On Christmas morning, my beautiful mother, Isobel, slipped quietly away from this world. I was having breakfast with the family next door, having enjoyed the fashion parade from the girls showcasing all the clothes they had received for Christmas, when the hospital called. The nurse told me that Mum's time was close, and I should come in soon. Ten minutes later, she called again to say Mum had passed.
As I was sitting at the table taking in the news (and we all had a bit of a cry together), I received a text message from a ministry colleague back home, and in response told her that Mum had only just died. She replied with,
This day of birth becomes her day to be born into the next life. 'no more pain and death; God himself will be with them'.
Mum was more than ready to go, and I am rejoicing that her suffering and pain are now finally over, and she has found peace.
During the last couple of days of Mum's life, we shared some special moments. She moved into a private room on the Saturday afternoon. The Sunday was the last day that she was able to use words to communicate. Late morning, her friend Janice and husband Frank came to visit. When they arrived, I said, "Mum, look who's here," and she said, "Janice" very quietly. When Frank came in and said to Mum, "It's Janice and Frank," Mum's response was a very emphatic, "I know!" I couldn't help but giggle. When they left, Mum raised her hand in a wave, and said quietly, "Bye Janice."
Later that afternoon, we had a precious exchange, when I was holding Mum's hand, and feeding her pieces of ice (the only thing she was able to cope with by that stage). I said to her, "I love you Mum," and she replied, "I love you too". These were the last words she ever spoke to me, two days before she died. A special moment that I'll never forget.
The next day, Christmas Eve, was a bit busy, as a cousin and his wife made the trek from Coffs Harbour to visit Mum that morning. It was a traumatic time, as they hadn't been in touch with Mum through the year, and only found out about that she was sick, and indeed dying, the previous day. So there was still an element of shock that they were coming to terms with as they sat at Mum's bedside (and to be honest, it was the kind of angst and trauma that I really could have done without at that stage).
An hour or so after the cousins had left, Des the hospital chaplain popped his head in. He came in for a chat, and prayed with us. I was very grateful for his calming presence, and felt that my equilibrium was restored by the time he left us. Soon after that, we had a visit from a miniature horse, who came clip-clopping up the corridor to visit all the patients and their families. The horse's owner brought him right up beside Mum, and took her hand and stroked it down his muzzle, as by that time Mum was too out of things to do that in her own strength. In her younger days, Mum used to ride, and she loved horses, so I hope she enjoyed that visit (even though she wasn't able to respond in an obvious way).
After the doctors' visit a little after that (I suspect the horse would have been a hard act for them to follow, but still they persisted :-), I went home for lunch and a bit of a break. I came back a couple of hours later, and as I walked into her room, Mum's eyes met mine, recognition dawned, and a huge smile spread across her face, showing how glad she was to see me. My heart melted.
Even though Mum wasn't able to communicate with words any more, I knew that she heard and understood everything that I and others said to her (which was obvious when she responded strongly to something that the doctor said to her that day). When I said goodbye to her as I left that evening, I told her that tomorrow would be Christmas, and that I would be having breakfast with the 'grandchildren' next door, and then coming in to spend the day with her.
I kissed her goodbye, and that was the last time I saw her alive.
I'm not sad or angry or disappointed that she chose to leave this life on Christmas Day. As some of my friends have pointed out, it's a special day for a special lady.
I'm also not sad or disappointed that I wasn't with her when she died. Whilst it certainly would have been nice to be there holding her hand as she breathed her last, I think she chose her moment to slip away quietly when she was ready. And she also knew that she was surrounded with love and prayers, and didn't die alone.
The last few days have been taken up fielding phone calls, and making funeral arrangements. Tomorrow is my birthday, and I have a few fun things planned for the day, but I will miss her terribly.
Mum's funeral will be held on Friday, 4th Jan at 2pm at North Ryde Community Church in Cutler Pde.