I don’t think anyone is ever ready to loose their mother. We all know that logically our parents will die before we do, but you can never be ready and you’ll never forget the pain and anguish, not to mention the guilt.
My mother was an incredible woman. My young memories of her are so clear that I can picture in my mind all the good times. Things like taking us swimming, horse riding and for hugely long cycle rides, during which everyone had to wait for me. I was the youngest and my bike had no gears.
We were council house kids. No spare money, no car and no TV for years. Since we didn’t know any differently, it never bothered us. Mum did any job she had to, in order to put food on the table, and help pay the bills.
She was, and always will be the centre of my world.
When I think back to the times I ran away from home, and was continually in trouble with the Police, she wasn’t pleased, but she always let me come home again. She could have had me sent to reform school, and there were plenty of people who gave her just that advice, but I was her daughter, and it’s only now that I realise what I had, and how lucky I was to have had her as my mother..
Mum loved dogs, and we’d go to obedience shows together. She loved competing with her dogs, and so did I. We never came back empty handed, and both of us gained a better understanding and a very close bond. I even managed to teach her how to swear properly.
I think she was grateful.
I never lost touch with either of my parents. Even when I left home to live with Matt, I saw them every other week, and talked to her on the phone for ages.
If I thought loosing my farther so suddenly was the worst thing that could ever happen to me, I was so, so wrong.
We moved back to Farnborough, from Sheppey so that we’d be close to mum, and able to keep an eye on her. I’d cycle to the woods with the dogs, and stop by mums for a coffee on the way back.
She was the most accident prone person I have ever known. She was always falling off her bike (she failed her driving test three times, and I have to say, Thank God), in the worst places, and some of the funniest ways I’ve ever seen anyone catapulted off a bike. The dogs trampled her. She fell in ditches full of water and was always walking into the patio doors. Anyone from social services would have been appalled at the amount of bruises she always had. But she loved her bike, and was fiercely independent. She cycled miles to do her shopping, when I could easily have taken her by car. But she’d never ask.
As the years dribbled away I refused to admit to myself that things weren’t the same. Slowly and insidiously, things began to change. Things I didn’t want to see, or even think about, and which I refused to admit. If I didn’t allow myself to believe it, it couldn’t be happening.
But it was.
Slowly but surely there were less things mum could do. Like The Telegraph crossword. Matt had always rung mum if he couldn’t do part of it, but she was no longer capable of doing more than half of it. Everyone told me, but I would never allow myself to believe them. As far as I was concerned, she was still the mum I’d known my whole life, and nothing would make me give that up. I saw her through closed eyes, and I steadfastly refused to open them, and see what was in front of me. She still laughed. She still did her beautiful garden and she still loved her dogs.
Time passed, and I never once opened my eyes long enough to see the truth. To me, she was just mum, and she’d always be here, just as she always had.
But you can’t walk around blind forever. She was eighty odd, and she fell off her beloved bike, and came home in an ambulance.
She went through a stage during which she was confused, and afraid, for a long time. I didn’t know what to do for her, and I was as afraid as she was. My sister Dawn took Power Of Attorney for her. Although she lived miles away, she did an amazing job. She arranged for carers to call three times a day. She made sure there was always plenty of food for her, and she managed mums money perfectly. This period in my mum’s life was terrifying, and there was nothing I could do to help her. She wouldn’t go out, except to the corner shop each morning, to buy her ciggies and a paper. We took the pedals off her bike to stop her riding it, but she would push it to the shop each day.
She became more and more confused, and more and more frail. She no longer remembered that she smoked, and would stand in front of the shop counter, looking at the cigarettes. She knew she wanted something, but couldn’t remember what. The people who ran the shop were wonderful. We asked them to sell her cigarettes if she asked, but not to remind her. She had emphysema by then, and needed inhalers, which she wouldn’t use. Just as you thought she was going to inhale, she spat it out, with a huge grin.
Suddenly, she was my child.
She stopped going to the shop. She stopped reading. She had no memory, neither long term or short term, and she was living in a house alone, except for the cat I got her, when her dog died of old age.
Dawn and her husband Derrick came down every fourth weekend, but mum would have the table set for them almost every day. She had no idea of time or dates. She sat in her chair by the window, looking at her garden through beautiful blue eyes, fading with age. The carers came and went, but she was alone for most of her days, except when I turned up to visit her. When I left, she was alone again.
She stopped watching TV. Most programs frightened her.
Nothing lasts forever, especially the things and people you love most. Mum fell, and broke her hip, and was taken to hospital. At first she was terrified, but they were so kind, that she began to enjoy herself. She couldn’t have her hip mended, because her breathing was so bad that she would never have survived an anaesthetic. She couldn’t even have a sedative, so that she could have a C.A.T. scan.
Every day I visited her. One day she would be happy, although she had lost most of her power of speech, she understood what we were all saying. The next day, she would be asleep and very tired. No day was the same, and it was hard to know what to expect during each visit.
Weeks passed, and she grew stronger. We found a good nursing home, just a short way from me, where I could visit easily. Things were progressing, when she caught pneumonia, and a stomach bug. We had all long ago discussed the treatment we’d like for our mum. We’d asked that no heroic efforts be made to save her, if she became very ill. It sounds so much kinder than letting her become any worse, or standing by waiting for her to die. We all knew by then, that she’d never walk again, but she was still here, and I wanted her to stay here, no matter what. I was her youngest and I still needed her.
I slept on a chair at the hospital. The nurses got used to me asleep with my head on the bed. I’d come home, do what needed to be done at home, and return to the hospital. Matt came home for a few days, and I’ll be forever grateful that he saw mum before she became any worse. She recognised him, and was so happy to see him. He only had a few days, before starting a new job, but she knew he was there, and she’d always loved him as if he was her own son.
On the morning of the 20th of January, I visited her, with a friend, Pat. The drips were gone. She couldn’t swallow, so I knew when I walked in, what I’d be told. A sister took me aside, and told me that she was never going to improve or survive, and that all medical treatment other than pain killers were being withdrawn.
There’s no possible description for how I felt. I hadn’t expected to feel so lost. I’d known it was coming, but now it was actually here. My mum was dying, and I couldn’t do anything about it. I’d always looked after her, and made sure she was safe. Now all I could do was stand there trying to see past my tears and failing.
I took Pat home, and called my cousin Sally. Sally and her sister Sue, visited every day, and I knew Sally would want to be there. I went home, and made arrangements for my dogs, and went back to the hospital. Sally arrived not long after me, and my sister Dawn arrived about 10.30pm. We waited, talking to mum, even though she was unconscious. I held her hand for what seemed like forever and told her all the things she should have heard when she was fit enough to understand them.
I held her hand, and stroked her hair and waited, with Sally and Dawn. I remember that I wouldn’t let go of her hand, as if I could hold her there forever, but I couldn’t. I watched her last breaths, her hand trapped in mine until she was gone. Even then I wouldn’t let go, until the nurses came. It was 5.50am and a huge part of me stopped living, and will never begin again. It’s lost forever and I would give my life to have it back, but there isn’t a road back, and there never will be.