Ashes To Ashes (A Letter To My Mum)


Dearest Mum,

I am writing this letter six years after you left this world. I hope you are in a better place now. I have written to you several times since your death as I buy a card for each birthday and Mother’s Day. I go to an old-fashioned teashop in town and order a pot of tea with toast, and marmalade, just like you had for breakfast every morning. I feel your presence as I write loving words to you. I imagine you are sitting on the other side of my table, and I talk to you, in my mind, about all the happy times we had together. I keep the cards in my bedside drawer along with the keepsakes that I chose from your belongings, including your pale blue and white checked shirt that you wore so often. It was worn thin and frayed at the cuffs and collar because you didn’t want to pay for a new one. You were raised to make do and mend like many of your generation.

I’ve written to you before about your moving but beautiful funeral. It was a celebration of your life as much as it was saying goodbye to you.

A couple of weeks later, in the middle of January, it was your interment. It was chilly and overcast, and a few spots of rain had begun to fall. I felt anxious that day, not knowing what to expect, not having attended an interment before. I had travelled the forty miles from home to Golders Green Cemetery and met Jill, a year younger than me, who was already there. She had flown over from Australia. We called in at the Reception Office to let them know we were there and waited for my other sisters, Lindsay, Anna, and your sister, Ellen, to arrive.

Twenty minutes later, they’d all arrived, with Anna and Lindsay carefully carrying a sturdy but pretty box with your ashes. It was painted with an image of a beautiful garden in summer – blue sky, lush green grass and pink and yellow flowers. We had chosen it carefully because you were always so passionate about your neat and tidy garden. It was where you loved to be at every opportunity. It seemed only fitting. You wouldn’t have wanted a dark, sombre urn to leave this world in.

Shortly, the graveyard attendant took us to the place where you were to be laid to rest. One by one, shedding quiet tears, we said our goodbyes to you as the box was gently lowered into the ground. As the last of the earth was thrown into the plot, what felt like a miracle or sign happened. Just as we were laying our carefully-chosen pebbles on your grave, as is the custom in Jewish cemeteries, the rain stopped, and the dark clouds in the sky cleared. We gazed upwards to see bright sunshine and a blue sky. Despite it being January, the sun was surprisingly warm. As we looked around, we saw lots of butterflies (a couple of Tortoiseshells, a Red Admiral and several Cabbage Whites). Then, we heard the buzzing of bumble bees and watched as they collected nectar from the daisies surrounding your place of rest.

There was an old, battered wooden bench nearby. We sat side-by-side, gazing around at the signs of nature that had come to pay its respects and to say goodbye to you. As we left the cemetery, the sky clouded over again, the chill wind returned, and a few drops of rain fell onto the windscreen of Lindsay’s car as we left. I’m sure it was a higher power that had sent us those joyful moments amidst the sadness of our loss. I’m sure you would have felt the same had you still been with us.

I miss you very much, Mum, but I’ll never forget the special times we had together and the many, many conversations we had on the phone. You were always there for me through thick and thin, and I was always there for you, too. I am eternally grateful to you. You will be forever in my heart and my mind.

With all my fondest love,

Ellie xxx 💝

Photo by Mariya:

Author: Ellie Thompson

Writing my memoirs, musings, a little fiction and a lot of poetry as a way of exploring and making the most of my life ... ... Having had a break from writing my blog for more than three years, I decided to return to write my memoirs, some day-to-day observations, views and feelings. My passion is non-fiction poetry. I have a disability and use an electric powerchair called Alfie and let nothing get in the way of living life to the full. I believe that you can never do a kindness too soon and should give credit where credit is due. A smile or a kind word could make the difference between a good or bad day for a person - we never know what's going on for another soul. Those little things, perhaps, practised daily like a mantra, could mean so much to someone else. Thank you for visiting my blog and reading a little more about me. Please, make yourself at home here. You are very welcome. Ellie x 😊

