On 2nd December 2008 my life changed forever – my mum lost her five year battle to cancer and left this world. For her final three weeks of life she was cared for by the amazing staff at Florence Nightingale Hospice.
I was on holiday when I received a phone call from Dad saying that they had made a decision for Mum to go into FNH to get her medicines under control. Thankfully we made the decision to cut our holiday short and when we arrived home she was still able to talk to me, see photos of our holiday and, most importantly, see her grandson Ewan, although by that time she was too weak to hold him which I knew broke her heart.
Over the next three weeks her health deteriorated at a pace none of us expected. The staff cared for Mum like she was their friend and sat with her day and night when our family were unable to be with her. Throughout her stay, every member of staff treated Mum with respect and ensured that she retained her dignity until the day she passed away. I was always greeted with a smile and the staff would happily take Ewan from me so I was able to have some quality time with Mum without having to juggle a needy 6-month old baby at the same time. When she was nearing her final days, the staff were there to answer questions, sit with us and, most importantly, give me a shoulder to sob on. Nothing was too much trouble.
Mum told me that late one night she was listening on her headphones to a CD that Dad had made her of him singing and playing her favourite songs on his guitar. She had started crying and one of the nurses looked into her room, saw she was upset and came and sat with her, holding her hand while she continued to listen to the music and fell asleep.
When she went into a paranoid state days before she passed away, she was suspicious of the staff and made accusations about their actions. They reassured us that this was a common phase of the dying process and never once reacted or changed their behaviour towards Mum. They spent a lot of time talking to us about what to expect from Mum in her final days. On Saturday 29th November we were told that she was likely to die that day. My brother, Dad and I sat at her bedside during the day waiting for that final breath, scared about what it would be like but not wanting her to be alone. At night, Dad slept in a chair by her bed.
On the Monday evening Mum was still alive and I was by her side. One of the nurses came and sat with me and told me that there was probably a reason that Mum was not giving up her fight. She asked me to talk to her and reassure her that we would all be OK and “give her permission to die”. I will never forget those words and the following conversation that I had with Mum on my own, they were the hardest words that I have ever spoken. Telling her to give up her fight, telling her that we’d look after Dad and that it was OK for her to leave us. The following morning, I received the phone call from Dad to say that she had died that morning. Thankfully one of the nurses was in the room with Dad supporting him as she took her final breath.
Iain, Ewan and I rushed over to the Hospice to see her – I never thought I would want to see a dead person but there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to see her at peace. The Hospice staff continued to support us, never once rushing us and allowing us all day to spend with her before she was moved into their resting room. At that time, we each had time to go and say a final goodbye to her in a lovely peaceful room.
I cannot describe how amazing the staff at the Hospice are and I held a fundraising event on what would have been Mum’s 69th birthday to raise as much money for them as possible so they are able to support families like ours when their loved ones are staying at the Hospice.