It’s been a long few days.
For the past several weeks my mum has been very ill following an unsuccessful cancer operation. As the weekend approached her health deteriorated rapidly and, with my brother and his family, we took turns to keep vigil, trying to keep her as comfortable as possible.
At some point over the weekend I found myself sitting with my two nieces aged 17 and 21. The eldest of them is just about to embark on the exciting new adventure of getting her first flat.
She was talking about all the adult things that she was now going to have to do and had no clue about. All the things involved in owning your own home such as rent, utility bills and bank accounts.
Let me tell you a secret about being an adult, I said. Most of the time none of us know what we’re doing, we’re just making it up as we go along.
As a kid you think adults know everything. You assume they have some kind of knowledge and wisdom that comes with age and experience, but most of the time that’s not true.
Sure, as time passes you pick up some things. You learn things from your own experience. You learn things from your friends, peers and acquaintances. And most of all, you learn things from your parents. But still, most of the time you’re just making it up as you go along.
In the early hours of Monday morning my mum died.
At this point all you want to do is curl up into a tight little ball and grieve.
Unfortunately you can’t.
At this most painful of times there is suddenly much to do. Doctors have to be called; friends and relatives have to be informed; processes have to be put into place to get a death certificate; undertakers have to be engaged.
Tasks veer wildly between the highly emotional and the numbingly administrative.
Over the course of the next few hours we cried a lot, but we also laughed a little as we remembered better times. We worked as a family and we got through it.
By lunchtime we felt that, for now, we’d done as much as we could do and we set off to find something to eat.
As we left and paused to lock the door behind us my younger niece looked at me and asked: was that you just making it up as you went along?
Yep, I replied, it’s all you can do.