My mum

Cynthia Franklin : 1943 – 2007


Mum outside Bouchon in Kingsland. February 2004.

I have just got back from hospital. When all else fails write. Before I forget what happened. I am beginning to forget already. Some time early evening Di Church phoned me telling me mum was going into hospital and dad wasn’t there so she was just ringing me so that someone knew. Then Dad turned up and she got off the phone quickly. And now I can’t remember what happened. Why we didn’t go in to hospital right away. I know I rang Polly and said I think Mum is going to die this time and she told me to go in. It’s good I have Polly to tell me what to do. When I don’t have my wits about me I phone Polly to get instructions. Kevin was out at the shop. Kevin’s phone was in the car. Kevin was not. Dad keeps phoning. Better come in now. You really had. Now. Come. Have you left yet? Get Astrid ready. Make food. Get blankets. And giraffe. Kevin gets home and we leave. I remember doing this trip before. The last time I drove myself. It was quite a few months ago now. Both times I remember one of Kevin’s handkerchiefs just before going out the door. This time I knew I wanted Astrid and Kevin to come too. I just knew I wouldn’t be wanting to drive myself back from the hospital this time. And I knew Astrid had to come.

Into the Emergency Department and they let me through to HDU. In the door to the room, through the curtains and there’s my mother lying on her back, her torso and head lying to one side, her arm down by dad and he’s holding her hand. I remember earlier when Dad called and he said Mum was in a room full of doctors and nurses. I told him he had to go in and be with her and hold her hand. He did and he stayed holding her hand. So we are there. I have seen my mother looking like this before. Only this time she’s more yellow and oily looking. Very thin and fluid like all the life has been sucked out of her. She’s breathing oxygen but I notice the monitor is not switched on. I sit on the opposite side of her, then realise she can’t see Astrid so we move to where she can see Astrid. Everyone says she can’t see. People are talking like she’s not there. Arranging stuff for tomorrow. People to phone. I want it to be quiet and I divert attention to Astrid. Astrid makes some noise and Mum acknowledges it with as much noise as she can muster which is a gentle grunt. She knows Astrid’s there and she can hear what’s going on. There’s a doctor in there explaining what is happening to Mum – about her lung cancer and that the lung has collapsed. They’re not trying to save her and he says it won’t be long now. I silently wish it would all be over but I also wish it had never had to come to this. I don’t think mum wants to hear all this boring talking though in her last minutes and then the doctor asks about Astrid’s name.

Astrid’s name comes from Astrid Lindgren I tell him although Kevin says it’s from the girlfriend of the Beatle that didn’t stay a Beatle. Astrid Lindgren wrote my favourite ever children’s book. And it’s about death I continue. The older brother Jonathan throws himself and his younger, crippled brother, out of a window so that they die together and go to heaven which is called Nangiyala. But they find that Nangiyala has been taken over by evil and they need to fight battles and slay dragons to bring peace to Nangiyala. There is much great adventure here, they rally people together and help bring peace to the land. At the end of the story they die and go to Nangilima which is the next level – or real heaven where true peace reigns. I think at the end of the book they say they can see the light… look, here it is.

Astrid was holding mum’s hand while I finished telling the story. And a few minutes later Mum very quietly stopped breathing and her heart stopped beating.

My god. There’s so much more to say. I’ve been wanting to write about this for ages. Wondering what if Mum would read what I wrote but she’s not even been able to get to a computer for months now. My relationship with my mother was terrible at times and good at others. We got on brilliantly when I was in another country so I made it my business to spend a lot of time in other countries. We’d talk for ages on the phone. I would tell her everything. But when we were together in person, a lot of the time we wouldn’t get on. Especially recently. But I’ve decided I am not going to wish I’d done this, or that things had been any different. I never did the whole big discussion and make up before she died thing. I don’t think we needed to do that at all. Life is what it is. What happened happened. A lot of things I remember about my mother are not great. Like I remember the first massive argument we had. I was about three or four and I had collected a matchbox full of baby praying mantises that I’d just watched being born – straight into my matchbox! Anyway, these newly born praying mantises ended up on the dining room table at dinner time with some guests. I thought it was wonderful. Mum not so.

