Posted on June 4, 2012
My mum died last Wednesday night.
It doesn’t matter how many times I write that sentence or even how many times I say it out loud, it still doesn’t seem real.
But it is. I know it is because I was there when she went. I was there, along with my dad, my brother and my sister, all of us holding her. My childhood family, the family of my growing up, the five of us alone together for the first time in what must be decades. Five of us alone together, and then four.
It wasn’t supposed to happen. Not yet. Not for a long time. And I’m not sure we’ll ever get any closer to understanding why. Why now, why so soon.
Mum had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, and in December, at the age of 71, she’d undergone an epic 10 hour operation to try and get rid of it. I thought the surgery would kill her but it didn’t, in fact it was very successful and contrary to all my expectations she’d made it home in time for Christmas.
She was having chemo, she was just over halfway through her treatment, but the chemo wasn’t to ‘cure’ her we were told, it was just a precaution, a mopping up just in case there were any cancer cells left. The chemo made her sick, and she hated it, but she persevered because she wanted to be sure as well. She wanted to be sure that all the cancer was gone. So she could get on with enjoying her life.
And then, the Friday before last, Mum was rushed into hospital.
At first they thought it was simply dehydration. Then they decided she had some rare blood disorder; and then they admitted they didn’t really know what was going on, all they could tell us was that she was very very poorly.
And then she died.
There’s so much more I could write about all this, and no doubt I will over the coming months. I could write for instance about the cruelty of the doctors telling us twice over the following days, or was it three times, that mum was dying, only for them then to change their minds moments later and let us think there was something they could do, a chance she could get better.
I could write about the moment I finally lost it on the Wednesday afternoon, when it was clear to me that mum was dying, when I told the registrar in no uncertain terms that it was time they started being honest with my father, my father who only a few hours before had been taken into an office and given false hope yet again.
I could write about how furious I was and still am that in her dying moments, 10 minutes before she died in fact, a nurse came along and gave mum an injection of antibiotics. A completely pointless and intrusive intervention; an injection given not because she needed it then, because it was going to save her life, but simply because her chart said she was supposed to have one at that time, no matter what.
And I could write about how it felt to have all this played out in public. How it felt to have random strangers walk past my mum’s bed, glance down, pause, shake their heads and mutter “oh dear” as they carried on their way. Death as public spectacle.
I could write about all this and more, and maybe later I will.
But I’m not ready for that yet. All I’ve got right now is: my mum died last Wednesday night. And it wasn’t supposed to happen. Not yet. Not now.