Sketch 2

Paul Klee- Twittering machine (in part)My mother had her left breast removed when she was 63, around the time her back pain became unbearable. Later, she had bowel cancer, and though the tumour was removed she had complications later- “adhesions”, where scar tissue or the healing process creates a blockage in the bowel. Shortly after I moved to England, she developed liver cancer. She became addicted to the morphine, and for some reason her oncologist thought this needed reversed: he stopped her morphine, and she suffered from withdrawal. Then he found that while the chemotherapy was inhibiting growth of the tumour, it was not reducing its size, so she decided to stop chemotherapy.

I told my colleagues that she was dying using the peculiar jargon of our trade. “I have made an application for Attendance Allowance- under the Special Rules- for my mother.” When I said she had only days left, my boss surprised me by giving me as much time off as I needed. I returned home to find her in bed, a week before she died.

We wanted her to die at home. We had a friend from the church who is a nurse, and my sister is a nurse. My father and I were fit enough. After we made this decision I had a client suffering from back pain and depression after nursing his wife through terminal cancer, but we were sure enough we could cope. We had the aids we needed. First, Dad had had a stair lift installed so Mum could go up stairs; then a wheelchair, so she could go out. She was embarrassed by the wheelchair, initially, as she did not want to be seen in this weak state, but soon got to enjoy sunshine and different views, as she was wheeled around. And now, we had incontinence pads for her to lie on, and a commode beside the bed. I arrived a week before her death.

All of her was in pain, but she would rather get up to the commode. As would I, of course. Elaine understood the steps involved, to move her legs, then get her into a sitting position, then lift her up, then turn her to lower her onto the commode. As the expert, Elaine preferred to do this herself, and I did it only once. As I held my mother with her arms around my neck, before lowering her, I had a sense of Love, felt and communicated by both of us. But I did it only once.

I decided after she died that this moment of love communicated totally would be my most important memory of her.

I have a memory which shames me, which I have told no-one: sent to the town centre for a flannel for a bed-bath, I had a choice between one for an adult, undecorated, and one for a child, with Postman Pat on it, which was wonderfully soft, far softer than the other. I chose the adult one, for appearance’ sake, though she needed that softness. Perhaps she would have, too- appearance is important to us.

Then I sat, on her seventieth birthday, beside the bed, not touching her- reading, to pass the time.

7 thoughts on “Sketch 2

  1. Parental deaths. Not easy to cope with at all. My father wanted to die at home. Neither my mother or I could cope with him. My mother died at home. A few hours later my partner arrived from Spain to bring her to live with us. Uncanny.


  2. Gosh. Difficult to read, but a powerful statement about family and love; and it made me sad, though not crying sad, so perhaps tristesse is a better word. Anyway. This packs a punch. My father had terminal cancer, and a little over a week before his death he was taken to quite a nice hospice where he was finally given some morphine. As long as he remained at home, the doctors wouldn’t provide any. New York highrises are not keen on people dying on the 42nd floor, and you are ‘encouraged’ to move them right along to the hospice. I have a friend whose mother lived in a hospice for two months before dying due to miscalculations … another New York quirk.


    • If you are dying, addiction to morphine doesn’t hurt. My friend with MS found that the painkillers made her mind fuzzy, and I can see that I would want to balance freedom from pain with ability to think if it is long term- but with metastasised cancer, break out the ampoules! The hallucinations are great fun, and you deal with withdrawal symptoms by taking more!


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