I was watching a programme called 7up on the television recently. If you don’t know it, it started in the sixties where children were interviewed when they were seven, and every seven years the cameras caught up with them. The ‘children’ are now 63 and it has been fascinating. My mum and I followed it throughout the years and, she has missed the last two now.
This time they the first programme was a little different. They had well known celebrities watching as they discussed it. They always ran through previous episodes first, and one boy in 28-up visited his mother’s grave.
A discussion by the celebs followed with each of them remembering when they lost a parent. It was evident the memories were still raw, even though some were elderly they never forgot the pain losing someone.
It made me think how everyone has a story to tell, and even after time has passed, it can break hearts. As they talked, it made think of my loss and how I coped with bereavement.
My parents passed away at more or less the same time. It was August 2010 when it all began.
Since that February Dad began losing weight and by the July he was just skin and bone. No one knew what was wrong but something clearly was.
Hubby and I went for a weekend away but instead of leaving the worry behind, it came with me. I couldn’t settle and rang Mum to check on him. Dad answered and normally we have a brief word before he passes me to mum. This time he said I couldn’t speak to her because she was lying down. Mum, if she wasn’t well, slept on the settee, she never went to bed and she never, ever, refused to talk to me. I felt even more unsettled so we decided to go home.
On the journey back, not knowing I was already on my way, my sister rang asking me to return as dad had been taken to hospital by ambulance. I told her we would be home within the hour. She rang again to say Mum had now been taken in by ambulance.
That was August 19th. Every day I made the 30 mile round trip to visit them.
Mum was unable to walk but chirpy. Dad, was Dad, although he looked awful he was optimistic. He was going for a scan and if it was clear he could go home. It wasn’t. They kept him in, and I was with him when the doctors broke the news. It was pancreatic cancer, and he had only a few days to live.
The doctor asked him if he suspected it and he said he hadn’t. He was so brave as he somehow accepted his time had come. The way he coped helped us all.
I went back to mum’s ward to tell her the news. Unable to contain myself, I burst into tears. Mum, in her usual take control, everything will be all right, manner, said, “Not you as well!” My sister was sitting there, her face red with tears.
The strange thing was, Mum didn’t want to see him. She had listened to the news and it was as if she didn’t believe it. Eventually after some persuasion, she was wheeled down the corridor to see him. They stayed together for a good hour and I’ve often wondered what they talked about. What could they talk about? How do you even have that conversation?
On 2nd September, Dad passed away with my brother by his side. Even though I knew it was coming, it was still a shock. The whole thing was surreal. You don’t expect things like that to happen to you.
We continuing visiting Mum who couldn’t walk at all, and began acting strangely. No one said what was wrong with her. A DVT blood clot was suspected, and she was ongoing with tests. She stopped talking normally to us. She was having hallucinations and this strong woman I’d known all my life was suddenly not speaking. It was difficult to deal with. In times like this, it was always Mum who knew what to do, she was the one who held us together. Now she just stared and wouldn’t respond. Then she starting keeping her eyes closed, even when she was awake.
“Mum, open your eyes,” I told her one day. I wanted to show her a picture of my daughter’s boyfriend. One she went on to marry. She opened them and they were all milky. I don’t think she could even see.
We had to organise dad’s funeral and was hoping mum would get well enough to attend. She showed no interest as she retreated into herself. One day I visited and she’d had a stroke, no one said anything or confirmed it.
The 23rd September was Dad’s birthday and a difficult day. It was the only day I took off from visiting. The following morning my sister rang saying, ‘Come now, there’s something wrong with Mum.’
We all sat by her bedside as she quietly slipped away.
In The Magic of Stories book, I’ve included two stories about this. One is poem which explains what happened. The second was the spur of the moment decision to visit them at home before I went away. It would be the last time I’d see them together in their house.
Everyone has a story to tell of the day that devastated their lives. What’s yours?