The other time I remember was the first day I got my period and Mum had to pick me up from school. She was so mad at me I remember her yelling at me that she wanted to kill me. I can now see the humour in both situations – I must have driven her absolutely nuts! I have recently been trying to remember good things about my mother. Especially from childhood. I remember Mum used to skip us to bed when we were really tiny, something to do with goats. And I remember when Mum was an Avon lady we used to walk around Cheltenham doing that. I also helped her when she ran skincare seminars. So funny that. And here I am making skincare products.

I think there’s more of her in me than I care to admit. Ha. But tonight I am just so glad she heard Astrid and that Astrid was holding her hand when she died. And I’m glad I told the story about the Brothers Lionheart too. Even if it was a very quick rendition.

It’s not sunk in yet. It will over the next few days I suppose. And any time I think I want to talk to her. But really, she’s been ill for a while now and it’s been difficult to speak to her, so at least I have had a long time to prepare and in a way be eased into her not being here any more.

Any of you reading this smoke and want a reason to give up? Here’s one.

My mother just died at 64. Her mother died five years ago aged 96. Thirty two years. That’s my entire life minus two years. My mother should have had another thirty years. She said she didn’t mind dying, but just a few weeks ago she found out she had another grandchild on the way too and she wanted to stay alive for that.

Too late. Too late. I’m so sorry Mum. Bloody. Fucking. Cigarettes.


This photo was taken only last February. I was living in London at the time and when we got back I tried to get her to go on retreat to stop smoking. But she was bitterly annoyed with me for saying so. Just a year after this photo was taken she was emaciated. Down to 9 stone – just skin and bone.






89 responses to “My mum”

  1. erin avatar

    charlotte, i am so sorry that you lost your mom today. you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. trans-oceanic hugs coming your way. xo – erin

  2. Violet & Rose avatar

    Thank you so much for such a beautiful, but truly sad story. Thoughts are with you and your family.

  3. Leah avatar

    I’m so sorry.


  4. Aysegül avatar

    Dear Charlotte,
    I came by to your blog by chance. My thoughts are with you and your family on this very sad day, but beautifully written story… Aysegül

  5. sia avatar


    I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with you and your family…


  6. Lori avatar

    oh charlotte, i’m so sorry. it’s good you got it all down right away. my thoughts are with you.

  7. lottie avatar

    Charlotte, I’m so sorry. I’m thinking about you.

  8. Pauline avatar

    Charlotte, You are so brave to write this and its very difficult to think of any words of comfort. It brought back memories for me of my dad who died from lung cancer 20 years ago at the age of 55. It would have been his birthday on Friday.
    So sorry for your loss, thinking about you.

  9. deborah avatar

    dear charlotte, writing and telling a story is sometimes the way to be at peace with your thoughts and the people in your life. i hope your mum finds peace now, and that you share with your daughter all these stories of her grandmother.

    what you’ve written here reminds me so much of my mother and i, we’ve had good and not so good times, and often we too are the best of friends when there is some physical distance between us. i will remember your words : ‘life is what it is’.

    be well charlotte. you are in my thoughts this evening.

  10. Montse(ta) avatar

    Charlotte, I’m really really sorry. Thinking about you and your family. Worst time of my life was my father’s death. Big hug from Spain.
    PS. One year and a half since I stopped smoking.

  11. Alex avatar

    This is so sad.
    But so good you were all together with your mother.
    I am very sorry for your loss.

  12. elaine (kimchi) avatar

    My thoughts are with you and your family today. I am so sorry for your loss. I send you lots of hugs and a big bouquet of freesias from California to help you get thru this hard time. inhale the perfume of these fragrant blooms and take care. ek.

  13. Lindy avatar

    Charlotte, I’m sooo very sorry and my thoughts are with you and your family- xLindy

  14. Yvonne avatar

    Oh my God Charlotte I’m so sorry. I never know what to say when things like this happen. I’m terrible at death. I wish you and your family all the best during these difficult times. I’m with you!

  15. Kristy avatar

    Oh Charlotte I am so sad for you.Lung cancer is such an ugly disease.It took my dad, aged 38, five years after he quit.I hate those f*****g cigs.
    So good that you got to say goodbye and so right that she held Astrids hand as she went. Thoughts and prayers are with you xxx

  16. amy avatar

    my dear one, I am thinking and praying for you. This quote always helps me at times like these, I hope it helps:
    “Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will, no doubt, attain.”

