As I walked into mums room, I certainly wasn’t prepared for what I saw, or what I heard.
This wasn’t a normal snore from someone that was sleeping. This was a ragged breathing noise from someone that had hours to live.
My head and heart went into overdrive. This was it.
This was the day I had been dreading for the last 4 years.
I ran over to mums bed and tried to rouse her. I gently shook her shoulders and stroked her face.
I was asking her to wake up. I was asking her to look at me.
Her eyes were gone. I told her to hang on. Wait for dad and my brother to get here.
I hurried back out of the room, up the corridor that I had just walked down to the room where the medical practitioner is stationed. She looked shocked to see me so soon after our meeting in the reception area only minutes before.
I lost it with her. I was angry, frustrated, scared and fearful.
I told her that mum was not snoring, she was dying. To which she replied that this hadn’t been the case when she checked on mum earlier.
She came back to the room with me and it was only then that she too realised, finally, that mum only had hours to live.
I was grateful at this moment, she finally had the balls to tell me that mum had not long to go. After the week of drama and conversations and skirting the subject, this was it. Things could be put in place for the last hours.
I rang dad and told him not to go to work, come straight here.
I rang my brother who was working down near Victor Harbour at the time – over an hour away.
I texted mum’s dear friend and told her not to visit today.
I rang my husband and sobbed as I told him mum didn’t have long. It wasn’t long before he was by my side.
2 or 3 days prior to this I was so desperate to get some guidance and support with mum that I contacted her old Palliative Care nurse. She had built a wonderful relationship with mum over her last few months and I called her out of pure desperation. She visited that day with the Palliative Care Doctor.
She was an older lady that had the most kind heart and I warmed to her immediately. She had an air of calmness and control. I pleaded with her to help mum; help me get through the next few days. She took control of mum’s medication and continued to liaise with the medical practitioner at the nursing home over the next 48 hours. She also called me twice to check on me. Coming from a Palliative Care background she had a different approach.
I was grateful to have the Palliative Care team in my corner.
So she was the next person I called that morning. I needed her knowledge and calmness to be around mum and me. And she came. She told us how to keep mum comfortable in those last hours. To run a wet swab around her mouth to keep it moist. Rub some balm on her dried, cracked lips.
As I went back in mum’s room, I told the nurse that I wanted some privacy. I closed the door behind her and I spent the next half hour by myself with mum. I needed this time with her. I had many things to tell her. I held her hand.
I love you. I will look after dad. We will be ok. I will get my shit together and do your cookbook. Please wait, dad and brother will be here soon. Thank you. I will never forget you and everything you have done for me and my little family. Thank you for everything.
I am grateful that I had this quiet time to tell mum these things.
The next few hours went by in a bit of a blur.
My dad and brother arrived. My husband was by my side.
A lavender smelly diffuser was bought in to help calm us – lasted 5 minutes as it stunk too much.
Ham and cheese sandwiches were bought in for us for lunch.
Finally the nursing staff showed respect when they came into her room. They now knew that she was not here for long. They treated her with care and dignity. Something that I had asked for since day one.
I found myself on a chair at the top of the bed where I continued to gently stroke her fringe away to the side.
My brother was next to me and we took it in turns of holding her hand. Dad sat on the other side of the bed holding her other hand.
Our hushed conversations went from random things about nothing related to why we were all there; to mum, what we needed to do, organise, prepare in the hours and days ahead.
I was grateful for the time were were given together, in these final hours. Just dad, my brother and me.
All while this was going on, mum’s breathing continued to labour. It was rattly and hoarse. I was mesmerized by watching her chest rise – stop – fall – stop. It was those stops at the fall that were getting longer and longer and there were many times when I thought that it was her last one; and then she would give us one more. And then another.
I had seen someone die before of this disease.
We were mid conversation when she took her last one, it was a struggle. We could see her struggle. Hear her struggle.
People often say, “they slipped away quietly, in peace.” This wasn’t peaceful.
I kept telling her it was ok to go. We told her to let go. Let it go.
And she did.
To be continued