Thursday, February 16, 2017

The longest night of my life!

I haven't  written a post since August 2016. Now, I am choosing to write about the loss of my mum which I feel compelled to do.

On Christmas Eve, 2016 as I sat with all my boys, husband included, and in a tearful flood of emotion, I talked to my family about my fears for my mother. For days before, I had the acute sensation that my dad was sending me a message, I kept finding lots of pennies. The message was clear in my mind.... that everything will be all's okay.

 I didn't truly understand what he meant until much later.

My beautiful and lovely mum, Josephine was eighty-seven years old and had been living with Alzheimer's disease for the past five years. Mum was also in stage five kidney failure which she had been in for about a year. Days after we toasted to 2017,  I received a devastating phone call from my sister to say that mum was very ill. It wasn't unexpected, in fact; I had been planning and waiting for this time to come and as an ex nurse I knew mum's time was coming to an end, but I still needed more confirmation. I spoke with mum's doctor who advised me to move my planned trip forward as mum's condition was grave.

When an ocean separates you from your family, the stress, frustration and sadness of hearing such news adds a pressure that you simply cannot imagine until you're in that situation. I rescheduled my flight. My husband told me just to go and not worry! My brilliant neighbors pitched in to help my husband with my youngest who is still in school, and I flew to Wales. I made the decision to extend my stay for a month to be with my mum and sisters. That four weeks turned into six, but I do not regret one single moment. I tell you for why, when I walked in the room that first day, my mum didn't recognize me at all, by the end she wouldn't let go of my hand.

 It was the most intense period of my life.  Like living in a bubble. The days consisted of getting up and visiting mum. The evenings involved drinking wine, sobbing, and discussing with my sisters how we thought mum had been that day. A weight grew and pressed down on my chest for weeks, physically at times making breathing hard. Sleeping was fragmented for fear of missing a phone call with bad news.

The days blurred.

A seesawing of mum's condition put us on a roller-coaster never knowing what we would face once we entered the nursing home. There were good overly chatty days, days we worked on a jigsaw together, my sister and I decorated a bird house for mum, and attended a religious service singing songs and reciting the lords prayer which I sobbed my way through. Days we held hands and reminisced over old times. These memories are forever ingrained on my brain.

There were dark days too, but I don't want to dwell on those.

You would think that when your loved one is elderly and their quality of life severely diminished that losing them would be a comfort, an end to their suffering. To a degree it is, but your mother is still gone. The vacant space like a black hole threatening to swallow you up if you think about it for too long.

The chance to touch her, hold her hand, have a hug, a kiss or a simple conversation is gone forever.

The loss is raw.  The hole that opens inside you enormous, and the tears come in waves like a tsunami hitting the shore.

The reason, I give myself for writing this post is because in the weeks that led up to my mother's passing, my sisters and I were searching on the Internet for information about understanding and knowing what the last few days of someone's life would be like. Even with my background, and the fact that we were all there when my dad passed away over seventeen years ago at home we were all seeking information to help us know how long we had left with mum. And would we know that mum was in the final stages?  SEE MARIE CURIE LINK BELOW

I think this was because we all wanted to be there at the end. We didn't want mum to be alone, and we didn't want to miss that last chance to say good-bye and to make sure she was comfortable.

We all read the information about making the end of life as peaceful as possible. We were left alone with mum in her room, and we played soft music in the background tending to mum brushing her hair, giving oral care and offering reassurance that everything would be okay!!!

I have to tell you at this point I am crying. It hits me like a ton of bricks. I'm using my dad's words to let mum know it is okay to let, go and pass on.  We all say these words multiple times in those final days as a way to let mum know she is going to a better place. We tell her over and over, we love her, hold her hand, and smooth her hair.

Once the syringe  driver is in place all the upsetting symptoms are  controlled, and mum is finally settled.

The body goes through a physiological process when it is dying and for the last twenty-four hours I know without a doubt, we are at that stage. Mum was unconscious and hadn't  opened her eyes or made any sign of awareness.

