Wednesday 18 September 2019

'Christmases are silently veiled by one simple wish: I just want my mam back'

Amy Mulvaney talks about spending Christmas without her mum
Amy Mulvaney talks about spending Christmas without her mum
Amy with her mam Paula.
Amy's mam, Paula Mulvaney.
Paula, Amy and Dave Mulvaney

Amy Mulvaney

Each year as Christmas approaches, and our homes are filled with family members, food and festivities, one simple wish silently veils above all: “I just want my mam back."

Writing a Christmas list as a child couldn’t have been easier.

You flicked through the Argos catalogue, soaked up the ads on television and listed what caught your eye on a visit to the toy store.

“Dear Santa, this year for Christmas I’d like a Bratz doll, a typewriter and a surprise,” reads a letter from my seven-year-old self to Saint Nic.

But what would our Christmas lists read today if we wrote what we truly wanted?

It was just four weeks after Christmas that my mother lost her life, and this year marks the sixth festive season I will spend without my mam.

She was 42 years old and had spent 18 months cancer free, being given the all clear from the doctor several weeks before Christmas. It was the best gift we could ever get.

Myself, my mam and my dad spent that Christmas Day in 2010 not knowing it would be our last together, with high hopes for 2011 and plans of how we were going to spend the coming year.

Amy's mam, Paula Mulvaney.
Amy's mam, Paula Mulvaney.

However, less than two weeks into the new year my mam was diagnosed with yellow jaundice. She spent several days in hospital, but with six cancer diagnoses within 12 years, this wasn’t too far out of the ordinary for our family.

“My mam will be out on Tuesday!” I told a friend in school, while I texted her under the desk.

The next day we were told that she had days to live. The jaundice triggered a hot spot of cancer in her liver and on Sunday January 23rd at 2:03pm, my mam’s nearest and dearest gathered around for her final breaths.

When you lose a loved one, money can no longer buy what you really want.

Paula, Amy and Dave Mulvaney
Paula, Amy and Dave Mulvaney

While my dad, my family and I have created our own traditions over the past six years to make Christmas as enjoyable as it can be, the approach of the 25th brings with it the reminder that we’re spending yet another year without my wonderful mother.

We visit her graveside on Christmas morning - a stark difference to sitting by the tree as we excitedly opened presents all those years before.

Although my mother’s life was short, the 42 years of her existence gave every person who ever met her a gift that money couldn’t buy.

She was kind, intelligent, witty and had a smile that would light up a room. Even if she had spent days in hospital, she would never let her mood drop. So much so, that I didn’t realise the seriousness of cancer until the days before it took her life.

She brought warmth and grace with her wherever she went, making friends with cashiers and giving lost pedestrians lifts to where they needed to be.

So, although my Christmas list will never be fulfilled in the way I wish it could be, having a woman so strong, loving and generous as my mother for 15 years might just be the best gift I can get.

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