I lost my mother a couple of days ago. There is probably never a good time to have a loved one pass away from lung cancer (I lost my dad to cancer as well, eleven years ago) but having it happen during a pandemic added an extra layer of distress to the whole thing. Due to Covid restrictions, my sister and I couldn't be with our mum during the last weeks of her life, and when Mum tested positive for the virus, even her partner was only permitted a single final visit. Our experience, harrowing as it's been, is only one of many that will have played out very similarly over the last year, in hospitals, hospices and care homes up and down the country.
I need hardly say that my mother will be missed, but I wanted to add that she had been enormously supportive of my writing efforts, right from the start. My mum divorced in 1982. She had very little money to scrape together - just keeping a Volkswagen Beetle on the road was enough of a struggle - but still she found enough to pay for someone to type up a copy (with a carbon duplicate) of my first handwritten manuscript. That was before I learned to type for myself. Seeing my words in cold hard print was confirmation of two things: one that the book itself was probably no good, but secondly that there were bits of it that were encouraging enough to make me think that perhaps I could be a writer after all. And so I kept going, writing short stories, learning about the magazine market, and eventually starting another novel, which was a little better than the first.
I can't say that I wouldn't have become a writer without that jolt of encouragement, but who knows. It certainly played a part. So if at some point you have enjoyed something of mine, please lift a glass to my mother, who was there right at the start.