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.
For reasons I don’t think I can put into words yet, today has been awful. I feel sad, unhappy and flat – sad mainly. Not my usual state at all. So I have made art, lots of it; which is good, because the signature swap is getting closer. I have done approx 30 A4 pages today, and my hands testify to the colours I have used. Here’s a wee sample.