I’m writing this on my mother’s 65th birthday. She died of brain cancer when she was 61.
Yes it sucked. Cancer sucks. Death sucks when you’re someone who’s been left behind. But I don’t want to dwell on that.
Coincidentally today is also the day that I ordered next year’s calendars. They’re made from this year’s photos of the Community Bellydance Showcase which my troupe, Zilzal Tribal Bellydance, has put on every November since my mum died. It’s been part of my grief process and a way of celebrating her memory.
That’s what I want to focus on: my memories of how awesome my mum was.
I’m not saying that she didn’t drive me nuts – she was my mum, after all. But often the things that bugged me about her were actually good things, or so I think now.
My mum isn’t someone who suits being dead. She was full of life force. She did things, she believed in things. She believed in me more than I did in myself. That’s one way in which I’m learning to be my own mother now.
Whatever my sister and I were interested in, mum would jump on that train and take it up the next hill. If I liked correcting grocers’ apostrophes, in her mind I’d be running a copywriting company with multiple employees. But she could also be the voice of reason. One time I had a nebulous sense of fury at the government and wanted to organize a protest. She would ask the important questions, like what I wanted to achieve – but in a way which never left me feeling criticized.
My mum dreamt big. She made things happen. She organised tree planting days and preschool fundraisers and helped create a national association for after school care programmes. She went to university when my sister and I had “grown up” and got a masters degree and became a lecturer in dispute resolution. When she died she was the first female president of AMINZ. When I was little she embroidered Christmas decorations and made me clothes for day wear and dress ups.
I know my mum would be proud of me now, and that makes me so happy I could cry.
The annual Community Bellydance Showcase is a fundraiser for the Cancer Society. I don’t need to tell you about all the amazing things they do, and how they don’t give up just because cancer is a massive bastard and seems so wily and unstoppable. I don’t know whether we can ever beat this thing, or what the world would look like if we did. But I know that they are the good guys, and I want to support whatever they can do to sweeten life for people like my mum.
Oh, did I mention that my mum took up Flamenco in her fifties? It was perfect. She loved an excuse to buy shoes and make costumes and move and learn. She radiated joy.
It’s a vulnerable little offering, but here is the solo I performed in our first fundraising showcase in November 2012, just a few months after she died. I’m wearing one of the Flamenco skirts she made, and the blue flower in my hair is one that she bought for a Flamenco performance.