I find writing this very hard, and have been putting it off for a while, but it is something that I feel is very important to myself and maybe to many others who will find themselves in this moment of life.
During the last days and hours of my mother’s life, Bridget, my sister whom I’m so lucky to have, tended so sensitively to the precious time my mother had left, whilst also being aware of the rest the family’s needs and feelings.
Sharing with us what was happening, and how we could best be with our mother, to allow her to pass on peacefully. With Bridget being there acceptance, peace and love prevailed. I am so thankful for this time.
– Cornelius, a son.
Our farewell ….
With my mother’s gathering old age, I often wondered how her death would finally happen. Would she suddenly slip away unnoticed, to be discovered later? Would she decline slowly and gently enabling all her family to somehow be part of her last days, or would her days end raging in a state of fear and pain? Somehow I feared the latter.
However, it became clear that Mum had been tired for some time, and accepting that her time was nigh, when she was finally admitted in to hospital, she declined any further medical intervention and asked to be allowed home to die.
Within a very short time, many of our large family gathered at home to spend a little of what short time that Mum had left. She was very tired and very calm, and ready to “go”, but not before gracing us with one very memorable day of closeness, the kind of closeness we had rarely known throughout our family life. We each had our own special moments to remember of that time, of holding our mother, and listening to her last words to us. The whole house was filled with calm and mutual care.
I look back now at those special moments of Mum’s last days and feel so grateful to have experienced something truly special. The atmosphere of serenity and love was the most wonderful feeling and it would be very easy to overlook how this was all possible, but clearly we were in the safe and experienced hands of our sister, Bridget, and her unique understanding of the care of the dying, guiding us throughout and alleviating our fears.
The whole experience taught me that there is such a thing as a good death, as we were part of it.
– Kim, a daughter.
This time, I intuitively knew, would be the final hospital stay my Mother would make.
When I got the call that Mum had been in intensive care at the City hospital I visited her as soon as time permitted. I sat quietly with her and sensed in her eyes that she was becoming more distant, her gaze seemed to reach beyond me and she appeared solitary and vague.
Mum had spoken to Bridget about her wishes, and Bridget had acted swiftly. She took the lead and with professionalism, spoke at length with the doctor on duty to convey the declaration my mother had clearly made. Mum wanted to be released that day, to go to her own home and be with her beloved family… to be safe… and to die in peace.
That day Bridget was not just my sister but she became my peer, my mentor and educator, and a trusted and responsible person, fully dedicated to leading us through the fragile, sacred experience of letting our mother go. That level of support gave us the confidence we needed to move forward.
I could never have imagined how those last days with Mum would evolve. Once back at home, Bridget’s insights and instincts held those moments together effortlessly. Everyone had a place, everyone felt valued, and we leant about the transitions Mum was experiencing. We had each other, we held Mum. The atmosphere was charged with a poignant beauty I have never experienced before. We cried and reminisced, but Bridget taught us gently how to let her go. The atmosphere was transcendent.
When Mum did pass through we were all prepared and at peace. Our hearts sank in our loss, but the conditions she had been given soothed our spirits. We had the privilege of spending our last few days with her in the privacy and peace of familiar and safe surroundings. It was unforgettable.
Mum showed grit and courage in her last days, she taught us how to die. My beautiful sister Bridget dedicated her love and support to her whole-heartedly, supported us to the same degree … experienced her own vulnerability and remained gentle and un-wavering throughout.
I want to thank her with a deep and appreciative gratitude.
– Gigi, a daughter.
When I got the call from my mother to say that Nana didn’t look like she was going to make it this time round. I rushed back from my training course to see what I could do to help.
I had spent the last couple of years visiting Nana in and out of hospital as her breathing declined with her COPD condition. What was very apparent to me is that she did not want to spend a second longer in hospital than she had to, and she was always fierce in determining that she was coming home.
I recall one moment when she turned to me and said “darling they are all so poorly in hospital and so old.” I smiled with her as she didn’t see herself like that when at her poorly moments that was indeed her.
I was so pleased to learn that my aunty Bridget was back from the States, I knew that Nana would be in good hands. I was amazed when I arrived that they had been able to get her back home on the bank holiday weekend to fulfil nana’s wish of being home in her final moments.
Her home was always her special sanctuary and she had her routine which made her feel in check. She loved her comfy chair armed with her telephone to hand so she could always call one of us. She loved her comfy bed. She loved just a little bit of nice food she fancied, and of course her sherry tipple at 6pm in the evening. These are the things that made nana feel well and normal again.
I spent 24 hours with nana when we knew she was slipping away. I treasure those moments as we had times of holding hands, times of reminiscing, funny story telling, times of pondering together about what would be. Then there were times of comfort where she needed us to hold her tight and whisper in her ear that she was safe.
It was a good feeling knowing that she had everyone around her who she loved. We were right by her side as she was experiencing the end and she knew we were there.
We took comfort with her as she took comfort with us. The whole process prepared our family for what was inevitable and helped me personally through my own grieving stage. In the end I am so happy that nana got what she wanted to slip away in a peaceful and loving environment.
– Sophie, a granddaughter
When I arrived at the hospital I found my 88year old mother in a four-bedded unit, barely able to maintain consciousness. She put her arms around my neck and drew me in closely. Her words were soft, but clear and determined, ” I am dying, Bridget, and I want to go home. Please, please don’t let the doctor’s override you, they just won’t listen to me”. I reassured her that I would do everything to honor her wishes and that it was going to be OK, I would take her home.
I fully understand the dilemma that this leaves the medical professionals under. They were doing everything to help my mother recover, and to keep her alive. Her refusing further treatment, which now felt intolerable for her, didn’t seem like an option they were willing to consider, despite the fact she was clearly dying. After much consultation, and certainly empathy and kindness on the part of the medical staff, it was agreed that I could take her home. Community care would be arranged.
I am just one of a very large family, and I was able to contact my siblings and their families, to share what I knew would be the last days of my mother’s life. We came together around her and shared in the experience of her dying. There were very special moments of “sacred care”, unconditional love and connection in the last 72 hours of her life, a time we will all remember and cherish.
I have learnt how important it is that we see death as both natural and inevitable, and not as a medical event or a failure. There comes a precious moment for us all when we have the opportunity to find a peace with this, and honor those we love and their journey. With guidance and support, we can be there and share in this sacred moment.
Bridget, a daughter