Sunday, 14 February 2016

Those final moments

Thumbscrew had introduced Jacob and Joshua to mum days before her release from hospital. She hadn't visited earlier for no other reason than being protective of the boys. As they were both born so premature, therefore, susceptible to catching an infection, the last thing she had wanted was to put her sons at risk. Hospitals are, after all, a veritable hotspot for illness and my mum regularly contracted chest infections.

I had told my girls how bad mum was. She had only eaten two yoghurts in a week and was on a morphine, mixed with midazolam, driver. At this stage, it was set on the lowest dosage but was sufficiently strong enough to ensure she spent most her time asleep. It struck me as cruel that had we not had Cookie put down we would have been arrested for cruelty yet with my mum the very opposite would have occurred. How is it putting one animal out of its misery is moral yet doing the same for another is illegal?

In an attempt to pre-warn them how bad mum was I told them to expect to be shocked. After all, when I was there she seldom roused, occasionally to ask for water. Bizarrely, when they all arrived, mum was awake behaving to all intents and purposes as though nothing was wrong. It was, of course, a false promise, an illusion - she was very ill at this point. She held both of her great grandchildren which gave me enormous pleasure. They, Jacob and Joshua will never know their great grandmother but at least, she met them.

By the time mum was discharged she had spent a relatively short period in hospital. She was already thin having, over many years, gone from ten stone to seven. Her face was painfully gaunt; her arms thin as bamboo; her legs wasted with signs of severe emaciation. Although she had sips of water she was no longer eating.

Mum never again sat in her armchair. She had little interest in anything but sleep which she did virtually 24 hours a day. Toward the end, her gasps for breath were disconcertingly painful to watch. All I could do was offer her sips of water which she took.

The night before her death my three daughters along with my two grandsons came to see her. By this time she was unconscious. Her breathing was sharp gasps. Thumbscrew was marvellous. Talking to her Big Grammy in as loud a voice she could manage she teased her. "C'mom Grammy. I don't think much of this. You  laying about doing nothing when your great Grand babies are here. They love you, you know. They are not much good at kissing yet but are slobbering all over you.' Grace too spoke with mum telling her Brett sends his love and was thinking of her. And Squid, probably the closest of my children to her Big Grammy (we used to vacate our double bed on Xmas eve so that the octogenarian could sleep with the teenager  as the two of them giggled to dawn) wept uncontrollably. Tears streamed down her cheeks, her face scarlet and then Squid, like so many special need kids, brought us all down to earth. 'Can I have a Coke?' she sobbed. If nothing else, that innocent question broke through our collective hurt bringing us back down to earth. Bless you Squid. I love you.

They left me having stayed for the evening promising to come back tomorrow. However, there would be no tomorrow for mum.

Early in the morning at about 4 a.m. I heard her call for water. I had one of those baby monitors beside her bed with its twin by mine so I was aware if she needed me. I went back to bed at about 4.30 and fell into a deep sleep. I didn't wake until 7. Mum's face was fixed. Her skin was waxen and alarmingly cold. She must have died between 5 and 6.a.m. My only regret is that I couldn't have been there for her at the very end.

The next day all my family, including my son-in-law came over to sit with me. Jacob and Joshua, when not breastfeeding, laid on the floor or snuggled up in someone's arms. There in one home the past and the future and a hell of a lot of love said a fond farewell to Eileen Hilda Leek.
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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

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