  17. Megan avatar

    I’m so sorry for your loss, there aren’t words enough to say how much. I applaud you for telling the story, and for telling it true: I think that was a great gift to yourself. And yeah, it was much too young. Much.

  18. Frances avatar

    Charlotte, my thoughts are with you and your family. I wish you peace during this time

  19. nzTebs avatar

    there are no words, they just don’t work. this was beautiful to read and so brave. love, and care, and empathy. 🙁 you and Kevin and Astrid look after each other. We’ll see you soon.

  20. Lorre avatar

    such strength you have Charlotte – only a truly great writer could put into words such a deeply sad moment in their life such as this – I am so sorry for your loss – my thoughts are with you & your family.

  21. Alicia A. avatar

    Oh, Charlotte. I am so sorry for your loss. There are just no words for comfort at a time like this. Please know that I’m thinking of you and your family, hoping some peace finds you soon.

  22. pixie avatar

    It’s a hard thing to be a mother and to be a daughter. I am glad you could write with such honesty about this complicated relationship. May she rest in peace. It sounds like she died in a good space with the story and her grand-daughter.

  23. Ellen avatar

    Oh Charlotte…I’m so sorry. I’ve been meaning to comment for ages as I read your blog everyday. Thoughts are with you and your family…

  24. melissa avatar

    dear charlotte, i’m so sorry for your loss. what a beautiful and moving story- i’m so glad you wrote it all down and captured it.
    thinking of you. xx

  25. jen avatar

    My thoughts and prayers are with you Charlotte

  26. Gina avatar

    I am sorry for your loss Charlotte

  27. Ann avatar

    Charlotte, what an amazing post. So sorry sorry for your loss. Ann x

  28. mary avatar

    Thank you for your bravery and honest in writing of the loss of your mother. My father too died at age 64 from cancer (brain). Your decision to not dwell on the not so good times is so sound – I wish you strength to get through the coming days and a measure of peace and acceptance (which seems already to be there in your writing). Mary

  29. Veronica TM avatar

    hi charlotte, this is so sad and so real. thank you for this post.
    so good that astrid was there and your mum could feel her presence {i am sure she did}.
    mother-daughter relationship is the most complex and, at the same time, the strongest one {in my view}.
    i am sending you a big, big hug.

  30. Aidan Laura avatar
    Aidan Laura

    A huge hug to you. Thank you for sharing this powerful story.

  31. Carson avatar

    I really don’t know what to say but I thought I should try and say something.
    I think you’re amazingly brave for writing this all down now and publishing it.
    And for being so honest about your relationship with her.
    Big hug for you.

  32. shula avatar

    I could say something pithy here, but I won’t. I know how hard this is.

  33. Anna avatar

    Dear Charlotte,

    My thoughts are with you and your family during this sad time- its hard to lose someone you love. Be strong- I commend you for telling your story so soon. take care,

    Anna xx

  34. cristina avatar

    my heart is with you, charlotte. this was a beautifully honest memory of your mum.

  35. Melissa avatar

    Charlotte – there are no right words to say, but I’m so very sorry for your loss. The photos of your mum are beautiful.
    Melissa x

  36. Steph avatar

    I’m so so sorry Charlotte. I’ve been through it before with my grandfather and it just fucking sucks. What a beautiful eulogy you’ve written here for her.

  37. Niamh avatar

    Charlotte, Thank you for sharing your story. I’m so sorry for your loss. I myself had only started smoking again in the last few weeks, stress of orgainising a wedding. But after reading your very moving story I have smoked my last one, your words are inspiring. The story of you and your Mum has touched me deeply today. I have a daughter Astrids age and I know for her sake I need to kick this ridiculous habit. Much love to you and your family.. my prayers are with you x

  38. Wylie Hunt avatar
    Wylie Hunt

    Dear Charlotte, you have written beautifully and honestly about this tragic loss. I am so sorry for your sadness. Hold on tightly to your sweet Astrid and your husband, and be comforted by their love. You arein my prayers.


  39. mazhalai avatar


  40. amy dawn rose avatar

    i’m so sorry charlotte- hugs and kisses from across the world (canada).

