My writings have taken a looong sabbatical. My life grew in unexpected ways. It is no longer just about me anymore. I got married and became a full time Step-parent overnight, I know, crazy, ha! I think life was just getting a little too easy, I needed some big challenges to shake things up and that is precisely what I got. I graduated in Spiritual Psychology and now I’m getting my PHD in LIFE. But those are not solely my stories, so I have been quiet, wondering on what to share and what not to share, which left me sharing nothing.
My enquiry and interest in death and grieving continues. This year I have started training to become a Death Midwife, with Sacred Crossings and I am now a hospice volunteer with Roze Room in Los Angeles.
It has made me think a lot about my Mothers death and reflect on what an amazingly good death she had.
But my grieving for her was somewhat complex, because at 21 years old, I did not have much perspective on my childhood. So since then, I have had to unravel and heal trauma which my Mother attributed to, and often in those times when I was angry with her, this complicated my grief and is perhaps why I have not written about her, until now.
It is no coincidence, that being in a maternal role this past year, has helped me heal some of this past, it certainly bought about more grieving. This year I also trained as a Kundalini Yoga Teacher which peeled back more layers of grief, especially related to my Mother and made me take a deep look at my own path and if I wanted to be a Mother. Getting a puppy seems like the perfect substitute! It transpires that the dog stories of my life are being interwoven in this grief and healing.
Now, back to my Mothers death story…
I was fortunate to have a very open and loving relationship with my Mother. A couple of months before she died, we were at our beach house, it was Easter, we lay together in her bed Mum and she asked me, “Do you think a quick and sudden death without suffering or warning like your Father (he died of a Heart Attack at the age of 42) is better or a slow death with a decline?” I admitted a slow death, because despite all the hospital visits and the not so pretty changes, at least we had time to talk and to prepare ourselves. She agreed.
But I honestly thought God could not be that unfair and take my only parent left at the age of 21. So, for a while I was in denial that such a thing could happen, I thought her strong faith and all our prayers would bring a miracle of healing.
But they did not.
My Mother, a Born Again Christian, had a strong faith and she whole heartedly believed she was going to Heaven and would be reunited with my Father and her parents. She had friends coming regularly to the house to pray, but my Mother was tired, she was tired of life.
Most likely unexpressed and unprocessed grief had made her weary. She was ready to leave this lifetime.
She wanted to die at home, so my eldest sister Lisa, moved back to be her nurse. When her mobility became compromised, we researched ‘Stannah’ stair lifts, the cost made her eyes water. My Mother was never one to waste money and always wanted to make good investments. She knew the stair lift would not get sufficient use. We never got it.
Sometimes I felt upset that she did not want to leave her bedroom and enjoy every room in our house and all the beautiful things she had collected and curated over the years. Throughout my Mother’s life she barely sat down, let alone watched TV, but when Cancer called her to rest, she invested in a huge Bang & Olufsen TV, I remember it was the first year of Pop Idol and season 3 of Big Brother.
My Mother embraced being bed bound. Finally she had permission to rest, she had no choice. I loved the way she embraced it by getting herself a top of the range TV!
I remember writing in my diary, ‘how can we just sit back and let her die? Isn’t there more we should be doing to keep her alive?’ I look back and see how my sisters and I had this sense of respect and knowing to allow her to have her own process, without grasping on to her life. This too contributed to a good death.
In my grieving years I have at times wrestled with her ease of letting go and dying and at times felt angry that she didn’t put up more of a fight, so she had longer to be with me. I felt angry with God for letting it happen.
Now I have come full circle, and I can see how her dying experience was so gracious and courageous and how we too reciprocated that in the way we supported her.
I see now how she gave me a beautiful gift to accept death, to welcome it and surrender to it.
Lisa had called me at University and told me I needed to come home, she knew that her passing was imminent. The day she died, my two sisters, Lisa, Polly and I were all together. Mummy was now receiving morphine to handle the pain. I went into her room, excited to see her and talk to her about my boyfriend, I think we had just declared our feelings of love for one another, but her response was other worldly. She was high from the morphine; I can still feel that sense of disappointment that she could not respond to me. She was no longer herself.
The next morning, Polly had gone out to see a friend. It was around midday, I was downstairs in the hallway and I heard the Grandfather clock chiming, I don’t remember the exact time. I heard my Mothers breath began to rattle, I ran up the stairs and held her hand, and that’s when her breathing stopped and she left quickly, without struggle. It wasn’t scary to witness her death. I called for Lisa who was downstairs with the nurse and they came to join me, and the nurse confirmed her death.
Polly was devastated that she had not been there. I don’t think this was a coincidence, Polly’s absence made it easier for my Mum to cross over, because Polly was the most attached to our Mother.
Then we started to call family and friends and we invited them over to say goodbye to her body, she was dressed in her light pink silk dressing gown and her turban which we had become so accustomed to. I quite wish I had a photo of her, which of course if it were now, I would take a quick snap on my iPhone.
Many people came over, talked with her, gave us their condolences. I remember one family member being so happy and saying how she was in a better place now. Which, ultimately, I do believe that to be the truth, but those words did not feel helpful in that moment.
Finally, when everyone left, my sisters and I joined her body on the bed and hugged her and kissed her. We were crying and crying. Then we heard a scratching at the door, and it was Percy, our little Jack Russel who adored our Mum. He ran in and jumped on the bed with us and he had a little tear running down his face. He was so close to our Mother and he too was grieving.
Finally, when the funeral home came to take her body, Polly was suffering most with the separation, she needed more time.
If I knew what I know now, we could have had more time with her body, we could have kept her home for up to 3 days. We didn’t know that back then, but I am grateful that intuitively we knew to keep her body at home, to invite friends and family and to hug her dead body and not be afraid of it. It was so natural which seems unfathomable if you haven’t experienced it before.
And that is why I am inspired to share this story and my next post will be on the amazing work of Sacred Crossings at the Death Midwifery.
Sat Nam 🙏