It’s been just over ten months since we said goodbye to my lovely dad. To be honest, in those dark days following his untimely death, when time seemed to stand still and it felt like I was walking through treacle, I really thought Mum would go too.
We joked about it, the three of us; my brother, sister and me. We challenged the universe to do its worst, get it all over with while we were already so broken. It would have seemed a fitting, almost romantic end to their love story, we thought.
But the universe had a different plan.
It waited until we were least expecting it.
Of course it did!!
So, my wonderful Mum has died.
It was quite suddenly, apparently.
“Unexpected” they told my brother on the phone at 3am on Sunday morning.
“Really?” he responded, incredulous.
But apparently, it was. They expected her to simply fade, to give us a little notice so that we could be there with her for her final days. Hold her hand and talk to her as she drifted away.
But Mother, being the headstrong, wilful, independent and sometimes contrary woman she was, had different ideas.
Good for you, Mum!
So, that’s it. The dementia journey for my family is over. We have another funeral to plan; another order of service to arrange, appropriate pieces of music to select, photos to pick out, the obituary to write.
I thought I was ready for my mum to go.
I was up there last week visiting her with my sister. We sat with her and stroked her hair and chatted to her. We played her videos of her granddaughters singing. Then I told her that if it was time to leave, then she could go. That Dad would be waiting for her. I didn’t actually expect her to just go on and die. I mean, she’d never listened before when I’d told her many times that she didn’t have to hang around for us. That we’d be okay without her. That if she’d had enough, she should just check out. That we would miss her forever, but that it was the right thing…..
I never actually thought she’d go.
Someone once told me that when you love someone with dementia you grieve whilst they are still alive and I absolutely believe that’s true. I have already grieved for my mum in so many ways over the past six years. Every stage of her dementia has brought on a different grief. A different loss and pain.
But the finality of it all, is also grief.
It is a different grief to that I felt with my dad. I felt his loss so physically. In those early days it was like having a constant vice around my chest, like I couldn’t get enough air into my lungs. Everything felt loud and uncomfortable, a bit like when you have a fever and a nightmare. You toss and turn frantically to try and escape the weird, haunting visions but you can’t escape. Every movement hurts and every sound reverberates in your head, blinding you with the pain.
With mum it’s different. I don’t miss her physically – her voice or her presence in my life – I have not had her in my life for so long that I am used to being motherless. But, the sadness is still overwhelming. The sorrow of what she has had to go through is still able to blindside me.
The next few days I will be putting together my eulogy which I will read out at her funeral. I will have to reach back to before the dark dementia days. To the woman whose laugh was so loud and uninhibited, it was infectious and made strangers chuckle. The woman who was never phased by anything: who could sew a pair of lined silk curtains in the morning, cook a three-course fine dining supper in the evening and then lead everyone around the room in a ceilidh until the early hours. The woman who raised her daughters to be have unwavering morals, to be brave and independent and fiercely protective mothers. The woman who raised her son to be one of the best men I know.
So, thank you everyone who has ever read any of my blog posts. Thank you for all the support and kind words over the past five years. I hope my outpouring of words helped some of you feel you weren’t alone in your own dementia journeys. I hope my sometimes overly personal sharing helped to raise awareness of what dementia is really like at the coal face.
I never knew when I first sat at my computer and poured my heart out onto a screen, where this journey would take me, or when it would end.
Now I know.
It ended on the 23rd May, 2021. R.I.P Jane Turner.
I hope they’re back together again. He missed her so much these last few years. I hope they’re dancing and laughing together, as it should be.
I will miss them both forever.
But I will also be forever grateful they were mine.