It is almost three years since she left us and for the first time on her special day I was truly grateful she was not here to have suffered the terrible effects of the past 12 months.
Believe me, I miss her every day and still shed a tear that she is not here. But this week, as we remembered a year of global pandemic, I was so glad Mum is at peace. All we have lived through would have brought her so much pain and anxiety, as it has for many.
Mum spent the last year of her life in a wonderful care home. The horror that is Alzheimer’s meant she became increasingly confused and distressed but I was blessed that even if she couldn’t communicate she recognised us and shared a smile with us.
It was an honour to have been by her side, holding her hand as she slipped away. It was something I will always treasure and one denied to so many in recent times. I don’t know how those who have lost loved ones while separated will ever get over that. I know I couldn’t.
Even though the last few months of Mum’s life seemed traumatic, in and out of hospital and away from her home, I know that many families have faced far worse this year.
I know she would tell me she had been one of the lucky ones, though how she would have coped in isolation is too awful to contemplate.
Along with the unbearable loss of so many lives, the most difficult part of this pandemic has been the separation of loved ones in hospitals and care homes, particularly those who no longer understand. It has been a tragedy. Haunted faces at windows, tears of incomprehension why visitors could not hug, kiss or be in the same room. These abiding memories of the past twelve months are hard to shake.
And so this week, as I placed a vase of Mum’s favourite birthday daffodils beside her photograph, on the same day we lit candles to remember so many who did not make it, I was truly thankful she had escaped the horrors of this awful time in all our lives.
But I know one thing. When she was at her fittest and sharpest she would have simply got on with it without complaint. That generation did. And so must we, as we slowly come out the other side, without whining about our civil liberties – civil liberties her generation fought to preserve.
In Mum’s jewellery box is a tiny tin identity bracelet issued to her when she was 12 at the start of the Second World War. She not only wore it without complaint. She kept it as a treasured reminder of a time when everyone was asked to do their bit, as she did delivering War Office telegrams to those whose loved ones were not coming home.
So I know she wouldn’t understand the fuss about vaccination passports. That generation has seen it all before. Well, now it is our turn to do our duty for others and if that means carrying a piece of paper to gain entry to a pub or restaurant, or indeed any other place where we will be mixing with others, it is a small price to pay.
Even more so the need for vaccinations certificates for all care home and nursing staff. Why would you refuse one if you have decided that looking after the vulnerable and the weak is your chosen vocation?
How would you live with yourself knowing your decision brought this dreaded virus to those in your care? If you don’t want a vaccination then, sorry, but you are in the wrong job.
Fortunately, almost all doctors, nurses and care-home staff are in exactly the right job and they will willingly be vaccinated to protect those they serve. And what service they have shown. Service which must now be rewarded with more than a hand clap or a national day of recognition.
I know what my non-political mother would say. She would say she appreciates that money doesn’t grow on trees but that each and every one of those front-line workers deserve more than a one per cent pay rise.
This week in Scotland the government announced they will receive a four per cent rise on top of a £500 bonus. You could argue this is a political decision ahead of the upcoming Scottish elections.
I would argue the whole of the UK believes they deserve nothing less, along with our grateful thanks that they are part of a free National Health Service that has been our salvation.
This time last year we started this pandemic with more than a touch of the Blitz spirit. Now we are weary, exhausted and downright fed up. But we are so nearly there. If we can’t go on holiday abroad because other countries didn’t gamble by ordering vaccinations before they were ready for use (the crux of the current argument as I see it), then we will just have to discover the joy of holidaying in this country, as our parents largely did.
Because one thing is certain. We can’t go through all this again when a few simple adjustments to our lives mean we can emerge safely into a world that hopefully we will never take for granted again.
And when we do emerge, what is wrong with flying flags on our public buildings in celebration? Our parents were proud of this country, even after all they had suffered during the wars.
They danced in the streets, waving their flags with joy when it was all over and hopefully we will be doing the same in the not-too-distant future. Our victory is now also in sight if we just buckle down for a few months more.
As my mum would have said, now is the time to be celebrating how lucky we are while remembering there is always someone worse off than ourselves.
Happy birthday, Mum. Your £1 bunch of daffs look lovely. A simple pleasure for still-difficult times.