I’ve been drinking tea and watching the Coronation of King Charles, today. At least the first part. Hubby taped it for me to watch at my leisure. It’s the beginning of a new era in the United Kingdom, as it is in Canada, in a way.
It’s also the beginning of a new era in my family. One that began with my mum’s death on Wednesday. We’re all pretty shellshocked. Even though she was ninety five, and her death was not unexpected since she had been declining for the past year and a half, we still deep down were not ready for it. As if we thought she’d go on forever.
My sister and I sat at her bedside most of the last ten days of her life. Those days at the hospital were hard, but I’m glad I went home when my sister called. Somehow watching Mum’s final decline made accepting it easier.
We could do little but be there for Mum. There was nothing anyone could do, really. Except make her comfortable, which the nurses and doctors of the Doctor Everett Chalmers Hospital did with patience and kindness. Carolyn and I cut the last of the daffodils from Mum’s garden to take in to her one day. She loved her flowers, especially daffodils. She wasn’t talking much by then, but she did say “Beautiful” when I showed them to her.
Throughout the week, much-loved nieces came to say their goodbyes. A few family friends did likewise. And in a truly special moment, the woman who answered Carolyn’s request for a pastoral care visit for Mum was a family friend. A girl, I’ll always think of her as a girl, who was in my step-brother’s class at school and who I knew when she was a curly-haired twelve year old.
The time my sister and I spent together over the ten days I was in Fredericton was tough. But it was a good bonding time for us too. We haven’t spent that much time together in years, since we were kids, I guess. We talked daily to family and friends on the phone: our other sister who could not come for health reasons, our step-brother, our last remaining uncle, Mum’s younger brother, old friends and neighbours. We tried to keep everyone in the loop as much as possible. In the evenings, we made dinner together and watched British television mysteries. We ate out one night, treating ourselves after a long day at the hospital. At times we even talked about hair and clothes, like a couple of teenagers. I know. Typical.
The last night I was there, we stayed at the hospital until very late. Mum was unresponsive. We knew she wouldn’t last long. The nurses made us cups of tea because the cafeteria and coffee shop in the hospital were shut. We played Mum’s favourite hymns on my phone, and cried. I was leaving in the morning, so I said my last goodbye to Mum. I said it more for myself because I don’t think she could hear us by then. At almost midnight we said nighty-night, and stroked her forehead. We said goodnight to the nurses, and thanked them. Then we left.
You know, there was something so cathartic about walking out in the darkness to an almost empty parking lot, feeling okay with the world even though Mum would not be in it for long. We stopped for drive-thru french fries on the way home like two kids who were out after curfew. Turned out we were starving.
Then the next day I came home. Mum passed away in the late afternoon. “Finally, finally,” my sister and I both said when she called me. Mum had been so reluctant to give an inch. Her whole life she was like that. Even to the end.
This post is all about me and my journey. That’s because I’m not ready to write about my mum just yet. I will though. After some time passes. After I’ve processed everything. We did not hold a service for her. That will come in the summer. Probably around her birthday in August. This will give us all time to process. And allow family and friends from out of province to be there. We want Mum’s final goodbye to not be sad, but filled with funny stories, and tales of her exploits. Nothing overly sentimental. She’d hate that.
Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post. And to those who will no doubt comment on this one. I won’t be answering comments individually. But I have to say, don’t let Mum catch you saying “sorry for your loss.” Say anything else but that. She told me a few years ago that when her first husband died when she was twenty-three that phrase was what she hated most about the grieving process.
And even if she’s only here in spirit… we still don’t want to piss Mum off.