It’s 7 years today since Mum died. She was very ready to die and we knew that. Ailsa and some of her family were here, by coincidence, and we spent the last 36 hours by her bedside at the home.
Released with love? Yes. Grateful she could finally let go? Yes. But…
Tony and I were Mum’s caregivers for 14 years, so Mum was a big part of my adult life. I miss her company. I miss telling her random stuff about my day. I miss reading to her from A A Milne, or new picture books that I think would make her laugh. She loved the ‘Walter the farting dog’ series.
We bought her a hospital bed and it had a wonderful memory foam mattress – I used to nap on it in the sun on a Sunday afternoon while she snoozed in her lazyboy chair. Mum sometimes said, as I held her hand to cross the road, that we’d swapped roles from when I was a toddler, and that was true. But as she watched over me while I napped, she was the caregiver again.
My brain is always restless for a couple of weeks prior to today’s anniversary. It’s not as awful as it was the first few years, when I had disturbing dreams. Once today is over, I come right.
Someone asked me, kindly, last night if there was some guilt I need to let go of? Maybe – Mum had wanted to die at home, but spent 6 months in the rest home (of her own choosing). Or perhaps it’s just that today marks a massive change in my life and the restlessness is my way of acknowledging that.
Either way, I miss you Mum. I’m pleased we had those 14 years together. It was hard work, but I got time with you most daughters don’t get, and that’s a privilege in today’s busy world. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
I love recording life’s wee details in my Dylusions dyary. I’ve never kept a ‘proper’ diary but this format suits me; a bit of art, a couple of photos, and whatever I want to record. Sometimes it’s day by day, sometimes one event needs the whole page; this week, it’s all about family, love and loss. Hug the people you love…
I talked with a friend today about love and friendship, and responded to a FaceBook post about gay and lesbian love. My comment, as always; love is love.
I sometimes comment to my staff that there’s infinite variety in the human condition. We don’t all share the same taste in music, shoes or tattoos, thank goodness. And we don’t all want the same things in a partner or lover – thank goodness again!
Tonight I talked to my brother-in-law about a past unrequited love, and the way his feelings for the person have changed over time. Sometimes passion is fleeting – burning bright then burning out – other passions transcend time and what life throws at us along the way.
Time and life’s challenges change us too. We age, get sick, need something different from our partners than when we were younger. That’s just life it’s ok. It’s still love.
You love a man? Great. A woman? Nice. A man *and* a woman? Good on you! If we spent more time loving others and less time worrying about what others do, the world might be a safer and happier place. Love is love.
Things are not simple in our household at the moment. The latest news is that Tony is having quite major surgery on the 23rd December and will probably be in hospital for 7-10 days. In the midst of all the upheaval, what I know is this – there may be drama, pain and worry, but there’s also love.
I can’t show you what I am creating at the moment, because the mixed media works are for a presentation I’m doing in October and they have to be fresh at the time. But what I can say is they resemble these works from last year in the sense that they are mixed media but with a new theme; think of love in a non-romantic way and you’ll be close.
As many of you know, until May of this year my Mum was being cared for at home by Tony and I, and had been for 14 years. She had a stroke and decided to go into a rest-home as she no longer felt safe alone when we were at work. In the months since her health has got progressively worse, despite the wonderful care she has been receiving. Her kidney and heart problems were reaching end stage.
Mum spent 3 weeks in hospital recently and we decided, along with medical staff, that Mum would return to the rest-home and never go back to hospital. If she got sick we would use comfort care only, and if she got an infection such as pneumonia we would not treat it. Mum had simply got too sick.
Friday last week her health deteriorated rapidly overnight and the palliative care nurse was called in. We got to the home at 10am and basically never left again. We had a quite rough afternoon and evening but by midnight Friday she was comfortable. I went home for 3 hours sleep, and Ailsa went for off for a bit when I got back.
Ailsa and her family were down because we had already planned an early family Christmas, so both Ailsa and I and our husbands, and most of her grandchildren were able to spend time with her. The rest-home manager, Judy, sat with Mum for an hour while we had Christmas lunch – Judy said Mum would be proud of us for doing the family thing for her.
Mum slept all afternoon with us stroking her hands and hair, and talking to her. She passed away peacefully late afternoon Saturday with Ailsa, Tony and I right with her.
I am glad she found the peace she needed to be able to let go and join Dad. I will miss her terribly but I am grateful she is no longer in pain.
I want to share some of the things I wrote to say at the funeral: I ended up only saying part of it, for various reasons, so here it is:
In the 14 years ago Tony and I looked after Mum the Hawera ED staff got to know us on a first name basis… We’ve had amazing care from medical and ambulance staff over the years. On Mum’s behalf, I have to say a special thanks to Dr Bok and ICU Nurse Simon – she remembered you both right to the end.
My sister Ailsa has provided endless support, coming down from Auckland most months. She’s been the patient recipient of many “hey, we’re just off to ED” phone calls, providing support, and a sounding board. In turn, she could not have done it without the endless support of Jim and their children.
Finally my husband Tony. We’d only been married 3 years when Mum got sick; for most of the years we have been together we’ve been caring for Mum. You haven’t just used your ambulance skills with Mum, you’ve been patient and kind; you made her laugh and taught her to do the fingers! You’ve supported me when I had to make difficult choices and never once suggested a particular path just to make life easier for yourself. Those things are part of the reason I love you; thank you for having taken this journey with me.
I have worked full-time throughout the years Mum’s been sick. Sometimes, particularly when Mum was very sick and I was truly nursing her – feeding her, dressing her, tucking her into bed at night –people have asked if I was tired or whatever. Yes, I was; tired as all hell sometimes. But few daughters get to spend the quality time with their ageing mother that I have had, and, as I have written on her coffin, the journey with Mum was worth every second.