It’s a long one this, so you might want to get yourself a coffee and a garibaldi biscuit.
Seven and a half years ago my dear old Mum shuffled off her mortal coil and set off to heaven to get fitted for her angel wings.
My Mum was what my friend calls ‘a creaking gate’ never really having good health but instead she had years and years of chronic illness, predominantly heart and lung disease and a low level cancer brought on by forty years of smoking. The sum total of these conditions meant that she ended her fiercely independent life being attached to one end of a long tube – long enough for her to walk around her flat, the other end of the tube was attached to an oxygen bottle. For a woman as independent as my Mum that must have been a living hell, she was effectively a prisoner in her own home – and it went on for years.
Being the woman that she was, when she was diagnosed with cancer she decided that it was only right that she should take herself back to her roots to die – and against vehement opposition from all the family she moved back to Cardiff to see out her days in her home town.
Every year for about ten years she’d announce, “This’ll be my last Christmas”, and for quite a few of them we were quietly inclined to agree with her. Many’s the time we had a call from some hospital or other to say that she had been taken in and was ‘very poorly’, hospital speak for, ‘brace yourself, this could be it.’ but time and time again she bounced back and amazed everyone. Not least herself, I think.
Of course being in receipt of one of these phone calls meant that we immediately stopped whatever we were doing and jumped in the car to start the race against the Grim Reaper and get to Cardiff – a journey that could take anything between three and a half and six hours – to be there ‘at the end’. It always amazes me how many euphemisms we can find for unpleasant subjects we’d rather not face head on.
Anyway…*shakes head to stop reverie*
When she started her cancer treatment the oncologist told my brother and me, who had come with me on this particular trip, that the treatment he was about to administer would probably kill her, if it didn’t then the cancer would. Lose lose. Not one of her, or my, better days.
Once again she bounced back and once again amazed everyone.
Eventually, after about five years, weaker, sicker and poorer, she decided that since she hadn’t managed to die in Cardiff she would move back here for a while.
As much as she hated to admit it, she did enjoy having family around and it certainly made life easier for her. For a good few years she was relatively healthy and had a decent quality of life. As for us, we discovered that lugging her oxygen tanks around is certainly good for building upper body strength.
But eventually, the time came, as we knew it would because it was never really far away.
I remember it vividly. I had a room full of clients at the time when I got the call to say that I really needed to be at the hospital NOW. It’s really very difficult to be light and cheerful; “Oh yes! That really suits you!” when you know that your Mum is hours away from death. I got rid of the clients and raced up to the hospital, thankfully three miles away not 200 miles away in Cardiff.
Deep in a coma it was clear that she was on her way. The pain response tests showed nil response, not from Mum anyway, the rest of us were cringing as we watched, best not to dwell on that bit.
Time dragged on. Her breathing became heavier and heavier until……..
She sat up and asked for a cup of tea.
In the space of two hours she made a full recovery. For a full week she sat up, chatted, enjoyed her food and was her old, chirpy self. Sadly, towards the end of the week we could see that she was starting to fail again and I think we all knew that this time this would be it. We’d all had a chance to say whatever we wanted to say and spent a few extra precious days with her before she finally slipped away peacefully. No regrets, no guilt, just a feeling of gratitude that she wasn’t suffering any more.
Never in a million years did I ever think that a similar situation would arise in our lives again – but it has.
Our beloved dance teacher has been desperately ill. Suffering from cancer and kidney failure his prognosis was grim. His heart stopped sixteen times one night only to start again of it’s own accord. The nurse kindly told his wife to prepare herself as it would only be a couple of hours before he slipped away.
In an amazingly similar situation to my Mum’s and against all odds he suddenly sat up and demanded ice cream! Since then his journey to recovery has been slow and torturous with many setbacks along the way. From the little bits that we’ve been able to find out without intruding, we have discovered that he has progressed from being in a coma to talking about turning up to watch the dance exams at his school in a couple of weeks.
Today, my phone rang. I couldn’t believe my eyes when the caller ID stated that it was dance teacher. ‘Oh no! Please don’t let that be someone ringing to tell us that he’s passed away!’ went through my mind as I answered it.
It was dance teacher himself!!! Just phoning to tell us that he’s been a bit ill and he’d be back teaching us as soon as he could. Playing down his achievements as ever!
Words can’t express my joy that he’s had a reprieve and is on his way back to, maybe not full health, but health.
Unlike my Mum, dance teacher is a healthy and active person so let’s all pray for a full recovery for him and thank God for miracles.