Make the most of every day
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Mum was diagnosed in 2014 with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. It came as a real shock. We are a very close-knit family. I have four children and four grandchildren and we all live close to each other. My mum, Anne, was an amazing woman and my children loved their nana and used to spend lots of time with her. Once they had their own children, it got even better. We used to have family holidays together and quite often mum would look after the great grandchildren. Mum was that kind of woman who could always find the positive in difficult situations.
Once we were told that her condition was terminal, mum was very open about what she wanted for her funeral and trying to help the whole family to accept the inevitable. Doctors could not tell us exactly how long mum had to live. Maybe months, weeks or just a few days, but nothing could change the fact that she was going to die. True to her nature, my mum just wanted to make the most of every day and spent as much time as possible with her family.
The whole family went on holiday to Spain in August 2015. Even if none of us wanted to admit it, we knew this was our last holiday together.
After Spain, mum got very sick and was admitted to hospital where she remained for three weeks. They were the most trying three weeks for the whole family. She was in so much pain and was not eating. She was declining really fast. She wasn’t in the right place. Staff were so busy, they didn’t really have much time to dedicate to her. And it took a long time to talk to any doctor or have the results of her tests.
I know my mum wished to be cared for and die at home, but she soon realised that dad could not cope with it. He really struggled with mum’s illness and for a long time he was in complete denial.
Even if the idea of going to a hospice completely terrified her and me, mum knew that she needed specialist care and she felt neither home nor the hospital was the right place.
It is incredible what images you can have in your head about a hospice until you actually see one. We were all dreading the idea of mum coming to the hospice, but as soon as we walked through the doors of Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice, everything was better. There is this wonderful peaceful feeling embracing you. You almost feel like someone is hugging you.
We were able to go home with the reassurance she was in a safe place. When you go visiting, you can just focus on having a good time with your loved one, because they take care of everything else. She had her own room so that we could have some privacy. All the family could visit without worrying to disturb other patients and families. Staff were always at hand if you needed. You didn’t feel a nuisance if suddenly you burst into tears. There was always a nurse around ready to comfort you and offer some help if you were upset. We had also some good laughs. Being able to stay with mum whenever we wanted has helped us to build some precious memories of her last few days with us.
We spent the Christmas holiday at the hospice with mum. I have fond memories of the time we spent with her then. We all came in to celebrate with her and the grandchildren were there climbing on her bed. You could help yourself to the drink trolley and have a cheeky drink if you wanted and one for mum as well. Christmas Day was not depressing at all, and all the nurses were wearing festive outfits and playing Christmas tunes on the stereo.
When her time came, mum died peacefully and with dignity. I was amazed by how Mum made sure everything was in order so that we didn’t have to worry about it once she was gone. She sorted her finances, eulogy, funeral arrangements, Will and even decided what jewellery to leave to each of us.
Before dying, she talked to everyone. We were there holding her hands and that was it, she was gone. This is exactly how she wanted to die, surrounded by her family.
I still remember what the ward manager told us on the day, “It has been an absolute honour to care for your mum and get to know you”. We didn’t know what to do after she died. She gave us lots of practical advice and suggested we might want to help get her ready, brush mum’s hair, put on a nice dress. I still treasure the memory of me, my son and daughter looking after mum after she passed away.