On Saturday 30th April, I had a call to say that my mum had been taken to hospital; she had had four seizures. I drove to Hull to be with her, of course, and stayed until Monday. On Sunday, she woke several times and said sensible things, such as I’d really like a cup of tea and I really don’t feel very well. On Monday she seemed worse, but a junior doctor said that the scan showed some improvement in her brain (she had a severe bleed in her brain last August), and that they expected her to respond to the drugs in a few days.
But at 7:30 on Tuesday morning I was phoned by the hospital, who, after a few minutes of coded messages, said I needed to get back there that day. I spent the rest of the week with her, sleeping on a chair or on the floor at the hospital, except for Thursday night, when my brother asked to be alone with her – they were always very close. My mum died at 10 am on Friday morning; my brother was with her, and I was in the car park outside, about to come back into the hospital.
If there can ever be a good time to die, then this was that time for my mum. She had had, in her words, a wonderful life, happy and blessed. She was 88, and after her stroke she had found it very hard to come to terms with the changes in her life. Her eyesight was going; she couldn’t walk across a room without being breathless; she couldn’t concentrate enough to read or even follow an episode of Coronation Street, her favourite TV programme. Every diary entry includes a comment that she is so tired of feeling ill, and she was very worried that she was getting dementia.
During her last two months, she was taking anti-depressants, and was almost her old self again – never say that the drugs don’t work – which was a joy for everyone. In the week before she was taken ill, she had had good conversations with all her family, and some pleasant outings that she enjoyed greatly. While she was in hospital, all her grandchildren visited her, and we hope that she was aware enough to understand this.
The scans done in hospital showed that she had a blood clot in her leg, worsening of the bleed in her brain, and what looked like a brain tumour. If she had recovered after the seizures, the rest of her life would have been a constant deterioration, probably painful and distressing.
So, however you look at it, it was a good time for her to die. I had expected to be ok with it all, but it seems that there are so many occasions when I think Oh, I’ll have to tell mum about that – and then remember that actually I won’t be able to, and it’s hard.
And now I have all the funeral arrangements to make. My brother has gone away on a well-deserved holiday – he’s retired, and he lives much nearer, and so he took on far more of the responsibility for her over the last few months than I could. I have to get everything ready for when he gets back.
Blogs may be a bit briefer than normal over the next few weeks, but I’m sure you will understand.