  41. Tamar avatar

    Dearest dearest Charlotte,
    I just wanted to say how much I feel for you, my thought are with you and Astrid and Kevin.
    My mom also dies 10 years ago from lung cancer at the age of 64, she never smoked a cigarette in her life…
    Hugs and kisses and love to you all

  42. Christine avatar

    Oh man…. So sad. Thank you for writing so honestly. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  43. emily avatar

    oh charlotte. there are no words, i know. just the same, you’re in my thoughts. and your family, too. in our tradition we say – may her memory be a blessing.

  44. Amber avatar

    I am sorry for your loss… I am sure you are feeling a myriad of emotions but do try to enjoy the memories you have—the good and the bad, for what they truly were. Take care of yourself and your family…

  45. MaryBeth avatar

    (((( H E a L I N G H U GS ))))))

    and prayers dear Charlette.
    I applaud your courage in putting your heart immediately onto paper .
    What a precious and sacred blessing for your mom to have all of your around her and little astrid’s hand in hers.

    Take very good care of YOU .

    MB in Joshua Tree

  46. Fiona avatar

    Oh Charlotte, I am so sorry to read this.

    You’re in my thoughts. Take care. xo

  47. barbara avatar

    I’m sorry for your loss Charlotte. If only people knew how unpleasant the treatment for cancer is they would never pick up a cigarette.

  48. amy h avatar

    I’m so sorry to hear this. My father died of a smoking-related cancer at 49, so I know that that whole smoking thing can be so infuriating. I hope the writing and getting it all out are helpful to you, now and later, when this will all become even more of a blur. Please take care.

  49. eireann avatar

    oh, no. i am so, so sorry for your loss.

    take care.

  50. Sylvie avatar

    Charlotte, you are amazing. I am richer for having read this post. You are truly a dear one and I wish you wellness and beauty.
    Big hugs, Sylvie

  51. di avatar

    My thoughts are with you and your family. Your post is so full of feeling. It is important to write about these things in life- to sort out and clarify our feelings, to share the warning with others, before the memories start to fade. Take care,

  52. Maria Aberg avatar
    Maria Aberg

    Oh God Charlotte, I’m so so sorry. Am thinking about you and Astrid and your family x

  53. Nicky avatar

    Oh Charlotte, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to say, nothing sounds right. I’m so sorry.

  54. alison avatar

    I’m sending you lots of love from the Wairarapa and I really mean that.
    Both gregor and I gave up smoking almost two years ago. The hardest thing I’ve ever done. Harder than moving to the other side of the world even.
    I wish you peace and quietness Charlotte.

  55. Anna avatar

    Charlotte, we are so sorry for your family’s loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Take care.

  56. Maija avatar

    So so sorry for the loss.

  57. Arch avatar


    I don’t know what to say…I am very sorry to hear about this news.

    I’ll be thinking about you and your family.

  58. marion avatar

    charlotte, i just read was has happened…i’m so sorry to hear. thinking of you and astrid and kevin.


  59. Maria avatar

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

    But you told it in a very beautiful way.

  60. Rebecca avatar

    Such sad news – I am sorry. I hope you find some comfort in that you and Astrid were both there to hold her hand.

  61. Jimin avatar

    i am sorry for your loss. beautiful story really touched my heart. take care.

  62. Kate avatar

    She looks incredibly funky

  63. Tommy avatar

    Take care Charlotte, you are very brave to share your story.

  64. Tanja avatar

    So sad to hear that! I wish you strength and peace for your life now.

  65. marné avatar

    This is just beautiful and sad and brave. Thank you for sharing, mother/daughter relationships are so complicated, aren’t they?

    I’m sorry for your loss and all that you must be going through right now. I wish you comfort and peace.

  66. kimberlee avatar

    so sorry for your loss.
    it’s good to get it all out

  67. Sarah avatar

    Charlotte, I am sorry for your loss. I hope your little Astrid brings you hope at this hard time x

  68. emma avatar

    thinking of you charlotte, at this sad time…may you find comfort in those close to you.

  69. itziar avatar

    i’m so sorry for your loss, Charlotte…
    i think your mum had the very best of goodbyes with Astrid and you there with her.
    take care.
    itziar {hugs}

  70. kali avatar

    Charlotte, I too want to reach across and offer my condolences.
    I am glad you managed to write down this story, and that you got to say goodbye and that little Astrid held her hand.
    So sorry for the loss of your Mum.

