It is not very long since my mother died. It happened on a dark, wet November evening, surrounded by the chaos that she had created during her lifetime. As I tell the story, you will hear of her deeds that can truly be called shocking, and you may wonder how I am able to say that when she died I bore her nothing but love. She died at the age of 93, and had been failing since the beginning of the year. It was in the September that she really began to go seriously downhill however. She had had emphysema for a number of years, but had never reached the stage where she was confined to a chair on oxygen, as can happen with that terrible disease. She had begun smoking at quite an early age, in the 1940s when it was not known the damage that smoking could cause. She had thought it sophisticated to smoke, and she continued with the habit right until she was diagnosed with emphysema, when she stopped immediately. It was too late though. The damage was done, and over the years, her condition gradually worsened until she was often fighting for breath. Yet she was not one to give in. She felt that she was invincible, and that as long as she could walk into the town very slowly, leaning on her shopping trolley, stopping every few steps, she could beat death. Dying was one thing that she certainly did not want to do. Indeed, she declared that she was not going to. However, in the September of 2019 she became very ill. She already had a very bad hematoma on her leg and foot, and was no longer able to walk. My brother found her in her chair in the corner of the room one day, obviously very ill. He called an ambulance, and she was taken to the hospital, where they had to revive her at one point. I received a phone call from my brother that day, asking if I knew what our mother’s wishes were regarding resuscitation. The Consultant had asked him, as nobody knew what to do, least of all my brother. My brother was crying almost hysterically, and I attempted to calm him down, telling him that I understood his tears. I told him what I knew, and that was that my mother had stated to her G.P. And had it recorded that she wanted to be resuscitated. My brother went off to talk to the Consultant. I received a further phone call from my brother very quickly however, to say that my mother had revived enough for the Consultant to talk to her with regard to her wishes. He advised her that if she was resuscitated she would have no life at all. She would virtually be a cabbage, and so she had opted not to be resuscitated. We almost lost her that day, but she revived, and spent a week in hospital, after which she was discharged and allowed to go home, on the condition that my sister, who lived with her, cared for her.
Once home, she gradually deteriorated however, and spent her days and her nights in her recliner chair as she could no longer get up the stairs to go to bed.
The day came, in the November, when she was once again very ill, and my brother sent for the doctor. The doctor spent an hour with my brother, and explained to him that he was going to put my mother on End of Life Care. A hospital bed would arrive the next day, and he would get District Nurses to go in regularly throughout the day. He explained to my brother that her death would come sooner rather than later. In the event, she died exactly one week after getting into the hospital bed. It was quicker than anyone expected, even the doctor.
It was a Saturday. Realizing that things were progressing, my brother and I were sat on the tiny settee together, with politics on the television. My mother loved politics, and knew everything that there was to know, or so it seemed. She had a habit of shouting loudly and vehemently at the television set, but not on this day. That morning she had been unable to swallow even a cup of tea – her most favorite drink. She lived for her cups of tea. We knew, from that, that the end was not far away. But still, on that morning, she was propped up in bed, looking at the television. There was an election about to take place, and she knew exactly who she wanted to win. My brother asked her if the television was bothering her, and she replied that no, it was background music.
Into the afternoon, her breathing changed, and we thought she would go any minute. My sister came breezing in from her shopping trip in the town, and went to her mother in her usual manner, talking loudly, completely oblivious to the fact that her mother was so desperately ill, and actually dying, my sister was one of those people who seem one step removed from normal life, never taking anything in fully.
Everything seemed so chaotic, but I decided to leave at that point, and go home to get something to eat. Once home, we very soon received a telephone call from my brother, saying that my mother had worsened. We returned to my mother’s home, and she was very obviously on her way out.
Despite all that she had done to me in her lifetime, I felt no malice towards her. Indeed, my heart was breaking. I wanted only for her to have peace. I wished for a peaceful passing for her.
The District Nurses who happened to be there at the time explained that they were going to give her a morphine injection, to relax her and to help her. It was at this point that everything my mother had created in our family came into its own, my brother and sister were at the foot of her bed arguing loudly. Their voices became more and more raised, and my sister went into one of her rages.
My heart was utterly broken by now. Yet I could not get near to my mother, as I am wheelchair bound mostly, and there being no room for my wheelchair in the room, I was unable to stand at the side of the bed. There was no chair that I could get to, but from my place on the little settee I found myself listening to the most terrible row between my brother and sister about oxygen. Neither of them seemed to care about my mother passing in peace. In horror and disgust at what was going on, I said to the nurse who was just about to give the morphine injection to my mother,
“Look at them. Nuts.”
At that my sister turned and started screaming at me.
The utter pain of that moment was unbearable to me, and I had to leave. It felt just like my whole life had felt. I had always felt that I had been brought up in a madhouse. The madness created by my mother had followed her to her death bed. Yet all that I felt for her was love.
As my husband and I drew up outside our house, we received a phone call from my brother telling us that my mother was fading fast, if we wanted to get back. Quickly, we turned around and went back, drew up outside her house, and immediately received a phone call from my brother to say that my mother had just died one minute ago.
Even as I write this, I find the pain of that moment almost too much to bear. I went into the house and into the room where my mother, who had abused me all of my life, was lying dead. Being blind as well as wheelchair bound, I could not see her face, which broke me up inside. I loved her more than life itself.
I am sometimes able to see things on photographs that I cannot see in the normal way, and so my brother took a photograph of my mother for me. I could just see her face. And there, on her face was a tear.
My grief was inconsolable, and to some extent still is. This mother who did such terrible things to me, as this book will show, was loved deeply by me, and all that I could feel was the pain that she had inside her that led to her doing the things that she did to me. And forgiveness flowed.