My mother's favourite flower: A life remembered

As her mobility declines Mum stays in her room more and more. Her windowsill becomes a substitute for the garden. Image copyright Celine Marchbank

Celine Marchbank is a documentary photographer whose latest work is very personal, and yet one that will resonate with many of us.

In 2009 Marchbank found out that her mother, Sue Miles, had cancer. Marchbank recalls that her mother was "amazingly optimistic" and reassuring about the outcome, but by by April the following year the cancer was confirmed as terminal.

"While I was trying to come to terms with the fact she was dying, I decided I wanted, or maybe needed, to document the time she had left," says Marchbank.

But there was always that question as to whether it was the right thing to do.

"I didn't want to create a graphic portrayal of her death - it would have been impossible and wrong to focus only on the dying part - but rather I wanted to photograph our last months together.

Image copyright Celine Marchbank
Image caption "My Mum has the most amazing blue eyes."

"I looked at the things that made her uniquely her, the details in her house I thought I knew so well, the things that would also be gone when she was."

Image copyright Celine Marchbank
Image caption "Mum loves stripes, they are all over the house. Even the bloody cat is stripey," says Marchbank

This is a very personal thing. Others have documented such moments, each in their own way. For some the very idea of picking up a camera at such a time would seem taboo, for others a most natural response.

Marchbank feels that the few seconds spent taking pictures each day gave her a way to record the moments that would come to mean so much.

Image copyright Celine Marchbank
Image copyright Celine Marchbank
Image caption "Mum never really asks for help, in fact she refuses it," says Marchbank. "She was determined to try and do as much for herself as possible, and never lets on how hard it is for her."

"Her love of flowers was a beautiful part of her personality; the house was always full of them, and as I photographed them I realised they were symbolic of what was happening - they represented happiness, love, kindness and generosity, but also isolation, decay, and finally death."

The work is called Tulip, after her mother's favourite flower, and it is these small, often overlooked parts of her mother's life that form the narrative of the work.

Image copyright Celine Marchbank
Image caption "Mum slept a lot today. It was nice to be in the room with her, seeing her so relaxed. It's so difficult leaving her there, though I think the hospice is the best place for her right now..... until she is stronger."
Image copyright Celine Marchbank

Marchbank found the editing process after her mother's death cathartic, and only now, five years on, is she ready to share the work with a wider audience through the publication of a book. Tulip has become about her own journey through grief.

"Grief is like a grey cloud above your head, sometimes just a nagging doubt at the back of your mind, other times a huge storm cloud filling your whole mind. As long as I feel this grey cloud then, in a way, I will always feel her presence."

Tulip by Celine Marchbank is published by Dewi Lewis.

Image copyright Celine Marchbank