It’s a peculiar thing time. If you are lucky enough to have a philosopher, physicist or cosmologist at your New Years celebrations tonight, ask them to tell you what it is. You may still be discussing it next year. As human beings we’ve been ordering time into chunks for millennia, and what we refer to as a year is an entirely man made concept (one particular man actually, Pope Gregory VIII to be exact). Stranger still is the fact that we, the species that quantified time, choose to celebrate the end of one chunk and the dawn of a new one, spending billions globally in the process.
So why this obsession with marking the passage of time in such grandiose fashion? What are we actually celebrating? Or are we really saying good riddance to the old and welcoming in what we hope will be a better New Year? I think for many, myself included, the celebrations will be more about hope and expectation of a better 2014, than looking back fondly on 2013.
A lot has come to pass for me personally, much of it good. My children are happy and healthy, and I am still married to a beautiful and loving wife. We have a roof over our heads and enough food to eat and water to drink. My writing has provided me with a great deal of satisfaction, as well as serving as a powerful distraction when times got rough. Work too has been both challenging and rewarding in equal measure. There are also promising shoots of recovery on the football front, but I won’t go into that. They are so fragile I might kill them off before they get a chance to bloom.
However all of that has been overshadowed this year by the death of my Mother in July from Cancer. I have avoided writing about this for many reasons. I worried it would seem self indulgent, or perhaps if I’m being honest, that it would force me to think about it a little more deeply than I was ready for. That said, I just couldn’t mark the end of this year on these pages, without mentioning one of the most moving, distressing and painful moments in my life. In doing so, I hope to honour her memory and attempt some closure, though the latter may be a little ambitious.
‘Me Ma’, to use a Scouse expression, made me the person I am today. You could say that I am made in her image, independent, passionate, loving, caring, gobby, opinionated, angry, proud, and single minded. These qualities have helped and hindered me at times, just as they did my Mum, but I wouldn’t alter them one single bit.
These qualities are the gifts she left behind. She also left countless memories, both joyous and sad. They are, of course deeply personal, and I am not going to recount them all here. They will see me through the months and years ahead. Though I do want to say that my Mum didn’t just teach me how to live. This year she also showed me how to die, with dignity, and bravery whilst maintaining compassion for others.
Towards the end, my Sister and I were staying over at Mum and Dad’s regularly. I got talking to mum late one night, and she confided to me that she really worried about us all being upset when she died, and that she wouldn’t be there to comfort us. She probably didn’t realise it, but she had just dispensed another life lesson. Never face your fears alone, is something we should all take to heart. That she was thinking of her family in this her darkest hour, tells you all you need to know about the woman.
In her younger days, my Mothers’ New Years eve parties were the stuff of legend. They would go on until the small hours. A procession of neighbours, family and friends would parade through our house, and all were welcome. The music was loud, the refreshments were abundant, and the laughter still rings in my ears. Tonight’s ‘celebrations’ will be muted by comparison, but as this year fades from view, I will take those memories into the next, and carry hope in my heart that 2014 will be a better year.
To all of you, but especially my Sister, Father, and my Mum’s Sisters, I hope that 2014 brings you peace and happiness.