Apologies for my six month break from the blog – I really appreciate all the supportive messages I have received checking I am OK and asking when I will be back! It has really warmed my heart to know you care.
Unfortunately, whilst I originally took some time out to concentrate on some work I was committed to completing within a tight deadline, events overtook me and work (and writing) became pretty much the last thing on my mind.
Back in June, my mother took ill. Whilst in her eighties, she has always been a very busy, active person and this sudden illness was a shock to the whole family. After tests, it transpired that she had cancer – cancer that was about as bad as it could be – and only had weeks left to live. She reacted to this news in her usual style – with calm acceptance and an almost rueful shrug. Her dignity and faith was a complete revelation to me and if I had ever needed an example of quiet strength and courage, I couldn’t have asked for a better one.
I dropped everything to care for Mum in her last weeks. It was terrifying, because I had never had to care for a dying person before. Difficult, because I had to learn everything on the hop. Devastating, because I watched her fade away before my eyes, growing ever-smaller while her cancer grew larger at a seemingly furious pace. And yet it was also tender, funny, loving and a labour of love.
Mum and I had a relationship which had it’s up and downs. Like many mother/daughter relationships, we had had our differences and problems over the years – along with some wonderful times too. Those last few weeks seemed like a renewal of every loving moment and a strange sweeping away of every difficult one. There was a new understanding, an awareness of time slipping away and therefore the need to cut down to the bone – that there was love, had always been love and would always be love. The rest was just detritus that flowed steadily away with every hand hold, every conversation, every tear, every knowing look that passed between us. We talked, we laughed, we mended as surely as she never would.
When that moment came that finally she left us – she just peacefully drifted away, holding my father’s hand after I had just combed her hair and told her how pretty she looked. She knew she was surrounded by our love, and always would be.
In the months that have followed since I lost my Mum, I have talked to her still and laughed at the things she would have found funny. I have smelled her perfume in the air and known she was with me, in whatever way that can be. It might sound strange, but I do feel that she is still around, still keeping us in check!
It has been the sort of personal learning curve I never would have welcomed, but I am proud that I managed it. I could not have managed to care for Mum without the kind and practical expertise of district nurses, Marie Curie nurses and a very supportive GP. Even in the middle of the night, there was someone to answer my call and tell me how to help Mum feel more comfortable. They taught me how to wash her, how to change her, how to have confidence in my ability to comfort her and that was what she really needed the most. I cannot say how highly I respect them and the job they do. And never did I feel that they saw Mum as just another patient. When she was in pain and I had tears in my eyes, they had tears in their eyes too. She was a person to them, an individual and they treated her with such respect and kindness. In Mum’s memory, I will be running a half marathon next year to raise money for Marie Curie in order to enable other people to die peacefully in their own home, as Mum was able to.
Now – in my absence, there have been so many subjects I have thought I should have been blogging about, but I just didn’t have the heart. I’ve realised however, that Mum would most of all want me to continue as I was before, and closing myself off would not be doing her any justice whatsoever.
As she said matter of factly to the doctor just a couple of days before she died, when he tried to explain that she was winding down,
“We must be sensible and face these things, mustn’t we?”
And so that is what I am going to do.
Rest in peace Mum. You have been so loved.