Mother died today. Or yesterday. I don’t know.
OK, I do know. She died at 12.50 this morning. She went as peacefully as you can imagine, fast asleep. I was sleeping next to her, on a mattress topper she used to use, by her bed in the little bedroom she had slept in most nights for several years.
(It wasn’t her favourite bedroom. That was the green room, at the back of the house, which is large enough for a double bed. But she used to sleep in the yellow room because the green room was full of boxes of her disorganised belongings. When she returned after two days in hospital last week, having been treated for high calcium levels which could have killed her, we set up her hospital bed in the yellow room so my sister and her husband and baby could have the green room.)
I wasn’t even sure she had gone at first. I woke a little while before and noticed her breathing pattern had changed – she was breathing more slowly, and either more deeply or more shallowly – i can’t remember which, but it was definitely different. I thought about waking my brother and sister, but I knew they’d be reluctant to get up for a false alarm – we’d had a couple of those already. Then a few minutes later I heard a light rattling in her breath. I looked and she wasn’t breathing. I called my brother and said, “I think she’s going.” I went back in and thought I heard her exhale. But I think it was just the last few gasps of air escaping. She was gone. I woke my sister. We were all very calm.
It’s easy at times like this to fall back on platitudes about fate. But I genuinely think everything was as it should be – as much as it could be. We were all with her, in the house, and I know that she knew that and it was a relief to her. She became very agitated this afternoon and asked for my brother and sister, who were out, my brother at his own house and my sister out walking with her baby. I called them and asked them to come, thinking she might be ready to go. She wasn’t, just yet, but she was very relieved when they came, I could tell. In the evening, as she knew we were there, her breathing relaxed and she became incredibly peaceful.
Everything pointed to it being the right time for her to go. We had spent time with her, last morning and afternoon, sitting and talking to her and singing to her. Once, last morning, she began to sing along, in her weak half-concious way, to “Kum Bah Yah”. Had she gone Sunday night, I wouldn’t truly have felt we had spent the time together to say goodbye, as a family, that we should have done. But tonight I knew, as I laid myself down to sleep, that if she went there would be nothing we had left undone.
As I write, her body is still as soft as ever. She had – has, for a few more hours – the softest skin of anyone I’ve ever known. Even as her body was ravaged by radiotherapy and drained by chemotherapy, her face and arms remained beautifully soft and gentle, her embrace full of reassurance and love. Strangely, I think it’s her body I will miss most as a direct result of her death. Her personality, her friendship, have been slipping away for some time.
I don’t know what I’m going to do. I have an urge that maybe I should go away for a while. I want to drink grappa in Italy, and dark beer in Munich. But there’s months of sorting out of the house and the money before I can do that. I just know I don’t want my life to drift along. Something has to come of this. Something has to change – my life has to improve for me to be able to survive this without becoming depressed, I think.