71 thoughts on “Ashes To Ashes (A Letter To My Mum)”

    1. Thank you so much, Granny. I really appreciate you taking the time to read my letter to Mum and to comment amongst everything you’ve got going on. Love you, Xxx 💖🌼💖

  1. Want to make me cry with this letter or what?
    I don’t know if any more emotions can be put into this!!
    I loved it.
    I didn’t know you have 2 sisters, or maybe I missed it.
    A beautiful letter.
    Hey, I was never this early, that’s the advantage of getting notifications of your favorites. However, I didn’t know I’m coming here to cry, haha
    Loved this one.
    Take care

    1. Aww, thank you for your kind words, Devang. I hope I didn’t make you cry too much. You are early to read this post. I find getting notifications of my favourite blogs (including yours) helps even though I don’t always have time to read them straight away. So, you are doing better than me! I’m glad you liked this one. I have three younger sister, by the way. Take care, too. 😊

        1. I have one sister in Australia, one about four hours away and the other about five hours away, so unfortunately, we rarely see each other. We keep in touch when we can by phone or email 😊.

  2. What an absolutely beautiful letter to your mum-filled with memory and hope and love. Her service sounded magical, as does she. What a loving daughter you are. You have honored her well here. ❤️

    1. Aww, thank you, my friend. Your words mean a lot to me. Mum was a very special person in my life, and that day, although tinged with sadness, will also always carry happy memories for me. Xx 💝💕

    1. Thanks so much, Brian. Mum was well and truly loved. I still miss her, naturally, and always will. I am blessed to have had that day, as it left me with joy amongst the sorrow.

  3. This is such a beautiful and touching letter to your mom, Ellie. What an amazing woman she must have been, and this just proves the amazing woman that I know you are. Sending you love, Ellie 💕💖

  4. That must have been lovely to have the weather change that way and butterflies and bees appear. I would have taken that as a good sign, too.

    I wrote a letter to my brother after he died, to help me get over my grief. It’s a very powerful tool. Of course, I didn’t completely get over it, but it helped.

    1. I’m sorry to hear you lost your brother, Mick. That’s very sad. I think it takes a long time to get over our grief. Although I could write this letter, I still don’t feel I’ve grieved properly for my lovely Mum. I haven’t been able to shed any tears and still feel sort of numb inside. Writing this has helped, as I hope you felt about your writing at the time. I don’t know if we ever really get over losing someone so close to us. They say time heals, but I’m not sure about that.

      It was quite amazing when the weather changed as it did. It rained for the rest of the day, but just for those moments, it felt like a summer’s day. We were very fortunate to have that happen. X

      1. Time heals…sort of. The grief doesn’t go away, and you wouldn’t really want it to, anyway? I think most of us are left with a feeling of loss, of sadness. The really important thing is that we have to move forward eventually.

      2. Not to be unfeeling, Ellie, the letter was beautiful — but did you ever share with your mother about the piano teacher, or did you protect her to the end? I do not mean to pry, I am must looking for understanding.
        I lost my mother and protector when I was only 8, so I never had a chance to have a real conversation with her. How can a child have an adult conversation when they have no idea what that even means? But I still wish I could have had one…

        1. Thank you, J. You were so young to lose your mother and protector – it must have been incredibly painful and difficult for you, to say the least. You couldn’t have told your mother what was happening at such a young age. You (and me) never had the words to explain what was happening to us at that age, as we didn’t understand it ourselves.

          My Mum and my father were aware that some sort of abuse had taken place but didn’t know the full extent at all, and from that day, it was never, ever spoken of again.

