to escape reality so I shut my eyes closed. When my body could no longer take my shudders, it just switched itself off and I lost consciousness.
I woke up, not too much later, looking around my college room. Something felt different. Sitting up on the bed, I looked at my hands, blinked my eyes and checked the time.
I had dreamt, yet it felt so real.
It was a dream, but the grief was real and still lingering into the air.
It was all a dream, it never happened, mum is fine, I repeated like a mantra as I rolled back into the bed again, trying to regain sleep. And I did fall asleep, surprisingly fast.
Later, I woke up and this time I managed to go to work without trouble. Buying food at Sainsbury I noticed the lack of messages from my mum. A sense of emptiness filled my heart as I realised that from now on I would no longer receive silly, annoying messages from my mum.
Because she was dead.
It was just a dream, I told myself. But as I did so, I felt trapped into that very dream, shackled to its storyline. Although I felt what was going to happen I could not prevent it. My phone rang. Arrangements for my mum's funeral were to be made. How to console my grandma was another "family duty" I was suddenly faced with. My aunts were already working on that and, in the fuzzy blur that was my mind, I saw the funeral's ritual take place.
Even though I had prepared myself, one can never be prepared enough for when grief will struck. It was repeating itself all over again. The pain, the sorrow, the loneliness…
Until I woke up and gasped for air as a shipwreck sailor who has just barely escaped the waves.
I shook my head to clear my mind, but the doom feeling would not leave me.
I never felt something like this in real life, pain never felt so real.
And as the dream faded away, the need for immediate action left me. Regrets were hopes again.
I love you mum.
I never said.