At the start of 2018 my eldest son married a lovely young woman in a very happy ceremony. But joy was followed swiftly by sadness. After an illness lasting several months, my dear mother was rushed to hospital and passed away a few days ago. Although she had been unwell, her eventual decline was very sudden and I found myself completely unprepared for her death. I was able to be by her bedside for several days before she passed away, something for which I feel profoundly grateful. I was able to tell her I loved her, and hold her hand, and reminisce about what a wonderful mother she was. Although she could not communicate orally, we learned to read movements of hands, head and eyes and we sensed that she felt comfort in having her family around her as her death approached.
Without a doubt, my world will not be the same again. It is as if the umbilical cord is finally and completely severed. I realise that my mother has been ever-present throughout my life thus far, and now she is no longer a part of it.
I was humbled by the extraordinary care provided to my mother by nurses at her local NHS hospital. Initially, she spent several hours in a corridor in Accident and Emergency, before moving to a cubicle, then to a temporary ward bed and finally to the ward where she spent the last five days of her life. Undoubtedly the difficulty in finding a bed reflects the swingeing cuts made to the NHS in recent years. But without exception, the nurses caring for my mother proved to be remarkable. Although she was desperately ill, they treated her with enormous dignity and compassion, taking great care to keep her comfortable in bed, addressing her gently, kindly and respectfully, and even brushing her hair when they changed her position in bed. In short, they appeared to treat her as if she was their own mother. They monitored her condition continually, and worked with the doctors and a palliative care nurse to ensure that as far as possible my mother was free of discomfort to the end. I do not know how they are able to sustain this kind of care day-in, day-out – it must be completely exhausting. I cannot express adequately my gratitude. It was an enormous comfort to my family in a time of grief.