Mother and Father – together at last
Shortly after I posted last night, I realised my mother was probably not going to make the night – her breathing became louder and distressed and I felt sick with what I knew was going to happen. Her rapid decline since having her Ascitic drain on the 26th July has been frightening. The Hospice team yesterday said that they didn't think 'she was going to go yet', although it was obvious to me she wasn't going to make the week.
I never even got to sleep on the airbed. I didn't want to wake Vivien up yet as I wasn't sure – I sat with mother and held her hand and stroked her forehead. The distressed breathing noises continued and I had no choice but to accept what was happening. I made my way upstairs and knocked on Vivien's door and told her that I didn't think mother was going to make the night.
Vivien came downstairs and sat on mother's right side and I sat on her left. We turned the lights out and just kept a small lamp on. We held her hands which were cold, clammy and wet with sweat. The noises she was making, which increased in volume were sickeningly distressing. Vivien was incredibly calm and said all the right things, the most beautiful words – I attempted to do the same, but I was not calm at all – I was biting my lip to stay calm for mother and for Vivien, but I was inconsolable inside. We told her we loved her and that we would look after Lucy and the cat. We told her that she would be at peace with father now and that she would be in no more pain. 'Don't hang on for us' – words from Vivien which threw me into quiet turmoil. Even though her breathing was distressing, her face did not look as though she was in pain. But, I felt I had no choice but to ring the night District Nurses for advice, as I would never have forgiven myself if she was in pain. I quickly managed to get hold of them and described how she was and they said as long as her body looked relaxed, to simply sit and hold her hand.
The last minute of her life was a moment that will haunt me forever. She opened her eyes and gasped her last breaths and then relaxed into stillness and everything was silent. 3.25am – a sickening silence. Vivien and I were hysterical at that point and we sobbed and held each other for ages. We couldn't stop crying. I made sure mother was laid out flat and made sure her limbs were all straight and fingers extended. We pulled over the butterfly duvet up to her chest, as if she was sleeping in bed. We were mortified and didn't know how to deal with what had just happened. She wasn't supposed to go this quick. We stayed with her for a while before ringing the District Nurse team.
A lovely District Nurse came out and verified the death and then left us. We couldn't think straight about what we were going to do next. We had to tell Lucy who was back in King's Lynn, but we knew we had to drive over there and tell her together and there was no way we were going to leave our mother alone in this house, so we phoned John Lincoln undertakers in Hunstanton and they were out within half an hour to take our mother away. We sobbed again so many times and watched her depart in a 'discreet' silver van – although if any of the neighbours had been awake, it was pretty obvious it was a funeral van, with the two suited and booted drivers.
We stripped off the hospital bed until it was the bare metal frame. I wanted that bed out of the room NOW. At 8am I phoned NRS and pleaded with them to take the bed today, but they did not have the 'capacity' but could collect it and all the other equipment tomorrow morning. We forced ourselves to have breakfast and I drove us both to King's Lynn to tell Lucy – more sobbing, more hugs, more tears. Lucy wanted to stay in her room and didn't want to return to Holme with us.
Vivien and I returned to Holme and Vivien managed to scrape together some lunch for us. I don't know how she achieved that. We have been like Zombies all day, we can hardly walk, we are in so much shock. I felt like I could hardly breathe and felt sick. We have been crying all day. How cruel to lose both our parents – our rocks in our lives within two years of each other, life is very cruel. I feel like a glass vase that has been smashed into a million pieces – my mother's death feels far far worse than when my father died.
We have just lost the most unique, strongest mother in the world – a mother who was intelligent, witty, stubborn beyond belief, kind, eccentric, hard working, independent and so much loved by her three children, Penny, Lucy and Vivien and adored by her husband.
Rest in peace – united with father
Mother and I at Holme in August 2017
Mother and Father at Holme Bird Observatory