As you know, my mum has been hard hit by cancer and its treatments over the last three years. My family and I currently grieve her loss, as she passed away on Friday 10 February, and we celebrated her life on Friday 17th with a beautiful Thanksgiving Service which mum herself designed. There will no doubt be numerous posts over coming months. But I know she would not mind me sharing her final passing with you, as a way to open our eyes to how death can be beautiful and not feared.
My mum was a woman of God. She had faith stronger than any I’ve seen. She knew her time was close, and had prepared everyone as well as she could. She thanked people, told them she loved them, gave some precious things to them, and reminded everyone she would always be in their hearts. She celebrated and was overjoyed that she would be with Jesus soon, and while she was sorry for the pain her family and friends were feeling at her leaving, she was not sorry to be going.
In the hospice mum was referred to as “the lovely Baptist lady on the second floor.” She had so many visitors we had to put a sign up limiting them, and even had to ask the church minister to ask people to try and space out their visits. Mum was involved in lots of things, not only church – and so people were coming all the time. She had around 20 visitors a day – it was exhausting. People wanted to come because mum just shone and was full of love – so encouraging to see someone in a hospice who was so at peace. It was humbling. It was shocking. It was AWESOME.
In her final week we stopped all visitors. My mum showed such strength and I could see in her eyes what a really hard job it was just to sit in a chair. Her body was wasting in front of my eyes. The cancer grew in realtime. It was horrible because while the physical pain was minimised, the emotional pain – mine and my family’s – was everpresent.
I returned to Australia to spend these last weeks with my mum and family. Mum had me for the things she needed me to do for her. It was a privilege to be able to be there. I am grateful for it, and I know it is a time of my life I will always be thankful for, even though it has its share of incredibly painful parts. It has blessings as well – how lucky and blessed am I to have a family and a relationship with my mum so strong. So many don’t have that. How blessed that my family, my husband and children and my colleagues and friends all supported me unquestioningly in my need to be with mum. So many don’t have that, either. There was still laughing. There was love. There were new friendships, and the support of many I had never met before who loved my mother and wanted to share their own special memories.
On that last day, the Friday, my mother was in her second day of a coma. We were, as always, in the room with her. In the mid afternoon, my sister-in-law left to get my nephews from school. My brother got me some dinner from a thai restaurant, and dropped it in. Then he went home to prepare dinner for all of them. I was staying the night. I said I wanted to go for a walk for half an hour before dad left, so plugged in my ipod and told one of our favourite nurses that I was leaving mum and dad together alone for a while. I walked down Rocky Point Road for a while, then turned and walked back.
I got back into the hospice at 5.30pm and went upstairs to make some tea before heading back to the room. Partway through, that favourite nurse motioned from the end of the corridor to me. I thought she was going to let me know something about mum and dad being together a little longer. As I approached she let me know that mum had just passed away.
Mum had spent that final 30 minutes with my dad, the love of her life, by her side. The man she adored since she was 18 and had been faithfully married to for 46 of her scant 66 years. While I had been there consistently, almost every minute that week – God’s timing was indeed perfect, and the only person who should have been with her at that most personal and private time was dad. Beautifully, he was with her as she went home to Jesus.
Beautifully for me, I came into the room just a few minutes afterwards. Beautifully, one of our favourite nurses was right there with us – and had been walking along the hall at exactly the right time for dad to get hold of without a panic. Beautifully, the peaceful passing we all wanted for mum had been accomplished.
If you can leave behind the ‘fight against death’ idea and instead believe aspects of passing can be beautiful, then my mother’s passing was indeed about as beautiful as could be imagined. Pain free? No. The mental pain for all of us was horrible, and continues for us in grief – but the comfort we have from her dignity, strength of spirit and excitement to meet Jesus is beautiful enough to hopefully, in time, overshadow that pain.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me and my family through these tough days, and who have sent condolences to us. I have learned more, loved more, and felt more emotion than ever before. Her strength remains with us and somehow I feel good that she is now free of a physical body which was decimated by cancer. She is truly always going to be in our hearts, and will always be a part of who I am.