When her mother died, poet and author Mary Crooks thought her whole world had stopped. Through writing, and love from her family, she found a way to keep her mum’s influence alive
I remember the phone call as if it were yesterday. My older sister, Annie, called me to tell me my lovely mother had fallen down the stairs. She had performed CPR on her and mum had been rushed to hospital.
She was now in a coma and it didn’t look good. Could I get on a flight to Scotland as soon as I could? Mum had been given the last rights by the priest. Except it was too late to get a last-minute flight, and to drive would take at least eight hours. Fear flooded my whole body.
Would my mum survive? I needed to get to her. Yet all I could do was stare up at the stars, wondering, was this the end? Would I ever see my beautiful, vivacious, loving, kind and gentle mother again? Would I ever get to kiss her lily- white skin one last time? Or hear her melodic voice say: “Mary darling!” Outside in my garden, in April 2013, I was struck by just how quiet everything was. It was as though the world had stopped spinning.
Would my mum survive? I needed to get to her. Yet all I could do was stare up at the stars, wondering, was this the end
It was only earlier that evening I’d had a missed call from my mum. Her message went to voicemail. I listened to it later but was feeling unwell so went to lie down. I will forever be haunted by my actions. Every time I think about it I cry, thinking to myself: “Was she ringing to tell me she was ill?” I will never know. Instead, in its place, was the most wonderful voicemail. “Mary darling! Don’t worry about a thing. Everything will work out. We all have long lives. You must think about Freya-Lily and the baby you are carrying.” My daughter is called after my mum: Lily. I was almost three months pregnant with my second baby. Her last words on my voice mail? “I will love you forever, Mary.” And just like that, the voicemail was over. I would never have another conversation with my beautiful mother ever again.
On the 20 April 2013, my wonderful mother passed away. I was told that her heart beat faster when my dad spoke to her and kissed her goodbye. She was gone to the angels. Somewhere far away from here.
When my sister called to tell me that Mum had died. I remember standing outside in my garden staring up at the stars thinking: “This cannot be true. You are having a nightmare. Mum can’t be dead.” I think shock set in then as I didn’t really believe she had passed away. I wouldn’t believe it until I had seen her.
When my sister Jackie and I flew up to Scotland on the first flight of the day, we got to the hospital and it was then we saw it was true. Nothing would ever be the same again and we all knew it. As loving as our dad is, there was a softness about Mum that we all yearned for. Yet she was no more. That kindness had disappeared too.
My only comfort was that I have never intentionally argued with my mum. I tried my best to be strong. I had my husband and my baby Freya-Lily who had just turned one in that March. She was 13 months old when mum died, and I was pregnant with my second baby. I was trying my hardest to keep it together, but inside I was in great despair. Even writing this now, as cathartic as it is, brings tears to my eyes and a heaviness to my heart. It is true that as soon as your mum dies, a part of you dies. It is a huge loss and even four years on, the pain is ginormous. It threatens to eat you whole. I fight it every day. I try my best to be positive and make my mum proud. Some days are harder than others, but my family keep me going.
It was a good while after my mum’s funeral that I began writing poetry. At first it was angry poems, but as the years went by the poetry became softer. I write about all sorts of topics: love, life, loss, death, anger, lack of self-confidence, hatred and basically anything we deal with in everyday life.
I feel sometimes my poetry is helping others just as much as it is helping me, and that makes me feel happy.
I published my first book, Love Life Poetry: A Dreamer of Improbable Dreams in December 2016. I self-published, as my lovely dad has suffered many strokes since my mum passed away and I wanted him to have a gift that may help him to get better. He keeps fighting back and is a real-life Superman. I dedicated the book to my Mum, Lily (R.I.P), and my Dad, Tommy. The poem, Real Life Love Story, is about them. A poem about their love.
I notice since my mum passed away, anytime I talk about her with my husband, our living room door opens by itself (my husband, Darrin, says there’s a draft), the kitchen light goes on and off (my husband says it’s faulty), the tap does loud drips (my husband says we need a new tap). What he cannot deny is at Christmas time there was a red butterfly that appeared in the hallway. It appeared out of nowhere. I have never seen a butter y in December, have you? Red was my mums favourite colour.
I know the unbelievers will say, “Oh please!” but I honestly feel her around me. Sometimes smells (lavender), sometimes I feel something icy touch my head, but it doesn’t scare me. It makes me feel calm and happy.
I try my best to be positive and make my mum proud. Some days are harder than others, but my family keep me going.
Now, when the tap goes o or the door opens, my husband says, “Hello Lily!” He doesn’t really believe in the afterlife, but he seems to have turned over a new leaf. Or maybe at least half a page!
I hope my poetry brings peace to people and makes them smile. It’s an amazing feeling to do something I am so passionate about. It’s hard finding the time to sit down quietly and write as we now have three children: Freya-Lily (5), Noah Thomas (3), and Malachy Caiden (3 months). We know we are blessed with healthy, beautiful children. I have a wonderful husband and a roof over my head.
I usually write on the go and write what I am feeling immediately. I love that I get to do a job I adore. Writing is never a chore to me, only a passion. I
do it alongside my freelance television camera work. It’s hard trying to juggle so many things, but nothing great ever came easily. You must work hard to achieve dreams and I feel that mine are finally becoming a reality. On my poetry page, people can commission poems for their loved ones for a fee. They choose what they think it is worth. It’s a unique gift to give someone you love! It allows less well-o people to treat their family and friends to a unique, once in a lifetime gift as well.
What does the future hold for me? I hope my dad’s health continues to improve, that my children, husband and I are healthy and happy, that my family and friends are having a fine time too! I pray that I get to move back home to County Mayo in Ireland. To write near the waters’ edge. To become financially free. To be able to support my family without stress or worry.
Maybe next time I will write a supernatural novel. I have always loved writing about things like that. The poetry makes me try my best to be positive and to look on the bright side of life. After all, we only get one life. We may as well try our best to do good, be kind and enjoy ourselves.
We will always have our memories but life doesn’t stop for anyone. We must try our best to keep moving forward. To keep the love within our hearts and to always give each other a helping hand. I know my mum would like her memory to be one of pure, joyous love. For that is what she brought to this earth, and now it lives on inside all her children and grandchildren. Her blood runs through our veins. For that we shall be eternally grateful.
On my wedding day, my mum gave me the best advice. She said: “Mary darling, always look at that wedding ring and remember what it means to you, your love and your husband. Never take that ring o your finger! If you have an argument never go to bed angry. Always forgive one another.”
That was my lovely mother down to the ground. She had the biggest heart. She was super forgiving and she respected her marriage and family. If I can be half the woman she was, then my children will be very lucky indeed. In the end, the most important thing in life, is the love we hold within our hearts. Keep the love!
“News of her mum’s serious accident throws Mary’s world into chaos. Unable to rush to her side, she reflects on all her mother means to her and the difference she makes in her life. When her mum passes away, it brings disbelief, a feeling that part of her has died as well. She finds it difficult to cope with the feelings of loss. Yet as the emotion threatens to consume her, Mary finds healing in writing poetry – an outlet for her feelings. Through this recovery, she connects to the future, remembering all that her mother gave in the past for their happiness.”