Sunday, 12 July 2015

So On Thursday Mother Died


So on Thursday morning at dawn, my mother died.  My sister and I had received what we, for years, had termed 'the 5.30 am call'. It means, in our family, a cry for help from one of the tribe, delivered as 'early as decent'. In this instance the message was simple - 'If you want to see your mother alive, come now'.

A Cry From One of the Tribe
The experts say that bad news sinks into the human brain in three stages: disbelief, acceptance, fortification. So, for an hour or so we had this ludicrous disbelieving conversation in which we reasoned that we would probably arrive too late for our mother's departure and that, based on our kindly father's desire 'not to bother us' we probably should just wait until the funeral.

Over hot tea and buttered toas, we came to our senses and pelted down the platform for the first train out of Paddington Station, London, to a destination in the far west of Britain.

The First Train Out of Paddington
We reached the parents' cottage in time, in fact time enough to gather round our mother's bed, not for a maudlin death-bed scene but for a family sing-song. Ma even frowned at me for getting the second line of the Welsh National Anthem wrong, as I always do and she always does. She lived another four days, actually, while the temperature soared in the hottest July on record. Gradually the surreal NHS 'End of Life Package', became our accepted norm. We rang our places of employment, not once, but the next day and the next. As the sun baked the garden to death, we wheeled her bed to the porch where she could hear the seagulls.

Where She Could Hear the Seagulls
We moistened her lips with wet tissues instead of those awful sponge swab things, and when we weren't talking to her, reminding her what a great Mum she'd been, we got on and cooked the dinner like a normal family.  They say that hearing is the last sense to go, and I like to believe it fortified her, as well as us, to hear the family carrying on as usual, arguing over the washing up, reminding one another to water the roses, discussing the merits of the new vaccuum cleaner.


Flowers in Her Hair

After she passed over, I had the great privilege of helping to lay her out, instructed by two ladies, Kerry and Diana, who did a stunning job. Oiled and anointed, with flowers in her hair, she looked almost like a young girl again. Then, with the kind of tact only British bureacracy could manage, a psychotherapist called Candida telephoned from the local hospital. Mother had, she said, seemed a little depressed during her last visit to hospital. Would it help if she, Candida came around and had a bit of a chat? "Not really," I replied.  "If I'm honest."

How many loved your moments of glad grace
And loved your beauty with a love false or true
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you
And loved the sorrows of your ever-changing face

William Butler Yeats 1865-1939


With grateful thanks to the wonderful teams from Devon C.Air and Pembroke House Surgery Paignton

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