I WAS only half a mile into the journey when I had to pull over. I would have done it earlier but I had to get around the corner, away from where what was left of my family might see me, and the bus stop outside the mill provided the first opportunity. Only 299.5 miles to go. How would I ever make it?
I had been home for almost two weeks that Christmas, the longest period I had spent at my parents’ since moving to Devon more than ten years previous.
My mum and dad’s was now just my mum’s. My dad had died on December 29 — my brother’s birthday — from secondary bone cancer from the prostate. The following day my mum’s cat, which she had for 13 years, also died.
My father’s death had not come as a complete shock, but I had not expected it when I drove the 300 miles up to Yorkshire on December 21. I had not packed a suit for the funeral or enough clothes to last more than a week as I anticipated being back at work a few days after Christmas.
The funeral was as good as such an event could be, with more than 300 attending, largely due to my dad playing football and cricket for most of his life and being well-known at the working men’s club.
After the service, in which the vicar amusingly and incorrectly talked about my dad’s love of poetry — I doubt he had ever read a poem — we went to the pub for the rest of the day and reminisced about his life.
Then that was it. I hadn’t been to a funeral before and didn’t really know what to expect when the day was over. The answer was nothing. Or something pretty close to nothing.
The flowers stopped arriving at my mum’s, people stopped calling round and everything went back to whatever passes for normal after someone close has died.
For me, it was back to Devon and work. There was just one more thing to do and that was to take mum’s cat Josephine to the vet. She wasn’t well but it was worse than we thought and the vet said she would have to be put to sleep.
So I left my mum behind having arrived with a dad and a cat in the house. She stood there waving alongside my brother as I drove round the corner swallowing back the tears.
I made it just out of the village and parked up. I realised this was going to be the most difficult journey I had ever made. If things come in threes, I didn’t want to add myself to my mother’s list of loss.
The miles went slowly, with a number of stops to gather myself, Never had I felt so far away.
The next day I went back to work and the world and those of us left in it simply carried on. Though for some of us it was not quite as before.
The corner I had turned when driving from my mum’s was a sign of things to come and the next big change would be a move back north.