This time last week I’d not long heard that mum had died. It’s probably something I’ll always remember. I’d gone to bed the night previous certain that mum would perish sometime before I woke. Friday afternoon I’d got the call – the time was close, the next 24 hours. We’d had previous warnings that had come to naught – for the last fortnight mum had been said to be 2-3 days from death – but this time it seemed different. I felt it in me as if it was true this time, that it would happen.
I had a broken sleep. There were dreams and half awake thoughts. At 6.40am the phone rang. I knew what that meant. I was informed that mum had just passed away. A few minutes later my aunt, who spent the night by my mum’s bed, rang to tell me of the night. She said that mum had not woken up at any point, but that at 12.30 her breathing had changed, and then in the last 10 minutes had become very ragged and confronting.
I was wide awake. I rang my sister. I sent some messages. Then I cried. It almost exploded from me. It shook my body and I let it go. It felt so big: my mum was dead.
I recovered. I made more calls. I had a long shower letting the water wash over me. It was not yet 8.30 when I got in the car and left the house. I wanted to be out. I had a poor breakfast in Whitehorse Road, then did some shopping. I came home. Donna arrived, and soon after the funeral director. We talked and organised things. Then I made the rest of my calls.
This I could do. I kept very busy, very methodical.
Most people I spoke to felt both relief and sadness. Her death was no surprise, but it still comes as a shock. I could not quite believe yet that my mother for all my life was actually gone, and harder still to think that when I sat amid her things in the house she would never again come home to. There was a sense of unreality, a distant but weighty sorrow, and guilt.
I’m sure the guilt is almost standard. I lived on while she didn’t. I had no fears that I had done everything I could for mum in the last months of her life, but, predictably, I felt as if I was not all I could be as a son in the years before that.
My plan had been to visit mum last weekend, and was glad that did not become necessary. I had said my goodbyes to mum the previous Sunday. It was a good parting, a fortunate, fortuitous few moments together.
For the last 2 weeks of mum’s life she had been out of it more often than not. I remember the shock one day to the next as she so drastically declined. Was it Friday three weeks ago? That had been so hard to witness. I felt as if I had missed my chance. It’s important I think to control that parting. Sad as it is you want a positive memory, something you can close on. Now though, unconscious mostly, and then only semi-conscious when she wasn’t that seemed a forlorn hope.
So I went that Sunday intending to make my parting from mum, but not hopeful that it would be as I hoped. As previously she was barely awake. She was weak and occasionally unsettled. I held her hand. I told her things. I had always the policy of being honest, never to sugar-coat anything. I asked how she felt, and in a moment of rare lucidity she answered.” Very tired,” she said. “How do you feel in your head?” I asked. Again she understood. “Very tired and confused,” she said in her weak voice.
I told her that I didn’t know if I would see her again, and that I wanted to say my goodbyes. I told her I thought she would see Fred again soon. I stood up.
“Give me a hug,” I told her. I bent down over her as she put her arms around me. I gave her a kiss as she gave me a couple of small kisses on my cheek and murmured in my ear, “you’ve been wonderful.” Soon after I left thinking that was probably it. It was as it turned out, and the best parting I could hope for.