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.
Cath, I am so sorry to hear this. My thoughts are with you and your family.
Love and positive thoughts to you and yours Cath. x
Terribly sad for you all. Love and thoughts winging their way. x
I went through a very similar experience when my mom died almost four years ago. Same insanity at the hospital, same sense of shock. No matter the history, relationship, or timing, her death was the strangest and deepest sorrow I’ve ever experienced. My heart goes out to you.
So sorry. Much love and strength.
Love and solidarity. Take care x
I’m so sorry to read of your loss, thinking of you x
So very sad Cath, wishing you strength and much love
Cath, I’m so sorry about your mum. My thoughts are with you and your family.
So sorry for your loss.
I am, too, very sorry for your loss and went through a similar experience 2 1/2 years ago when my mum died from cancer at the age of 58. There, too, doctors didn’t know much what they were doing as her type of cancer was very rare and very severe, and you can guess how much I believe in chemo – not at all, especially not for older people. In my humble opinion, older people should have the bad cells removed surgically and then live their lives as pleasant as possible, and not pump their already weakened bodies full with poison, if you don’t mind my saying so. But families are left with a huge task suddenly having to study about cancer and trying to make the right decisions. Most people know what they would have done after a loved one has died, and that is too late. If you have friends who go through the same, please advise them to contact groups in their communities to get advice and help from others.
I was fortunate to meet my professor and mentor during the same time that my mother lost her battle against cancer, and she has since become a mother-like friend to me. She told me, before my mom died, that I should ready myself that my life would never be the same anymore, once my mom would die. …and I found that she was absolutely right. My life went on – but there isn’t a single day where I don’t miss my mother and it’s like the North Pole being removed from the Earth. One point of gravity just went missing and navigating is that much harder for it.
A word about the doctors and nursing staff – please try to forgive them. Did they do a good job? It sounds they didn’t. But the problem is that they all know squat about cancer, and no two cancer patients are the same, despite what medical professionals like to have you believe. I like to believe that they want to help in any way they can, but often their means are limited and they simpy poke in the dark. They are helpless, and they often don’t have the communication skills and bedside manners necessary to support a family in that situation. Try to think about the memories with your mom and don’t be too angry about the staff. Later, when the first shock recedes, then you may want to arrange for a meeting with the doctors and tell them how you felt and how they could have done better. Then there’s a chance of them listening.
I wish you that your family will stay as close together as you seem to have been during these times, and that you will adjust to the new situation together and will be able to smile again about the many memories of your mom.
Greetings from a migrant in South Korea,
So sorry for your loss. I’m so glad you were there with her when she went. I’m thinking of you.
so sorry for your loss cath. sending you and your family solidarity and thinking of you xx sian
So sorry to read this cath, my thoughts are with you and your family to grieve x
Just read this, Cath, and very sorry to hear that you have lost your mum. There’s not a lot I can say, except that I am thinking of you, and know the kind of emotions you will be having. It’s a time of both numbness and heightened feeling, and a strange sensation of being out of step with the world. Yes, there will be lots to write, but later. Lots of love to you and your family. xx
So sorry Cath – it’s a very hard time. Thoughts with you
Sorry to read of your loss Cath. My Mum is 86 this year and I know one day it will be my turn to grieve. I wrote this when my Aunt died because it occurred to me I was not making the most of life and instead had let a different kind of grief stop me from living. A beareavement in the immediate family (of which we have had three in the past few years) really brings home how important it is to cherish each and every day.