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'MY MUM DIED IN MY ARMS OVER 20 YEARS AGO; BUT NOW I AM SURE SHE IS LOOKING AFTER ME'; After decades of heartache, Jackie Mannell, 52, from East Sussex, now feels she can celebrate Mother's Day again.

The love my mum, Christine, showered on me is easy to remember, even now. I was her only child, out of six pregnancies, and she doted on me. We had no money so she handmade my clothes and almost all of the toys I played with were created by her.

Mum was always there with a cuddle, her eyes sparkling and the biggest smile imaginable playing on her lips. Dad was not around much, as they split up when I was 18, so I didn't have to share her.

As I grew older Mum was so calm, so kind - she never shouted or moaned at me. She never judged me, she simply listened. I never wanted to burden her with my worries, so when a school 'friend' was terrorising me, I left it a couple of years before I finally told her. She sorted the problem in seconds by calling the girl - and the bully didn't bother me again.

Mum was always saving me; she rescued me from a train station with a busted finger after the worst night of my teenage life; she helped me cope with an unplanned pregnancy that led to my first miscarriage.

I loved Mum to bits and I always knew she was different to other mothers. I only had to listen to my teenage friends being hateful and nasty about their mothers to realise how wonderful mine was. I bought her a pair of earrings with my first wage packet to show her how much she meant to me. But then, she wasn't a 'normal' mum in other respects, either, as she had to inject herself twice a day to stay alive.

ROLE REVERSAL

Type 1 diabetes overshadowed our lives. I watched that illness take my mother slowly from me and I was helpless to stop her suffering.

First, she had a stroke at just 42 years old, which lead to many, many more. Then blindness struck at 44. It was such a pitiful, cruel and frightening illness for Mum and, in a complete reversal of roles; I became her carer and put my own worries to one side.

One terrible day, Mum endured an enormous epileptic fit, which turned her into nothing more than a vegetable, aged only 50. Then I got the phone call I'd been dreading:

'Can you get to hospital, Jackie?'

'Yes. Why?'

'Well, your mum's breathing is slowing down.'

I jumped in the car with my pyjamas still on and I flew there at 60mph.

As I came into the ward Mum was still alive but, as the nurse explained while drawing the curtains around the bed, her body was closing down, starting with the lungs. That was why her breathing was laboured.

I sat beside her on the bed and cuddled her. It was a very peaceful experience. I talked to her, I held her in my arms and said: 'You're so brave, Mum. And I love you so much.'

I repeatedly told her that, knowing that she could hear me. It was so hard, though. I wasn't ready to be on my own.

Losing Mum was devastating. Everything I'd been holding back suddenly came to the surface: the adrenalin, the caring, putting my feelings aside, arranging the funeral and a house move.

I hadn't known at the time, but all the stress in my body - all day, every day for at least the past five years - took its toll and I ended up with a hernia. I'd learnt from Mum to bottle up my emotions. She was my role model and I copied her, believing that angry people were not good people.

BOTTLING UP PAIN

After her funeral, I got a tattoo of her favourite animal, a frog, done on my hip and went back to work. I was only 28 and gave myself no time to grieve - I didn't dare, as the crushing pain of losing her was too much to register.

I thought, wrongly, that carrying on, keeping a stiff upper lip and bottling up all that pain, ignoring it and pushing it deeper and deeper inside me was the best way forward.

But without Mum's steadying hand, I lurched from one disastrous relationship to another; from a marriage that lasted only months, to my life unravelling thanks to an abusive addict boyfriend.

My health suffered too, I had two more miscarriages and I developed a heart condition that still requires daily medication.

The moment that started to turn my life around was when I found myself at a psychic fair. I met a lady who connected to Mum, giving me unmistakable evidence that she was around me. I'd always believed there is no real separation between living and dying; that the spirit is still here. I've since connected to Mum many times and that comforts me immensely.

MISS YOU EVERY DAY

This Mother's Day, I have been alive longer than my own mum, and I can be thankful I have two sons, a partner and I feel completely healed.

I am unrecognisable as the daughter my mum knew. I have learnt to turn my back on my old ideas; instead, I vent all my emotions, don't allow myself to be a doormat and I take responsibility for my own health and happiness.

I have written a memoir, published today on Mother's Day and, of course, it is dedicated to her: '

To my beautiful Mum, who left this earth way too young. She was not only my mum, but my best friend, my adviser and my world. The kindest person I have ever known. I miss you every day, Mum, but I know you're only a whisper away'

To anyone else who has lost their mum, please don't be sad this Mother's Day. Our mums would not want us to mourn. They would want us to be happy to live, and embrace our lives and enjoy every moment, safe in the knowledge that we are very much loved.

This Mother's Day, I will have been alive longer than my own mum and can feel thankful

CAPTION(S):

Jackie with her mum, Christine

Below: a young Jackie with her mum and dad (who left when she was 18)

Jackie and her sons
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 6, 2016
Words:1036
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