The last and long nights..

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Photo by Philippe Donn on Pexels.com

Max and I informed the whole family the heartbreaking news that it will soon be the time to come for our lovely, beautiful, amazing and most wonderful mother to depart from us (still breaks my heart even saying these words..). She was so strong and having to carry on for 8 years after losing her mother and her husband. She would no longer be in any pain and would reunite with him and her loved ones once again. She was strong for us but she missed her love. Her soulmate. And felt so complete and whole with him. She can finally be with him. Who knows where? Only we will find that out when the time comes for us. I read a lot of novels about love and soulmates when I was a teenager, and believed that it would only happen to a small minority and would have to be extremely lucky. But it was true for them. They really were soulmates. To be together for over 30 years is a rare thing you hear about these days.

Uncle Frances had been staying quite a few nights in the flat and wanted to be near Mum as long as possible. But he was extremely tired and mentally exhausted. I didn’t think he had the energy but he decided to drive back home and try and get a good night’s rest. ‘Call me and Yvonne straight away if you need us, alright?’ He said in a gentle but firm tone. Frances is your typical ‘macho’ man – would ever show emotion and keep himself guarded. But I could see a tear starting to well up in the corner of his eye. He gave us both a tight hug and slowly drove out of our sight.

It felt so strange and hard not being able to ring her every morning – just to ask how she was feeling. I missed her warm and soft voice. I had so many thoughts going around in my head ‘How am I going to cope? How am I going to sort myself out? How am I going to organise the funeral and looking for a new place to live? It was just too much brain overload. The only thing I could do was just try and take each day as it comes and be prepared for what was to come with mum’s last days with us. I had spent the evening talking to all my family. They said how proud they were of us on how we were coping with the whole reality and devastation of it all.

Music really helped us to deal with the emotions. Max and I would play a lot of old artists and classic tunes that Mum and Dad both enjoyed greatly in their younger days. I’ve always been quite a musical person anyway, so this was almost like therapy. It brought back some lovely, happy memories of Dad driving us all around the country lanes in the area of where we lived, singing along to it and laughing away – Dad singing along with not a single note in tune. There were times he had left the volume up on the old tape deck, so whenever Mum was picked up from shopping and he turned the engine back on, she got an earful of it and yelled at him to turn it back down again. Haha!

Max and I stayed in the flat talking all the way through the night. James had called us and asked for updates. We explained and he told us that he knew from the beginning that Mum didn’t have very long but didn’t want to upset us. He had a habit of lying and making excuses not to call us but we just went along with it. It was not the right time to have any disputes and just to leave it aside for now.

I woke up what must have been around 9:30am and it was a fresh morning. I was debating whether to go and get some shopping and also run some errands with the bank when the phone rang. I looked at the phone screen and the number showing was from the hospice. My hand started shaking. ‘Hello?..’ I answered anxiously and a familiar voice spoke. It was the social worker. ‘Katie, It is time. You and your family better quickly come down’, My heart sank. I took deep breaths trying to compose myself and called the family. I ran back to the flat and called out to Max. He jumped up on his feet and we made a quick move to the hospice. We started to run for the bus that was passing us and as we were both running, a huge cyclone of emotions began to swirl around and around in my head. All I kept thinking about was that she was going to leave us. Our poor mum. We were going to lose her. The inevitable was happening right now. I was worried the traffic was starting to build up and slow us right down but luckily, it managed to ease up and we both made a run for it down the road.

Catching our breaths, we finally made it and ran to her. There she was. In her bed with all the nurses and social workers around her. I was devastated. I saw her lying there looking so fragile and lifeless. She was slowly deteriorating and it was heartbreaking and so painful to see. I looked at her eyes and they appeared glazed. There was no response – no movement. It was like she was somewhere else..

‘She may seem like she’s not responding but she can hear you’, One of the nurses whispered quietly to both of us. Max and I reached out and grabbed Mum’s hands and caressed them. ‘God, this is so hard..‘ I thought. I couldn’t stop tears rolling down my cheek and buried my head in her hand. ‘We’ll give you some time alone with her’, the nurse said gently and everyone including the social workers left the room. Uncle Frances and the whole family had made their way down to see her and within a whole day, they managed to spend personal time with her and say their goodbyes. By around 6pm, most of the family had all left so it was now just Uncle Frances and us. Auntie Yvonne really wanted to stay longer but she had to get back home. The driving had really tired her out.

All we had to do now was wait.

We sat around Mum and talked to each other about memories of her and Frances when they were kids. It was an emotional conversation as they had a very tough time growing up, especially with Uncle Phil and the struggle of dealing with a younger brother with Down’s syndrome. But despite that, they manged to lead good lives. Everybody goes through ups and downs in life. Who doesn’t? The nurses came in and out the room to bathe mum and help her in any way they could to make her comfortable. She was making some moaning sounds that sounded a little distressing but I was assured by the one of nurses that she wasn’t in any pain or discomfort, and that it was one of the things that is expected to happen. I asked as many questions as I could, just so I knew that Mum wasn’t suffering. She was on pain medication and they had doubled the dose. It would be comfortable and peaceful for her which is what we all wanted for her. Hours had passed and we were starting to get very tired. We stayed with her as long as possible. I could feel myself drifting off to sleep.

It must have felt like only a couple of hours, but I checked the time on my phone and a whole 7 hours had passed, and I immediately jolted up thinking that Mum had gone. But  I rubbed my eyes and looked over to her.

She was still here. I was so surprised.

I saw Frances sat up in his chair and he looked up at me and said, ‘She had lasted a whole night. The nurses have checked on her and at the moment she just has a strong regular hearbeat and breathing’. I was a bit lost for words. ‘Wow!, she’s so strong’, I said quietly and smiled. ‘And still stubborn too!’ Frances said with a light chuckle. Max woke up near me and was just as surprised as I was. I guess we still had to keep waiting. I had learned that when the dying are nearing the end, they will not go until they were ready. It was a bit hard to understand, but if it meant that they wanted to hold on, then they will.

Mum had lasted another night after that and we told her that we were ready to let her go. So we stepped outside her room. We took turns to go in and say our own goodbyes to her.  James suddenly came through the door and after a few awkward seconds when he looked at Frances, he walked over and they both hugged each other. I heard James sob his heart out. We let him have his moment with Mum and then we came in later. I was so tired and wanted to be near her side but I knew that she wouldn’t be ready to go. I felt so guilty but it was the best thing to do. Max and I saw a spare room with two beds and passed out on them.

I must have been half asleep sometime later on in the night when I felt a strong pat on my shoulder. I realised it was Frances straight away.

‘Katie, Max, Wake up….Theresa’s gone…’..

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