To be present when your loved one is dying is both a tragedy and a blessing. Close to one year ago I was in this position; and now with time behind me, I know this experience has become one of the biggest lessons in my life. When you know you are going to die; you gain a very clear perspective of what life is really all about. One positive from the dying experience are the many lightbulb moments and epiphanies that spring to mind as you reflect and look back over the life you lived. You realise many of the insignificant things you wasted your time on, untrue beliefs you held so tightly onto, and reflect on the pathways you chose in life. It was only when my Mum was on her death bed did she finally knock down the high brick wall keeping her emotions and inner secrets safe and hidden from the world. She was a proud woman, and very stubborn and found it very hard to ask for help. She had many emotional blocks and had not been able to move forward in some areas of her life since 1983. It is true.
She held deeply rooted anguish in her heart, regrets, mistrust and disappointment buried deep within the folds of her emotional heart centre. I tried my best over the years to pry these unsaid words and complicated feelings from her, aiming to extract them with soothing words, warm hugs and comforting back rubs. But no matter how hard I tried, her anguish and internal torment remained buried deep inside. The key to unlocking her emotional wounds sadly came too late in life, on her death bed in a hospice. Over the weeks she spent sitting in a recliner with an evil eye on the bed, to then only being able to lie supine in said evil bed; virtually immobile except for her hands, which was fortunate for her as she could still smoke and drink her favourite beer ‘Stella’, aptly named after her. She just did what she wanted, and why not? A rule breaker in life, and a rule breaker in death.
I spent every day in the Hospice with my Mum in the last weeks of her life. We would spend 10 to 14 hours together daily, and would mostly be outside, where we would talk about life and appreciate the warm sun and cool breeze. This is where we would talk about the past, the life she had and her hopes for me into the future. To my amazement she let a lot of the past go and accepted her cancerous fate. Accepting our inevitable death takes strength and courage. It looks scary when you are looking the grim reaper in the eye, but I think when you are in pain and suffering and have been for some time, perhaps it is a welcome relief. I know my Mum felt ready to go, it was her time. It is hard for me to say this as I wanted her here with me for many years longer, by my side to keep doing all our fun activities and sharing in life’s joys and sorrows, highs and lows, together. She accepted her dismal and looming situation with strength and detachment; her stoicism and courage was very admirable.
We discussed many things about her life, her regrets, the different choices she could have made, and things she wished she could have done. It is the people we love and meet throughout our lives which have the biggest impact on us, so I learned. My Father had made a significant impact on my Mums life, and their divorce over 32 years ago was the biggest setback in my Mums life. Many women loved my Dad, from all around the world, and I often wonder how it all works in the afterlife when all your wives come and join you again. Now that could be tricky! My beautiful Dad who also passed in 2012 from the same fate of lung cancer, died knowing he was treasured and loved by my Mum and I. Although my Mum could not be there physically for him as he lived in another state and had remarried, their connection and love was still felt and appreciated.
When my Dad was dying a few years ago, I had a sinking devastating premonition something would also happen to my Mum within 2 years. Sadly, this came true, and only 22 months after my Dad died, my Mum also succumb to the same fate. My Mum basically never moved forward emotionally in her life after she left my Dad. It was a heartbreaking split from both sides, and although they were fantastic and loving parents to me, their physical division was a highly emotional unresolved nightmare. On only two occasions I was lucky enough to have us all together for a meal. As we all sat around the table together I wondered how all our lives could have been so different if they had the emotional skills and strength to resolve their issues and differences and make their love continue to work all those years ago. I could feel the chemistry and love connection in the air, tingling like an invisible electric bond. I felt proud to be born from their love and to be all together made me delightfully giddy, all our energies combined was euphoric; this extremely rare event was an experience I will never forget.
Relationships are very complicated, the older I get the more I realise this. Love is supreme and the heart does not lie; I know the people we love always stay in our hearts forever. As my Mum passed her last days on this Earth, I continued to thank her for being such a beautiful Mother to me. I know she did her very best to be kind, caring and loving and she was all this and more to me. As I watched my best friend struggle and fight for her last inevitable breath; I sat there in awe of her. I had learnt so much from her, and her wisdom continues to teach me daily, as she talks to me and reminds me to be the person she raised me to be. Like bringing a baby into this world, being present for someones death is as an equal privilege. As we enter into this journey in life, we will also one day inevitably need to exit. As I held my Mums hand and watched her take her last breath on this earth, I knew she was safe and loved and ready to enter the next stage of her journey into the afterlife.
With love, Anita xx
“Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying.Then we might live life without limit, every minute of the day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.” – Pope Paul VI