I have tried to start this entry so many times and each time the draft has ended up in the electronic equivalent of a screwed up piece of paper on the office floor… I’m going to have to plunge right in and then hope I’ve made sense by the time I’ve finished.
In the early hours of 8th March 2013, my brother, sister and I became orphans.
Now to go back a few months – I got a call from Mum early one evening at the end of November. She told me that she’d been diagnosed with a form of bone cancer, but that it was in the early stages and although not curable, was one of the most common types and was treatable. The prognosis was being measured in years, which threw some good light on the subject. She continued to work and retired just before Christmas. Almost immediately she was ill enough to have lengthily spells in hospital. The Cancer team were happy with the way her treatment was going so whatever was wrong, it was not the cancer to blame.
Eventually she was allowed home but had a full time carer as her condition was not good. I had visited her on the 2nd March at home and she was not in a good way, but after I left her condition got markedly worse and the visiting doctor arranged for her to be taken into hospital again. I was still in the local area having a bite to eat and a chat with a friend of long standing, so when the call came from my sister I was able to get to the hospital quite quickly. Let me tell you, North Hampshire Hospital on a Saturday night is not somewhere you’d be if you had the choice.
Mum seemed a lot brighter than she had during the day, sitting up and joining in the conversation. The three of us left at about 3am. As I left I turned and gave her a “bye for now” type wave and she returned it with a smile – that was the last time I saw my Mum. When I spoke to my sister later on Sunday, she told me that Mum did not remember me being there.
I spoke to Mum on the Monday or Tuesday, I don’t remember which, and she sounded okay under the circumstances. It seems that she had contracted Pneumonia and also had a blood infection, which was being treated but she was not responding too well – good and bad spells, lucid and not so lucid moments. I’d already decided to go back to north Hampshire on Saturday unless I was needed beforehand – I’d not been in the best of conditions with a seasonal cold and was warned that the slightest germ could have serious consequences for Mum, whose immune system was pretty much non-existent as a result of the chemotherapy, so I stayed away.
The call came from my sister at about 02:15 on the 8th – Mum had passed away about half an hour hence, apparently a nurse had gone in to see her and Mum had asked for some water – when the nurse returned 10 minutes or so later, Mum had gone.
We really thought we had longer and that this early bout of illness was just that – after all, the cancer team were talking in terms of years…
I went back to Hampshire on the Friday, stayed overnight, came back up to London on the Saturday and packed some kit – it was decided that I’d be more use on the spot than 90 miles away. So I stayed in the house that was home for me for so many years and got back to London on the 7th April. There are still some administrative bits to finish up which will take a couple of months, but the last 5 weeks have been more or less taken up with sorting through possessions not only of Mum’s, but also from my Nan who died early in 2011 at the age of 91.
Mum had intended to go through all the stuff from Nan’s house over the next few months but she was robbed of the pleasure to be gained from looking at old photographs, handling ornaments and other treasured items and sharing memories; instead that duty fell to my siblings and I – it has been a time of mixed emotions, feelings and lots of memories. Mum’s funeral took place on the 18th of March, which was also her 64th Birthday.
You will forgive me if I don’t give a full account of events over the past few weeks, but there will doubtless be snippets that emerge from time to time over the coming entries.
I would like to place on record my personal thanks to some friends that have helped me through this difficult time in various ways – some I know read this regularly, some infrequently and some not yet at all – but I hope those in the latter category will do, one day.
To Jules, Katie, DC, Fern, Gill, Glen, Beth, Paula, Stuart, Vicky, Olimpija, Liz, Lisa, Gary, Rob Andy and Sue – thank you for your support during what has been one of the hardest times of my life. If you are reading this and feel that I’ve missed you off the list, please don’t be offended – time moves so strangely in some situations and dealing with the death of a loved parent is one of them; it is quite possible that I’ve spoken to someone at length and just can’t remember, if this is you, please accept my apologies in advance…
Each of the three of us, at the Humanist Celebrants’ suggestion, wrote a piece for her to read out at Mum’s funeral. I’d like to share mine here, if you will indulge me;
It hardly seems any time at all since I first heard the song that we walked in with here today. The only difference is, I’m now almost 44, not 3 years old and you are not here in person singing along with me. I know I got the words wrong for a long time and kept singing “Eggy Soup” but I have never forgotten those days when there was seemingly endless fun stretching ahead.
I’m sat writing this, surrounded by your treasured possessions and a lifetime of precious memories – it says something that I’ve had to stop three times as waves of emotion engulf me. I recall a conversation we had when Nan had just died – we were sat with her in her home and you said that she is not gone, but that she has just finished using her body – she will be in our hearts forever. It was one of the most profound things I think I ever heard you say to me.
As we gather here today, I am reminded of that moment. I know that you are not gone and that you will always be with me, wherever I am. You taught me so much and were always there, through the good and bad times. I will always carry you in my heart and thoughts, whatever the future may bring.
Please stay safe and in case no one else mentions it – have a happy birthday.
With all my love always
Bye for now!”
For clarity, the song referenced in the first paragraph is “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly.
I’m sorry if this entry has put a dent in your day, but when I started this journal almost a year ago, it was always going to be a mix of what goes on in my world. One thing I didn’t know but was surprised to discover was that Mum was a reader of this very journal, but she never once mentioned it! I only hope that I’ve not written anything that would have incurred her displeasure…