“When things are taking their ordinary course, it is hard to remember what matters” Marilynne Robinson
Nothing at all has taken it’s ordinary course this past month.
In my last post I mentioned that I would be travelling home (to Australia) to spend time with my parents and friends. Four days before my arrival my mother fell whilst working in her beloved garden and broke her hip. She never regained full consciousness following the ensuing operation. The day I arrived and visited her she was in the Intensive Care Unit. This was not at all how I had envisaged my much anticipated visit to see mum who was doing so well following her last chemotherapy treatment. Mum opened her eyes when she heard my voice, smiled, and when I said “I love you” she managed to mouth it back to me.
She was shortly transferred to an orthopedic ward where her neurological symptoms were ‘treated’ with numerous drugs. After 3 weeks of status quo, and with possession of mums very own *end-of-life plan, she was transferred to a palliative care unit in a lovely country hospital where she passed away quietly 10 days later, holding my dad’s hand.
There had been moments where mum was somewhat alert and could hear what we were saying and she even occasionally managed to say some words and sentences very clearly. It was comforting to know that she heard what friends and family wanted her to hear before she departed – including a very moving personal choir concert performed by a group of close friends.
During the month following the operation I stayed with my Dad and sister (supported by wonderful family and friends and my amazing husband who was back in France looking after the kids for much longer than he had anticipated) as we wove our way through numerous emotions: shock, disbelief, guilt, doubt, frustration, hope, anger, helplessness, fear, confusion, indecision, tension, empathy, love, loss, deep sadness, and physical and emotional fatigue.
I can’t begin to imagine how, but mum maintained her sense of humour, kindness, and patience right to the very end. The extent of her amazing qualities were truly appreciated at the service that was held to celebrate her life at the beginning of April where soooo many people came together to remember her. She always thought of others, was curious, gracious, authentic, cheery, cheeky, generous and she accepted everyone for who they were. The number of people who came up to me to share how my mum had touched their lives was remarkable and very moving.
My mum really was an amazing example of unconditional love. I never felt judged by her, advice was only given if requested, and there was always an attentive ear whenever I needed one. I am really going to miss her.
My sister suggested that we ask ourselves “What would Hazel do?” when faced with daily challenges and I know that I will be doing this in a more conscious manner in the future.
*End of life plans or ‘Living Wills’ are the best way to ensure that towards the end of one’s life their wishes are respected. We were fortunate to be able to discuss mum’s plan with the nurse that had written it with her back in October in order to remove uncertainties. I would highly recommend that every adult write their plans and to do so in enough detail so as to not allow for ambiguity.