Life – Terror. Ecstasy. Fight. Denial. Flight. Failure. PAIN. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Hope. Love. Peace – Death.
Fabric of Life
Yesterday, in the early hours my wifes mum, Peggy Parr died.
She wasn’t young, ninety-two, her death was not unexpected.
It is fair to say she was a difficult woman. Maybe at 92 you are entitled to be?
I am 62 and I cannot begin to imagine how bad 92 must feel.
Although she died in Hospital she had, not long, been moved from her family home of 60+ years to a permanent care home as she was no longer deemed capable to, safely, care for herself at home.
Despite three home visits per day, after several ‘incidents’ the decision to move her to a 24 hour care facility was made by medical and social care professionals via the hospital where she was receiving treatment for a series of falls (that she had hidden) and her escalating psychotic episodes, due to worsening dementia and other mental health problems.
Her moving to a care home was a decision she, vehemently disagreed with, with every single fibre of her very being and she resisted any such transition right up to her very last gasp.
I visited her for the last time only hours before she drew her last breath. I did this more for myself than anything else. My mother in law (and father in law) have been very good to me over the years. Peggy and I have always had a mutual connection that was different to the rest of the family. We had something in common. She and I were both ‘Blues’! Her beloved younger brother, Syd, killed during the war was also a Blue. Peggy was obsessed with her brother Syd, an obsession that affected hers and her husbands lives forever, but had become even more severe these past few years.
I have been in this ‘last rights’ situation before. Recently. I am at an age now that this will happen more frequently. I hate it. It is an individual choice, a necessary ritual? However, it is a once only offer. If you miss it you don’t get another crack at it. For better or for worse? My choice, I needed to say my final goodbyes to Peggy.
When I arrived at the hospital bedside Peggy, I was shaken by what she looked like. To all intents she had already departed? She was still ‘technically’, alive, but what was laying in this hospital bed, might have Margarette Parr, written on a chart, above her bed but, this was not Peggy Parr.
After her husband of 70+ years, Arthur had died, three years ago, she has become progressively unwell. Impossibly and irrationally vain, a life-time of (undiagnosed) anorexia, and other mental health issues and more recently, aggressive dementia.
The previous time I met with her, at her own house, she had weighed just over 5 stone. She hid it well, baggy clothes, neck scarfs, long sleeves, trousers. From the neck up she was always immaculately made-up and despite her age and ailments, often, still had a sparkle in her eyes, false teeth firmly positioned, as vain as ever, as vain as vain could be. In her head she was (still) a 21 year, skinny version of Marilyn Munroe.
What was laying before me was not Peggy, nor Marylin, she looked nothing like either. Her false teeth had been removed, the structure that gave her face some definition had gone. Her face was drooped, eyes closed, mouth wide, breathing faintly. She was ashen grey (she had been yellow earlier during the day, when admitted). Now, she had become a monochrome print, like all the ‘life’ (colour) had been drained out of her.
Everybody Peggy knew had already left her, most were long dead. She was the last in line. She was lonely. She has much tragedy in her life (and death). Living as a child thru WW11, she survived her younger brother, Syd and her fathers premature deaths, she was the the lone survivor, the very last in line and she would have preferred not to be. She regularly bemused this situation, ‘why couldn’t she have gone first (earlier)’.
The cruelty, of her disease meant she would re-live the tragic news of her dearests deaths again and again. She would forget and then when told have to grieve all over again. It literally drove her mad. she would wake up and search the house for her brothers, children, her mother, Arthur. when she could not find them she would search the streets, sometimes for hours on end until a friendly neighbour might ‘catch’ her and persuade her to return home (and let us know).
She was terribly unhappy but she could never be happy (again). What would make her happy was not possible. For things to be exactly the same as they were before Arthur had died. It is sad that she didn’t die happy (who the fuck is ‘happy’ about dyeing)?
Peggy’s death was a merciful release.
I am glad I went to see her at the ‘death’. It was the right thing to do (for me). She did not look like she was in pain, sedated? She had milliseconds of recognition when we spoke to her (or maybe I just needed her to? To make me feel better)? She did look peaceful, ready to leave, finally, she would find peace? It is such a shame that her last few years were unnecessarily unhappy.
She ‘officially’ died a couple of hours later, after Gail and I had said our farewells and returned home. The hospital called Gail’s brother who called Gail. She was at peace.
Gail was prepared for the news. Not as prepared as she thought. Who is, who can be? You only get one mum and no matter what kind of relationship you have she is your mum and she has gone. The finality of ‘that’ is like no other feeling.
Throughout the day Gail had to re-live her mums death, every couple of hours, telling people, letting them know. Life goes on. When we finally went to bed, we were both restless, Gail more so, she gave in, got back up and had to take a whisky to help her sleep, to say yet another goodbye, alone with her thoughts.
I understand those feelings. I have experienced those difficult thoughts myself.
I didn’t sleep well myself, I got to thinking about life, death things I have thought about quite a bit in recent years, since my Cancer diagnosis. Loss, and what it does to us?
It’s like everytime something, someone we love, dies, ends, a part of us disappears along with them? In the beginning we are all a glorious, complete, amazing, colour picture, a fantastic painting of ‘life’? Slowly we turn into a monochrome, grey empty vessel. The very fabric of our ‘lives’ is stripped away from us one piece at a time as yet another piece falls away.
I awoke this morning and Gail had lost a corner of her beautiful picture.
Thanks for Reading