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My mother died in September 2016, so that’s both parents now gone. Their deaths were relatively early (at the ages of 70 and 71) yet also long anticipated due to their health conditions.

So grief has been going on for a long time, particularly for my mum as she had Alzheimer’s Disease and stopped being ‘mum’ quite some time ago. In many ways my parents’ deaths were a relief after all the stress and strain of seeing them deteriorate, trying to cope with the demands and behaviour, and sorting out their care. Yet they are also wildly disorientating in a way that only those who have also lost their parents can understand. I don’t mean that to be judgmental, simply that their loss opens a whole new window on the world.

The only way I can explain it is to say that it feels like Emley Moor mast has fallen down. I grew up about five miles from the mast, and I now live about 10 miles away. We all orientate ourselves by the mast, all the time. It’s like north on a compass, a light to a moth, the moon to the tides. You can spend hours, days, weeks busy looking in another direction, coping with life just fine, but at some point either the mast catches your eye or you look for it as you aren’t quite sure which direction you’re heading in, and you feel immensely reassured by its presence.


And it’s just there, in all weathers and instantly recognisable from all angles. I look for it as I’m coming home on the M1, the East Coast mainline and the Transpennine Express. “There’s the mast, nearly home.”

But now my parental mast is gone. I still have my home and I still have the scenery, but the focal point is no longer visible.


A comment made by several people at my mother’s funeral: “You’re the oldest member of your immediate family now.” Not quite, I think. I still have Margaret and Joan, possibly the #bestauntiesintheworld. But I do have to step up. It’s time for me to be the mast.