As I flew back from New Zealand to bury my mother, it occurred to me that no matter how harrowing her loss was and how keenly it will always be felt, there was, nevertheless, a sense of relief that my father, sisters and I could say a final goodbye after the longest goodbye and relief that my mum had finally been released.
Brain surgery is a fairly aggressive process. There's a lot to get through. There's the beautiful, delicate shaving first, which is really lovely. There's a wonderful ceremony of putting all the covers on, so only the little bit you're operating on is revealed. But once they make the incision and tear the skin back, the drill comes out.
Ours was a very progressive Protestant family, but my parents were God-loving rather than God-fearing. We went to church, and I still go with my mum and dad when I return home - it's a family thing. I played flute in my dad's marching band, but I had an integrated upbringing. We had a lot of Catholic friends.