It’s been almost a year since my last post. I had just found out that Mum had a tumour on her brain and that it was terminal. At the time I was preparing for a short trip to see Mum, and was making plans to move back to the UK for a year to be with her. Shortly after that post, I flew over to London with Elliot who would have been just less than 18 months old at the time. Travelling alone with a baby is difficult at any time, and under the circumstances it was even more stressful.
The first week of the visit was spent with Mum at home, helping her with her medication and trying to enjoy as much of the time together as possible. Mum was feeling the effects of the tumour and would often struggle to get her words out, especially when she hadn’t yet taken her medication – medication that made her face and legs swell up from the water retention. At one point, Mum was talking on the phone to my cousin Janine and was trying to say a date, but kept getting the numbers mixed up, and eventually burst into tears. That was a sad moment for me.
The second week that I was there, Mum went into hospital for another operation to try ease the pressure on her brain. The surgeons wanted to get her into a better shape before starting further treatment (chemotherapy and radiotherapy were two options.) We didn’t know it at the time, but Mum never would make it home again. The operation went as well as could have been expected, but the tumour was just too aggressive. We were later advised that further treatment of the tumour would make minimal difference to Mum’s prognosis, and would just decrease her quality of life too much to be worth it.
Leaving Mum in the hospital and having to fly back to NZ with Elliot was another really sad moment for me. At that point we were still hopeful that Mum would be able to have the treatment, and I tried to be positive, but it was hard. Mum spent the next few weeks in hospital and was then moved to a hospice. Meanwhile I planned another trip back to London, this time with Deb and Elliot, and with no return dates planned. The idea being that we would stay over there with Mum until the end.
But this plan didn’t pan out as Mum’s conditioned worsened. One early morning phone call to the hospice, I was told by the nurse that I should come over as soon as I could because Mum was in a lot of pain and deteriorating quickly. We made arrangements that morning, and then just 8 hours later we were on our way to the airport to start the long-haul flight. On arrival in London, we met my brother and Deb’s sister, checked into our hotel, and then went straight to the hospice.
Mum had been in a lot of pain that day and had been given a large dose of pain medication. She was unable to talk to us and could barely grip onto my hand as I sat by her bed. Seeing Mum in this state was tough, especially since it had been less than a year ago that she had been hiking up the glaciers in the South Island and relaxing with us in a sunny Wellington.
That night, Mum passed away. We had returned to our hotel after spending a couple of hours with Mum at the hospice – we had decided that us being there was probably preventing her from getting some needed rest, so we had left with the hope of her making it through the night. But just as we were climbing into bed we got the call to come back to the hospice as Mum’s breathing was getting worse and it was looking like she wasn’t going to make it any longer.
In the end, Ben, Andrew and I were at Mum’s side when she took her last breath. We like to think that she held out long enough for us all to be there, to say good bye. It was a terribly sad moment, but I’m glad we were there.
Mum’s funeral was two weeks later, and was the first funeral I had ever attended. I’ve heard that funerals are about celebrating someone’s life and reliving the happy moments, and although we tried to think back and reflect on all the good times, it was impossible to avoid the sadness.
More than six months has passed now and I still think about Mum every single day. I get sad when I watch Elliot growing up and see all the funny things she does – I think about how much Mum would have loved to watch her grow up too.
Mum, you’ll be missed forever.