My mother and father came to England to visit us for a holiday. Her cancer was in remission, miraculously and it was time to visit the grand children she loved so much. We were all so very excited. I’d planned visits to Santa’s grotto. A Christmas Train ride, visit to a Christmas through the ages exhibit. I bought a huge Christmas tree. We had things planned for every day. Winter Wonderland. Fairytale Wander. A visit to Pooh Corner. So many plans.
I went to the airport to collect my parents, only to find that my mother had been taken directly to A&E, where she would spend the next four days getting scans and tests. Whether it was the flight, or whatever it was, a new tumour had sprung up, a malignant, vicious, angry sucker, growing 21cm in just 3 weeks. It was phenomenal, and once again, there was nothing they could do for her.
The hospital arranged a hospice for my mom in the next town up from ours, but also said she could come home while she was ‘well enough’ to do so. There would be community nurses that would come round daily and check on her, and refill her morphine driver.
I was mainly surprised by the questions from especially people in the healthcare profession. You know your mother could pass at home? Yes. How old are your children? 4 and 1. Are you okay with having them in the house? …
Where else would I have my children?
I stood in the living room speaking to one of the community nurses and pointed to the floor to her right:My daughter was born here. It seems only fitting that life should end here too, I said, pointing to the very same spot, but upstairs.
We are so far removed from death in our culture.
Like birth, it is something that happens somewhere else. It’s something that is cleaned up and swept away. It’s something that’s dealt with by a professional, someone with experience, someone else. Yet another taboo.
When the nurses, who happened to turn up moments before the end to give some top up pain medication, declared that she was, in fact, dead, I sent my husband to the kitchen for the herbal poultice I had made earlier that day, hoping it would have some weeks to steep. My sister and I washed our mother’s body, cleansing it for one last time – oh, she did so love to be clean – before removing her nightie and putting a new one on her. Ritualistic body washing is normal in so many cultures, even deeper cleansing than what we did, but in ours it isn’t. We are missing out. It was beautifully therapeutic, healing, almost.
In the two weeks since, Ameli specifically (at four years old) has been through a series of emotions: she’s had separation anxiety.
She’s cried at random moments, whenever it’s been quiet. She’s role played death and dying and we’ve had to let her get on with that, knowing that she is processing, dealing. We’ve had questions upon questions too – but we’ve answered as far as we could, as much as we can.Being many hours before dawn on Boxing Day, we had a long wait before the doctor could come out, and then later the funeral directors, and my husband was adamant that the children should not see their still and lifeless grandmother.
My mother’s funeral is tomorrow. A simple cremation, because she doesn’t really know people here. I’m looking forward to having a little bit of closure. It will be years yet, I’m sure, if ever, before we really move on, but at least we can have a little closure.
Do I have any regrets about choosing to bring death home? Not one. Beyond the fact that my mother should have lived much longer than her 54 years of life, the fact that she died in my home, in my arms, in the room next to my sleeping children? No, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Bringing Death Home
I am so, so sorry I am so late in replying to this! So much to have happened and yet you have faced it all together as a family and that is beautiful, even through the sadness you must all feel so deeply!
My husband used to work in a hospital and he has been the one to find someone who had passed away. He has done “last rites” and washed them and spent time with them. He even had one patient tell him “next time you see me I’ll be dead”… and he was right, he died that night. I find it hard to get my head around because, as you say, as a culture we are so far removed from death. But my husband became used to it and I know I will call on him when we face a death in the family in future.
My only memory of it as a child, really, is when my Grandad died. It was a prolonged fight with cancer and my mum didn’t want us to see him so ill at the end so she kept us home from the hospital (no space in the hospice). She then felt guilty and took us to see my Grandad before the funeral, but my sister and I totally freaked out at seeing just the top of his head by peeking around the door and neither of us went in. I also remember crying desperately when my Grandma’s sister died and I was told my Grandma would be sad and I said, “don’t worry, I’ll just tell her not to be sad because she will see her sister again when she dies”… my dad responded hastily that this would upset my Grandma and that in turn confused and upset me. As a child both of these events confused me because it wasn’t explained to me in any way I could truly understand and feel… so I think it is amazing that you have put so much thought into sharing this experience with your children!
My thoughts are, as always, with you xxx
Luschka, thank you so much for sharing life and death with your readers and family. I am so deeply touched by your acceptance and reverence of the end stage of your mother’s life. Blessings to you and yours.
I’m sorry she died so young. It’s so beautiful what you did for her. Thinking of you at what can’t be an easy time. Thank you for sharing it.
Thank you Adele. It’s sure been an interesting time.
I am so sorry for your loss. We lost my mum to cancer in July six weeks after the birth of my first child. I am still trying to come to terms with our loss and trying to cope with the grief. But one thing I am certain of is that it was the right thing to do to have her spend her last days at home. Do you find that writing about your grief has helped you? I’m thinking about writing about my loss on my blog but can’t quite bring myself to do it yet.
What a wonderful thing you have done for your mother. You have made me cry…how very important for you and your mother that you could be there for her in that way. I am so very sorry for your loss and the grief you all are going through. I hope that your service today brings you some peace. Much love to you and everyone in your family.
Thank you Karin. Even the funeral was simple, honest and something to treasure
Thinking about you all today, Luschka xxxx
How beautifully written and what good descissions you have made. All the best today at the funeral, I hope it will give you and your family the closure you’ve been waiting for. Big hugs for all of you!
Thank you so much.
How wonderful that you did this, both for you & your mother. I was with my mother also when she died in her own house, & was so glad it wasn’t in a sterile unfamiliar environment. Give yourself time…lots of time x
Thank you. I am so grateful for your words. I guess we were ‘lucky’ in that we started preparing for this 16 months ago. The shock was just that we weren’t expecting it here or now. Thanks again for your kindness.
Beautiful Luschka. Exactly how I feel. Love always xxxx
Thank you Starr, and thank you for your advice and time leading up to all this, as well as for sharing your own beautiful story 18 or so months ago in The Mother. It meant so much to me.
Condolences Luschka, all the best to you and yours
Thank you so much Karlien
Beautiful, sad, and so very true. Thinking comforting thoughts for you and yours. Your mother and children are so very lucky to have you.
Thank you so much. What a lovely thing to say.
As always I stand in awe, admiration and with a deep sense of pride in the amazing daughter, wife, mother, woman and Child of The One I Am you have grown to be. I am so saddened by your loss and filled with such respect for how you have handled such a heartbreaking turn of events. There are no words which will soothe you, comfort you or wash away the emotions you are left to wade through so I will simply close with I am Praying for you all. I Love You.
Thank you my dear and lovely Kesia. Who would I be without people like you bolstering me on life’s journey?
Thankyou for writing this Luschka it’s is a beautifully touching account of love x x x
Thank you Wendy xx
@Luschkavo thinking of you, so sorry xx
Thank you for sharing this.
I am so grateful that I have been able to xx