  71. Nonnie avatar

    I am so very sorry for your loss Charlotte. Thank you so much for sharing the story with us. My thoughts and love are with you and your family and I’m sending a virtual hug accross the World to you. Take care. x

  72. aga_d avatar


    sending you a big hug .

    i am sorry.


  73. kimberley avatar

    Charlotte, what a moving post. You’re so brave to have written it, and nothing I could say in this paltry comment will do it justice. I feel like sending it to my parents to get them to stop smoking – but I know it will fall on deaf ears.

    Arohanui, K

  74. jen avatar

    sweetie are you ok????
    I have something for you on my blog
    missing you

  75. wendy avatar

    I am very sad to hear about your mother, your words have touched me as they have everyone else. All I can think to do is add my thoughts to all the best wishes that are flowing your way.

  76. leslie avatar

    oh charlotte, i’m so so sorry for what you and your family have had to go through (and are still going through and will be going through). your post held me fixated, beautiful and sad. tragic and real. i’ll be thinking of you, hoping you’re okay.

  77. Claire avatar

    Not commented before but I just thought I would today – reading your post reminded me of the day we lost our mother to breast cancer, which was almost 5 years ago. I could go on about how if affects you, and give you platitudes, but I won’t. Life is sometimes pretty sh”t, and this is one of them. I am truly sorry for your loss, I have lost many people I have had close realtionships with to cancer, and it’s an evil, nasty destroyer of life. Don’t worry about when you had arguments – that is the way your mind will play tricks on you when you are as raw as you are. In time this will be less. Just do what you need to do to keep putting one foot in front of the other, at your own pace, taking things day by day.

    Best wishes for you and your family

  78. Jen avatar

    So sorry for your loss. That’s no age at all (same age as my dad, though cancer didn’t get him, septicaemia did). Glad you were there with her at her passing, with Astrid. Thinking of you.

  79. alisonmc avatar

    I’m so sorry Charlotte. I know what you’re going through, my family is going through the same thing with my grandfather right now. He smoked for 60 years and now he has triple valve disease, emphysema and vascular disease which has rotted both his legs. He goes into hospital tomorrow as his left leg is so bad you can actually see bone. It’s likely he won’t come out again.

    Two years ago his right leg was amputated. I waited for him to come back from surgery with my nan until 2am. You know the first thing he said? I want a fag. It’s so sad. I’m thinking of you and your family and wishing you all the love in the world.

  80. brigid avatar

    charlotte – i came by your blog by chance today. my mother is the same age as yours. i dont want to imagine my life without her. my dad died of lung cancer at 46. nothing i can say will ease your pain – it’s the worst. i will think of you today. peace to you and your family.

  81. Gigi avatar

    It’s a very difficult feeling, Charlotte,to get angry with someone you’re suppose to love, especially when that someone has just passed away. Some two years ago when my mom passed away, I had so much negative thoughts about her — memories of all unhappy things happened between us. And I felt so guilty about not mourning.

  82. suzy avatar

    So sorry to hear your sad news… I’m thinking of you and your family.

  83. Astrid avatar

    Charlotte. I’m so sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing this.

  84. lesley avatar

    Oh Charlotte, words completely fail me. I’m so sorry to hear what has happened. I wish I could say something that would make you feel better.

  85. suzanne avatar

    Thank you for sharing this. I feel I have nothing to say that can measure up to the response your post deserves. Only that your tribute leaves me in heavy thought. 32 years…wow.

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your mother.

  86. martha avatar

    I am so sorry for your loss -thinking of you.

  87. Amy avatar

    charlotte … it’s not easy when parents can be so very much in their way of thinking + us children ebb + flow in a sea of emotions. somehow it all comes full circle in a moment such as this. you forget it all + just love. i’m so very sorry for your loss. balance with love from the rest of your family to get through the hardest of times. xo.

  88. jen avatar

    Charlotte – I’m so sorry – I did’t know. Reading your story, and knowing astrid was holding her hand while you told the tale – very touching and comforting, I’m so so sorry for your loss.

  89. Esther avatar

    Charlotte – I only came across your blog today, via Melissa’s blog – one door down.

    This has really moved me, I am so sorry about your mother, your story is beautifully and touchingly told.

    My father died 17 years ago, just a week after his 60th birthday – I couldn’t agree with you more about those bloody cigarettes!

    Take care.

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