It’s taken me a while to write this, I needed time to reflect and rebuild but here it is; the final chapter. My last entry was way back in February and I told you that mum was better than she had been the previous year, and she was. We had had a great, fantastic, brilliant family Christmas and she was looking forward to my son’s twenty first birthday party at the beginning of April.
It was at the end of my son’s party, in the early hours, that I sat with my brother and 2 sisters discussing what lay ahead. You see, everything had changed. Every time mum reached a goal there was another lined up and ready but this time she had nothing; I was sensing that she’d had enough. Soon after she had a bad infection and ended up in hospital.
I’ve mentioned before that most people only tolerated this type of chemotherapy for 6 months and by this time mum had been on it for 17 months. She was discharged from hospital and when we returned for her treatment the following week she told the nurses that she’d had enough and wanted to stop the chemotherapy. Funnily enough I could see the look of relief on their faces; they had come to the same conclusion; enough is enough but often a difficult subject to broach.
In the end chemotherapy weakens the immune system and makes you susceptible to infection; stopping treatment promised some more good months before the final decline. Sadly that was not the case for mum as she continued to have infection after infection.
I had stepped down from Street Pastors in March and at the beginning of May I stopped looking for work and; alongside my dad; started caring for my mum full-time. I am not a natural nurse and this is not something I would ever have envisaged doing but, as the old hymn goes, “God moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform”. I was being given precious, precious time with my mum. It was soon apparent that my little car wasn’t going to be much good so we bought a practical car that would carry a wheelchair so we could take mum out. Again, it wasn’t to be as most of the time she just wasn’t fit enough. However I was able to get her to the Whit Walks with St John’s church Dukinfield and to the wedding of Ben & Hannah Hayes. Mum was still very determined and when she wanted to do something no-one was going to stop her. Every Wednesday she went to day care at Willow Wood Hospice and she loved her time there as did dad and I. He’d potter around in his garden and I’d go for a "treatment” you know, a manicure or facial. I wonder if the wonderful staff and volunteers at Willow Wood know how important those days are for carers?
As a family we’re not very demonstrative, we don’t hug or express our feelings but I realised that time was running out. Caring for someone is in its self tactile, as mum became more fuddled with the morphine, it was easier to dance with her as we manoeuvred her to the chair or the bed, but I needed to express myself. Sometimes telling someone that you love them is the hardest thing. But I did, and I did every day after that. Mum often thanked me for being there and my response was always “every minute I spend with you is precious”.
My mum had chosen to spend her last days in Willow Wood Hospice and on the 18th August our GP, Dr Dowling, arranged for mum to be admitted on the following morning. What happened next was amazing. My brother and his children were already at my parent’s house; I was instructed, by my mum, to contact my 2 sisters, brother in law, husband and sons and tell them to congregate at mum and dad’s. A take away was ordered and the night before my mum left her home for the last time we had a party.
Mum was in Willow Wood for just under 2 weeks, on the second morning I arrived to find her distressed and frightened, she asked me not to leave her. From that moment on, with the exception of the times when the nurses were with her, there was a member of the family at her side; myself and my younger sister, Sara, took it turns to sleep in the chair at the side of her bed; my wonderful son Mat, who has such a caring spirit, also took a turn.
My mum was a Christian (as am I) and she believed in a life after death and she was ready to go home, to God, as she put it, she was confident in her destination. We all gave her our permission to go. Did you know that it’s important to do that? People often linger because they feel they cannot leave loved ones.
Mum’s last days were spent in haze of medication to ensure she was pain free; in her lucid times her face would light up when she saw me; precious, precious moments.
On the 1 September 2014 at 19:50 my mum died, my dad was at her side and I was holding her hand telling her I loved her. Again a precious, precious moment.
Now I want to make something very, very clear; please do not think that we didn’t have our miracle. We were blessed beyond measure. We were given the most precious commodity of all; we were given time. How often do people lose loved ones and have regrets for the things they didn’t do and the things they didn’t say? We were given a gift and we didn’t waste it. We all, each and every one of us, took time to tell her we how we felt and she went to Glory in the full knowledge of the love of her family.