Paris is a city that I had only ever visited in my dreams until I embarked on my first visit in December 2012, for a long weekend with a group of my closest friends. But this would be no ordinary city break. I was there for someone’s birthday – someone who was, so sadly, no longer with us. This was a mission of remembrance.
Earlier that year, in February, I lost my mother to cancer – with only a horrifyingly short sixteen days from her diagnosis to her death. The speed at which it happened left me in a complete state of shock. For my dad, Paul, my two sisters, Sarah and Hannah, and me, life would never be the same again.
I spent that year trying my best to cope with the grief – putting on a brave face to the world, as my own world, behind closed doors, was crashing in around me. I couldn’t see a way out of the dark place that I had fallen into – I was being pulled further down by every single milestone that I was forced to face. But then it dawned on me – rather than waiting anxiously for another day of misery, why don’t I drag myself back up and try something completely different? My mum was not given the chance of a battle, so in her honour, I was going to at least step up and give grief the fight of its life.
My mother’s sixtieth birthday was approaching and I knew that we would have done something special for her. I was determined that, even though she was no longer with us, this would still be the case. The show must go on.
With Eurostar vouchers as the last gift that Mum had bought me before she passed away, I chose to celebrate Parisian-style but with a unique twist.
I had the idea to do something creative in memory of this wonderful woman and so I set off on an adventure to scatter sixty postcards – one for each year of her life – around the City of Love. I wrote my email address on each postcard message in the hope that someone would get in touch.
I returned to London to find the city overflowing with festive cheer. Just a few days after the Paris visit, I was hitting the shops on Oxford Street, searching for presents for my family, before heading to a show with my housemate that night. It was on the overground train back to my house on that evening that I realised Christmas had come early for me. My phone vibrated in my hand – I had a new email and I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. The subject read, ‘Paris Postcard Found!’. And I must have been good that year, because it turned out that wasn’t the only early present I was going to receive….
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