          My abuse was never talked about when I was an adult. It was almost as though they didn’t know anything had happened to me despite it being over many years. Now, I feel the same as you in that I wish I’d had a conversation with my Mum before I lost her. My father would have shut his ears rather than listen to me, as he always did. I have so many unanswered questions now, which I will never get an answer to. I don’t even know if my parents even thought about what had happened to me during their lifetimes. I’ll never know now. It’s a hard thing to come to terms with, isn’t it? Hugs 💙💜💙

          1. 💛💜💛💜💙 to you too.Do your sisters know? Talking with them might help, but I have no idea who they are or what they are like. I am sorry if I brought up unresolved feelings for you.
            I have come to terms with the fact I can never go back to find out. Life moves on, and we have to move on with it. We have no choice.

          2. Thanks, J 💛. My youngest sister, who was born when I was 14, doesn’t know anything; my sister in Australia is in poor health, so I wouldn’t want to worry her or cause her anymore stress, and my middle sister who lives in the West of the country, is very absorbed in her family and we don’t get on all that well. Apart from that, I don’t think it would be fair to drop that bombshell on them at this stage in my life (and theirs). I don’t ever mention my abuse to my children, either. They’ve both been through enough during my illness in their childhood, and I don’t want to spoil the good relationships we now have. I think it’s probably going to be one of those things I take to my grave with me.

            I’m fortunate really in that I had a great therapist and hope to continue with someone new when a place comes up. I also share a lot of my experiences on my blog, as you know, and I always receive and am grateful for all the wonderful support I get here from my blogging friends and readers.

            I hope, I, too, can come to terms with not knowing more and not sharing my pain and experiences with my family. And yes, you are quite right – life does move on, and so do we. Thinking of you this evening, my friend, and thank you for being here for me so often. I appreciate that so much. X 💚💛💙💛💚

          3. I take it no one in your family knows about your blog. I understand your reluctance to share, abuse of any kind is not a topic for casual conversations. But, and I only offer this as a possibility, you may be underestimating at least one of your sister’s capacity for compassion. Just something to think about.
            In my family, we were all subject to the same abuse, well, not counting the sexual abuse all three of my sisrers endured, but physical and mental abuse. When we have our bad times, we have understanding people to ralk to. And who knows what you may not know about your sisters’ childhoods. They might be hiding things from you.

          4. Yes, you’re right – none of my family or non-blogging friends reads my blog. Most of them don’t even know I write a blog. I like to keep it that way because I think of it as my personal space to share my innermost thoughts and feelings without the fear of worrying or upsetting my family or friends in any way. It’s a bit like having a private diary, I suppose. I’ve been blogging for nine years now (minus three years that I took off a couple of years ago). I don’t intend to share my blog with anyone else in my day-to-day life.

            If I were going to talk to any of my sisters, it would be the one in Australia. I doubt we’ll ever see each other again now that Mum isn’t here anymore. She really only visited the UK to stay with Mum and then came to see the rest of us in between other things. Neither of us could afford the airfare, to begin with. Currently, we chat on the phone once a week and send the odd text. My sisters and I talk about my father and his behaviour and treatment of us and my Mum, which I’ve mentioned before. We have that in common. I really do hope that none of my sisters has been through abuse, too. I’m not really close enough to them to even consider asking them that question. It could really ‘put the cat amongst the pigeons’, as we say over here. I don’t know if you know that phrase? You could probably Google it.

            I’m sorry you and your sisters went through such awful times and experiences at the hands of your father. It’s not something you, or I, can ever forget, but as we said in our last comment, life goes on, and we have to live with it and move on. I’m very glad you can talk to your sisters about what happened in your family, though 💙💛💚💛💙

          5. I would never start talking about abuse by asking someone else if they ever suffered from it. I would start by talking about my own abuse, starting with something like “I’ve been seeing a counsellor lately about things that happened in my childhood. She has really been helping me understand things I was too young to understand at the time.” If the listener is interested they will ask for more information. If they don’t want to hear about it they will change the subject.
            I am only suggesting this as a way to broach a sensitive subject like this, if ever you decide to do it, family or friend. Whether you actually do this with anyone is completely up to you. At least you have your blog. Imagine not having any outlet for the feelings abuse engenders. This is why suicides hsppens, amongst other things.

