What can I add to last week’s blog when I described my Mum as “in the departure lounge, awaiting the flight” however, three weeks on from the dreaded phone call I got from my mother’s nursing home, when they anticipated that she was entering her last 24 – 72 hours, she is still here, defying doctors, nurses and even the hospice who visited last week and again re-iterated that her death was imminent. The next day she sat up and said she would like a cup of tea even though it was 30ºC+ so still retaining a very British custom of, when in doubt have a cup of tea! So to update the situation I would say, still in the departure lounge but flight has been cancelled so now deciding whether to go home or get on another flight!
She smiles, she chuckles, she is so well-mannered always thanking the nurses for the smallest of kindnesses shown to her. Meanwhile I lurch between sheer delight that she is still here to (and I know some of our readers will not understand) wondering when this will all end. Some days I wake up thinking how can I keep going, spending all day with my mother but I started this three weeks ago and I have to go on, my Mum is on ‘end of life care’ and I must be with her. Some of the other residents, all with varying stages of dementia, think I am a carer as they see me so regularly, and often ask me to do things for them. I have grown so fond of them all and will actually miss them when this is all eventually over. One of the residents thinks I am her mother and always kisses my hand and asks for a hug. Another enquires, with no malice, as a child would, “Has she died yet?” and yet another pops into her room, as he always did when she was well, for a chat and his first question is to ask if she is still alive. Their bluntness is not offensive but simply honest and practical and it never upsets me and more importantly the one time that my mother was awake and heard such an enquiry, she replied, “I’m not dead yet!”
So we all knock along together, the receptionist watches me sign in with an understanding smile, the tea lady knows my favourite biscuits, and the nurses all manage my spiralling emotions. My family are tested as I never seem to be home when they want me, my children are understanding to a point however my dogs are always so happy to see me and are, like all dogs, the least judgemental.
It is not all sadness and tears as I have started to take breaks and have been to the Henley Royal Regatta twice. I have needed to keep sane and step back into real life. I have sat in the sun, drunk no alcohol as I am always half-expecting a phone call and a mad dash to the nursing home. I have an overwhelming feeling of guilt if I have too much fun but I am sure that is normal, or maybe it isn’t? My friends still keep asking how my mother is but I think they must be feeling that this is dragging on. Again I ask what else can I do but more of the same, visit daily, talk to the nurses and make sure that all my mother’s needs are being met and most important of all keep her comfortable and pain-free.
I have learnt that you cannot judge anyone in their way of handling dying and, as I said in my last post, it is a personal thing, and no-one knows how they are going to behave until it happens.