Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Saying good-bye

I'm writing this in the plane returning home, turning from my iPad to look out at rivers and mountains and wispy clouds when the tears threaten to spill over. It’s the first time I’ve been alone in the last ten days, so I’ve managed to keep them largely at bay till now. You see, I'm on the way home from burying my mother.

It was always going to be a sad trip. My younger sister and I headed south about ten days ago to see her, conscious that as she was failing fast, and if we waited any longer, she might not know us, or be able to take any pleasure in our visit. Since an operation in November, which was in itself successful, she needed full-time care and entered a rest home. But her cancer was progressing faster than we had expected, and by late January, she was unable to walk. Unfortunately, she couldn't remember this fact, and fell and broke her hip and wrist. The combination of dementia and cancer is a nasty one.

Her first days in hospital were comfortable. But as they attempted to make her ready to move to a hospital-level care rest home, and adjusted her pain medication, she began to suffer. Between my sisters and I, we fought for her. Uncharacteristically, she cried out in pain, and later, cruelly, she could remember the “terrible, awful” pain when usually she forgot everything else. She was so fearful that it might return, and utterly confused as to why it was occurring, and she cried and wanted to go home. Her daughters wept in frustration and anger to the nurses, pleading for pain relief. Finally, it came, and she was comfortable.

"I'm as good as gold really," she said to me - one of her classic phrases - in a short lucid phase, after a particularly agonising episode. My mother was an expert at the stiff upper lip, even though (or perhaps because) she had suffered (largely undiagnosed) periods of depression during her life. Long before we knew the phrase "suck it up," we were practised in its execution, with her as our role model.

Later, comfortable at last, she hallucinated – “can you see that?” she asked - chattering away to me incoherently, but still sounding like her. “Let’s have a party,” she said. I smiled, and agreed it was a good idea. Of course, it turned out that we did have a party, but it was the one party she would never be able to attend.

We knew she was failing, but the end came much more quickly than any of us had expected. But she was ready to go, and knowing that has made it easier. We had been saying our good-byes for years now, as little parts of her slipped away. Our final farewell was a lovely service on a beautiful day, filled with family and friends, and neighbours from the years on the farm, and even one or two of her old schoolmates from the '40s.

She, who never forgot she was born a Rose, went surrounded by bright, beautiful roses, some from her garden, some from my sister’s.

The radio had always been the backdrop to her life, her connection to the outside world. We, her daughters, all remembered her listening to and liking different music, so there was some of the organ music her mother used to play, along with Elvis, Beethoven, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Henry Mancini.

"Fly me to the moon," sang Sinatra, before the service.

Not quite, Mum. But close enough.



rose pale pink gay crop rotate frost
My photo of my elder sister's rose, given to her after my father's death ten years ago, featured on the front of her service sheet.

22 comments:

  1. I am so very sorry. It is hard when it happens more quickly than is expected, hard when it is accompanied by more pain than it should be, and hard for a myriad of other reasons.

    How very lucky she was to have daughters who love her, who went to see her before she left, who grew her roses, who fought for her comfort and care.

    There is very little that I can say, except I am so sorry for your loss. And may she rest in peace.

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  2. I am very sorry for your loss.
    hugs.

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  3. I am truly sorry for your loss.

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  4. Dearest Mali,
    My heart breaks for you. I only wish I had words to ease your sadness. Clearly your mother was a gem, a beautiful rose who knew how to push through even when she had her not so good days. May we all share her fortitude and never lose the desire to have a party, enjoy company and listen to good music and feel good as gold. xoxo PJ

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  5. I am sorry to read about the loss of your mother. Thoughts and hugs for you.

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  6. So saddened to read this Mali.
    My thoughts are with you.

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  7. I don't have adequate words to say what I want to say right now, but please know that I'm thinking about you and your family and holding all of you in my heart. It sounds like your mom was one hell of a woman!

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  8. Sorry for your loss. You have written beautifully about the end. Thanks for sharing.

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  9. Oh Mali, I am so sorry. I'm thinking of you over the last 10 days, halfway around the globe, and what you have been going through. And I'm just holding you in my heart.

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  10. Mali,
    I am so sorry for your loss.
    Words fail me....
    Sending gentle hugs and love to you

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  11. Oh Mali. I'm so, so sorry for the loss of your beloved mother. She truly sounds like an amazing individual and the world is better for the time she spent walking it. I'm so sorry that these last moments came too quickly. But I am glad you were able to be with her during that time and advocate for what was needed.

    I'm thinking of you during this time and sending love and hugs from across the ocean.

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  12. I'm so sorry for your loss. How wonderful you were able to use roses from her own garden. May God grant you peace and love during this time.

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  13. So sorry for your loss Mali, as well as the agonizing things you had to go through leading up to it.

    Your Mom's eclectic taste in music speaks volumes:-) And I wanted to validate what you said regarding her depression. Mine only went un-diagnosed and un-treated until I was 29 years old, but I feel I can say it does endow a person with a peculiar sort of strength, a necessary counterpoint to uninvited fragility. Your description of her renders quite a vivid idea of who she was.

    Given your big heart and warm spirit, I've no doubt your Mom was, and is, most proud of you.

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  14. I am so very sorry for your loss, Mali. What a beautiful tribute to your mom, and to loss. I am thinking of you as you remember and grieve and heal.

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  15. What a beautiful post for a beautiful mother. shedding a tear for you. Glad you were there at this time, with your sister. And what a beautiful picture of that gorgeous rose!
    many hugs from this (very cold) side of the world.

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  16. My condolences - it's hard to be without your mom.

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  17. Again my condolences, Mali. Sending you more (((HUGS)))

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  18. My condolences. It's never easy.

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  19. So sorry for you and your family's loss. This was a beautiful and touching post. I am glad you all were able to be with her, I'm sure it made those last moments easier for her. Xoxoxo.

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  20. I'm so very sorry for your loss. What a lovely, beautiful post. Sending hugs and kind thoughts.

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  21. I'm so sorry to read this, and sorry for the loss of your mother. Biggest heartfelt condolences. And love the idea of the eclectic music send-off :-)

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  22. I am so very sorry for your loss. Take care, and you and your family are in my thoughts.

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