It’s a quiet Monday morning. We are the only visitors in the garden centre cafe. Outside a grey mist hugs the car park. The mood is subdued. I’m trying not to think about the operation I have coming up. The operation for my bowel cancer. However, I can’t stop thinking about it. My head is a confusing mish-mash of thoughts. No matter how hard I try, my brain keeps going back to the operation. I’m consumed by fear. Suddenly, my mum interrupts my thoughts.
Mum: This is rather sensitive….
(Oh gawd, what on earth is she going to say now?)
Mum:…..but have you had THE conversation with Mr C.
I look at her confused. What does she mean? Oh no, oh no, she isn’t! Is she talking about sex? Is she talking about sex post-operation? This is mortifying. It takes me back to when my mum sagely gave me advice about my upcoming honeymoon and shared her wisdom for what I should wear in the bedroom.
I shudder as I remember the conversation.
“Emma, your flannel pyjamas are not appropriate honeymoon wear….you need to think sexy”
You suddenly get cancer and it seems everyone is very interested in your sex life. Has it not occurred to anyone that I have cancer and, quite frankly, sex is way down the agenda right now. I have bowel cancer for f*ucks sake. I feel as sexy as a slug. When I started chemo I was reminded twice about practising safe sex and using condoms. Both times I interrupted the spiel and reassured the nurses that s – e- x was certainly not the top of my priorities. If I’m still awake at 10pm I consider it a miracle.
I look across the table at mum as she does her best sympathetic look.
Me: What do you mean?
(I steel myself for the answer)
Mum: (she looks awkward) You know…..
Me: Erm, no I don’t know…..
Mum: Have you had the conversation about what should happen if you……
It suddenly dawns on me. Oh, silly me. This isn’t about sex at all, it’s about death. I suddenly wish it was about my bedroom antics. I can’t deal with the alternative conversation.
Mum: ….if you….
Me: Oh gawd! (I exclaim far too loudly). You don’t think I am going to wake up from the operation. You think I’m going to die, don’t you?!?
Mum: No, no, no (she looks flustered and starts flapping her hands around). I was just wondering if over the last couple of months if you had discussed what happens if you……
She still couldn’t bring herself to utter the word die.
Me: Yes, mum. Yes, we did right at the start of this. You don’t need to worry.
Mum: Oh good (She looks physically relieved)
I take a deep breath.
Me: I told Mr C that he has to have a decent mourning period for me; 5 years should do it. If he moves on from me before then I will come back and haunt him.
I cackle as my mum looks appalled.
Me: It’s okay, I’m only joking..…I’ve told him two years should suffice ;-).
Cracking jokes is my usual approach. I like to put on a brave face. I don’t tell my mum how I have cried at the thought of Mr C moving on if I die. How someone else might come along and replace me. Yet, I want him to be happy, I want the girls to be happy but I find the thought of it so painful. I worry that if something happens to me and Mr C remarries, that the new wife might not accept the girls. How would she bond with them? She wasn’t the one who carried them inside of her. She wasn’t the one who woke in the night when they cried; who helped them learn to ride their bikes, who cuddled them when they were sick. What if a new mum didn’t love them enough? I pull myself back from the dark thoughts.
Me: I’ve told Mr C that I would like to be cremated…..but I don’t know where I should go. (I stifle the sobs I can feel threatening to come out)
I’ve agonised over the thought of being cremated and then Mr C and the girls not knowing what to do with me. I would want to be with them. I want the girls to be able to go somewhere to visit me and remember me, but where should that be? I don’t want to be put somewhere and forgotten about.
I don’t want to be alone.
I look across at my mum and I realise that she is just seeking reassurance.
Me: It’s okay mum. I would want a cheerful funeral. Lots of uplifting songs, ones that people know, not just hymns. I want people to be happy. I want it to be a celebration. A choir; I want a big amazing choir. There is nothing worse than going to a wedding or funeral and no one singing. I want it to be loud and proud. I want people to be clapping, laughing and dancing. I want people to share their (hopefully) good memories. I want people to go home feeling uplifted. I want it to be a funeral full of colour and love. After the funeral I would want you to carry on being part of the girls’ life. I would want you to keep my memory alive. I want the girls to feel loved, for them to know that I was loved.
Most of all I don’t want them to feel alone. I would want them to feel like I’m still there with them.
Thats all I really want.