This is, without a doubt, the hardest post I've ever had to write. But write it I must - it's time.
Almost two weeks ago, on September 15th, my mum passed away.
I didn't want to make some announcement on the blog; that's not how I deal with things, particularly personal matters. Up until this point I've been carrying on as usual (at least in this little area of my life) but now feel as though it needs to be shared in some way.
She'd been ill for a while and initially we - and the doctors - thought she'd get well again. Sadly that wasn't the case. So for the past two months she'd been staying in a hospice where we visited her and sat and talked and looked out of the window onto the gardens. We tried to make the most of these precious last times. To not give in to the crushing sense of sadness and injustice - she was still young - that hung over everything.
Yet she never complained or asked 'Why me?' She simply told us she was happy to have met her grandchildren and to have had a life well-lived.
I'll spare you all the little details of how our lives have been over the summer. Writing this is incredibly hard. I'm heartbroken.
But. Life goes on. It has to. I have Joe to take care of; my stepdad is utterly bereft and there are all the necessary arrangements to be dealt with. I'm currently veering between moments of deep sadness and, for the most part, feeling somehow detached from everything. Dazed. Not quite believing, or wanting to believe, that she's gone.
So each morning I sit at the table with my cup of tea and cry quietly before I go and collect Joe from his room. And each day I swallow back the tears as I do all that needs to be done. Sometimes I enjoy the things I've always loved: walking, cooking, reading.
It's what my mum wanted: for us to live our lives and love our lives. She wrote us letters telling us to do just that. And she left the most wonderful gifts behind: diaries and her 'happy books'. In those books are pages of memories, wisdom, quotes and little musings on what she loved about her life. Recipes, observations, stories. She wanted us to read them once she'd gone so that we'd understand why there were no regrets or disappointment, and so we'd take some comfort during this time.
I'll treasure them for ever. Joe will read them. I've started making a book of my own so he'll get to know all about his grandma - I'm illustrating it with pictures of her favourite things. And even before we found out, on January 1st this year, that she was ill, I was already instilling her values into my own parenting: a love of nature and reading, of good home-cooked food, the importance of laughter and affection.
You're maybe wondering how I've kept the blog going during this time.
Well, the 'happy books' have, like all my mum's belongings, remained untouched since all this began. I couldn't bring myself to look at them. It was too painful.
But I had to look. I wanted to do two last things for her: choose and arrange her funeral flowers and write her eulogy. And for the latter I needed to consult the notebooks. Reading through them I found myself smiling and occasionally - dare I say it? - laughing. Amongst the stories were a few snippets which spoke to me regarding Mitenska:
'I love Sarah's Mitenska blog' and
'Sarah leaving the Uni. Mixed feelings but I believe she is doing the right thing. I so want her to use her God-given talents.'
I suspect I'll find a lot of answers in those books.
Mitenska is, in a large part, inspired by my mum. It's about celebrating the little joys in life and the pleasures to be had from enjoying simple things. It's about memories and family and heritage, about the beauty in nature we both love. It's about capturing moments and savouring them.
It's important to me that this little space is somewhere people can visit to look at lovely photographs and to share in the good things as I see them. Sorry if this post has been sad. It's not my intention to make anyone feel that way. But it needed writing, and it has been, and I'll be carrying on as best as I can in future with my blog as it's always been.
Thank you for reading. And thank you to the few people who knew already, for their good wishes.