          6. I agree; there would be no way I would ask someone outright if they’d been abused. My friends and family know I was going to counselling and I’m waiting to see a new person. The problem I have now is that I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford the fee, despite it being part-subsidised, as the cost of living crisis over here is leaving me very short of money. There’s not much I can cut down on now as I’m already living without heating and buying much cheaper food. This may be a significant stumbling block when the opportunity arises to see someone new.

            If I decided to talk to my family about my abuse, I would start with my experience and give them time to, perhaps, share their experience, if there have been any.

            I really don’t know what I’d do without my blog. It’s a big and essential part of my life and my way of sharing my feelings and getting things off my chest. It’s also where I have a lot of friends, albeit distant ones, and I’m very grateful for all the tremendous support I get from everyone.

            I know about feeling suicidal as, in the past, I attempted it more times than I can count. Fortunately, I wasn’t successful, although I did end up in ITU once. I wouldn’t dream of doing anything like that now. Thanks for being part if my life and my journey, J. I appreciate it very much. 💜💕💙

          7. I did not know your counselling was only subsidized, not free as it is in Canada. You can pay if you like, but our healthcare systems are not allowed to charge. But as with you, the waiting lists cwn sometimes be unbearable. Now with Covid, the lists are even longer.
            Hopefully things will be better by the time your turn comes up.

  5. Ellie, I love the way you go to the old fashioned tea shop to order the same breakfast your Mum used to eat ❤️
    Her blue and white checked shirt must be a wonderful keepsake giving you tactile cherished memories.
    The grief never goes away but, for me, as time goes on it becomes more bearable.

    1. Thank you so much for such a lovely comment, Margaret. It was a real tradition to have tea, toast and marmalade with Mum. On the occasional times, I was able to stay with her, I used to have the same thing for breakfast, too.

      The shirt is very special to me, even more so because it’s so typical of Mum never wasting a penny on new clothes despite my encouragement to buy herself something new occasionally. She was of that post-war generation, where she would rather patch worn elbows, darn socks, and tights than go out to buy new ones. It’s comforting to hold Mum’s shirt near my face. I have a photo of her wearing that same shirt in her garden, her pride and joy where she spent much time.

      I agree with you, the grief never leaves you. I’m glad to know that, with you, it has become more bearable, although I’m sorry that you have lost a loved one, too. I think it’s getting a little better for me, too, although there are still things I need to talk about with, perhaps, my new therapist, when I’m allocated one. I think that will help. I’m sending you all my best wishes Xx 💓🌼💓

  6. Your wildlife encounter reminds me of magical realism in a novel. For sure a higher power was at play. That leaves me conflicted because I don’t believe in a higher power that would behave like that. Regardless, what a wonderful send off. I enjoyed getting an accounting of your sisters too. Are you close to them?

    1. Thanks for your comment, Jeff. I’m not sure if I believe in a higher power, either. It’s just that I can’t think of any other explanation and am trying to make sense of what happened that day. It was certainly something I couldn’t explain in any other way. We couldn’t have had a better day, even though the sadness and grief were obviously still there. That final goodbye is always so emotional and difficult.

      My three younger sisters all live a long way from me, one in Australia and two in the West Country. We hardly ever see each other, which is a shame. I haven’t seen my Australian sister for several years, although we speak on the phone weekly and are close emotionally. I’d love to see them all more often, but it isn’t easy with the distance between us.

  7. Loved this! I write letters to my mom on Mother’s Day, too, and keep them for myself. My letters are mostly updated – what she’d ‘missed’ since the last time I wrote. It’s as if I were updating a pen pal. I like the idea of reminiscing about moments together to keep the memories evergreen.