My sisters go home for some rest, there is still time, and I camp next to mum's bed watching and waiting. It isn't hard to do this. Mum gave me life, gave me unconditional love, made me who I am and the world will not be the same without her. I don't want to leave and feel more than anything else in my life this is why I am here, to be at her side through the long dark night.

I will admit, when my sisters left, I was scared, and as the early-morning  hours crept by there were a few times I called the night nurse as mum stirred and her breathing changed. I felt it was up to me, to call my sisters when mums condition warranted their presence and I didn't want to mess it up.

Just before dawn, mum's breathing became very loud. ( "death rattle" a documented final stage) Even though I knew what this was it was far more distressing that anything I could have imagined. I burst into tears and called the nurse, the sound louder than I realized it would be and went on for a couple of hours. It sounded as if mum was gargling or drowning in fluid. The nurse gave an injection which eventually worked and the noise diminished.

The morning staff arrived. They re-positioned mum and made her comfortable and when I returned to the room, I knew listening again to her breathing it was time to make the phone call. A short time later, my sisters and I sat around mum holding her hands, talking to her and letting her know, she wasn't alone. Her breathing by then took on a machine-like  quality sounding like a sewing machine or a ventilator. Then, in the final moments, her breathing took long drawn out pauses to the point that you weren't sure whether she was breathing but for another intake of air until eventually mum took her last breath.

There are no words of comfort when you lose someone you love. Grieving is a process. We all grieve differently. I'm not sure how long it will take to get over the loss of mum. There are days that are absolutely fine, then a memory surfaces, or I think I will phone mum or stare at her picture that now hangs in my bedroom or I smell her perfume, and the tears fall. The tears have fallen a lot today!

However, know this, mum had her three daughters that she loved with all her heart with her right at the end, and I know she wouldn't have wanted it any other way. She is now at peace and none of us wanted mum to suffer any longer.

But the world is different now.

A new chapter begins and I am determined to make her proud. xxx

P.S, On the day of my mums funeral a cheeky and beautiful red Robin appeared at the graveside taking center stage. I know mum is in heaven and happy with her beloved Jeff, but will be a guardian angel always watching over those she left behind. Love you always mum xxxx

                                                       END OF LIFE GUIDE MARIE CURIE


  1. Jennie what a wondeeful heartfelt tribute to your mom. I know she is looking down on you telling you not to be sad that she is in a better place. There is no pain, no loss of memory, just happiness peace and contentment where she is.

    I understand your not leaving her side. When
    Ray's mom paat I was the primary caregiver along with the help of hospice. It is painful to see the one you love go through the transition to their last moment. It is something I know I had to be strong for I was the only one in the family who had been taught how to make my mother in law comfortable as the progression to her journey took place. I was the one who had to lift her, give her the meds for the death rattle while the others sat there and told me I made her worse. As you know the rattle gets worse before the medication kicks in. I was the one and sat by her side while hee daughters and son were outside. I had to run and tell them it was time to set her free. I left the room as i was just the daughter in law and felt they needed their privacy but it hurt me to the core of my soul as I had already lost my own mom now I was losing another as I had come to love her like my own. After she took her last breath they left the room and they asked me if she was gone I said yes. They didnt't go back into thw room umtil the hospice nurse came. However, I sat there with her holding her hand and couldn't leave her as I felt her spirit hadn't been set free. I just kept whispering to her to continue her journey that all would be okay.

    I am happy that I could do that for my mother in law as I know how hard it was for you Jen to say goodbye but rest assured you will meet again.

    Thank you for your post you brought back alot of memories for me even if some were extremely hard.

    Cheryl. Xx

    1. Thank you, Cheryl. I was compelled to write it down because those weeks were blessed, intense and I will never go through anything like it again. I have been there for both my parents but this time was different. I still don't believe mum is gone. It still feels unreal. I still go to call her on the phone but I know deep down she is in a better place. I just miss her. x