    1. Thank you, Sam. I love that you write to your mom, too. It’s a great idea to ‘give’ your mom an update each year. I might add that idea in myself when I write my next card to my Mum. The day I wrote about was just in my mind a lot this week, and I wanted to encapsulate my thoughts and feelings in this post. It was a sad yet beautiful day six years ago. Xx 😊🌷

    1. I’m also sorry for the loss of your dad. I’ve got one three-year-old tortoiseshell cat who I love very much. How many cats do you have? Believe it or not, I grew up in North London too. Xx 🌹🌸💕

        1. Hi, Sharon. I must apologise to you as I’ve just seen my last comment to you and I’d written, for some unknown reason, ‘Thank you for the loss of your dad.’ What an awful thing of me to say. I am sorry and have now edited my comment to read ‘ I’m also sorry that you lost your dad.’ Yes, it’s hard to lose a parent. I also lost my dad in 2012, although we weren’t close at all, so it was less of a blow. KIttens can certainly be a handful. I don’t think I could manage more than one cat. Had you thought about having an older, more settled cat, perhaps a rescue cat? Older cats can make such lovely companions.

      1. Oh hi Ellie, I kind of lost the threat! Ellie hope you are well. Thank you for your kind words about Dad! You mentioned you were not that close to your late father. Fathers and daughters can be a difficult relationship at times! Yes, I have thought about getting an older cat or a rescue cat. Still thinking. And I’m thinking if that cat can bring my tea up in the morning, then it’s a deal! Lovely to hear from you, so sorry for my delay. All the very best, Sharon. x

        1. Hi, Sharon, thank you for coming back to leave me a message. That’s so kind of you. Unfortunately, my father wasn’t a very nice man and was abusive to my Mum and us children. I wrote a serious poem about him a while back. It’s called ‘A Formidable Man’.

          I love the idea of a cat bringing me a cup of tea in the morning. Perhaps, I should start training Peanut 😁! I hope you are able to come to a decision as to whether to have another cat or not soon. Hugs Xx 🌷

          1. Hi Ellie, thank you for coming back to me. Oh, Ellie I get it. Dads can be a let down let alone anything else. So very sorry to hear your Dad was abusive to you and your Mum. Forgive him. I really hope this message finds you well. Yes, still thinking about that cat! Peanut, that’s a cute name for a feline. All the very best, Sharon x

    1. Yes, it’s so important to care for and show our love towards our families (and friends), but especially our mums. I miss my Mum a lot – I have so many unanswered questions that I would love to ask her, and now, I can’t. We say I’ll do this or that tomorrow, but we must remember that tomorrow isn’t promised to all of us. Thank you for liking my post, Divya. I appreciate that and your comment.

  8. Oh you wrote a most heartwarming letter to your beloved mom. I remember you telling me about the tea before. And now I am so happy to read about that lovely thing you do on Mom’s special day.
    There were butterflies that day in January?! Sure, there had to be. What a send off. Lovely.
    Bless you, Ellie. For this loveliness that’s proof of the loveliness you carry within. Glad I read. Stay in the light, dear one. You are loved.

    1. Thank you very much for reading and leaving me a lovely comment. That day was just amazing. Apart from the sadness of the occasion, it was like Spring had come out just for those few moments. I’ve never experienced anything like it before. Thank you for remembering about me going out to get tea and toast and marmalade on Mum’s special days. Sending you lots of love, too. Xx 💖💕

  9. Tears in my eyes as I read your heartfelt letter to your Mom, Ellie. I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through losing a parent, it’s one of the worst experiences ever. I love that nature came to say Goodbye to your Mom and that the sun burst through the dark clouds. I really believe that was your Mom sending a message to you, you know. Sending you lots of love and warm Aussie hugs xx

    1. Aww … that’s a lovely thing to say, Janet. I, too, believe it was nature’s way of saying goodbye to Mum. I’ve never seen another winter’s day like that since my Mum’s interment. Thank you very much for all your love and Aussie hugs. Sending love and hugs to you, too. Xx 💖💕

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