On the twenty-eighth of October I began a ten-day trip south with my youngest daughter and when I have the time to sort through and edit almost five-hundred photos I took, I will share a few photos here.
Less than two weeks after returning home I headed north, this time to attend the wedding of my eldest daughter who married her long-time boyfriend in a gorgeous beach ceremony.
After returning home from the wedding, and with just enough time to complete and submit a university assignment and catch up on some work, I received news that I had been dreading – my brother-in-law, who had been ill for some years, had taken a turn for the worse. I had to be with my sister.
My big sister means the world to me and I have often cursed the geographic distance between us. Knowing that my brother-in-law, a man I have known all of my life, had just days, maybe even hours to live, had me packing my bags and heading south again.
On Friday night, after a six-hour drive, I arrive just in time to join my family at the hospital. We cried, hugged one another, laughed as we remembered the good times, and shed tears over the loss of a beloved family member.
The funeral is Friday and I will stay with my sister until after we say our final goodbyes to her husband. She has never lived alone before and the days and months ahead will be a time when she will have to make adjustments to the new life which has been forced upon her. Thankfully, she will not have to face the future completely alone – a beautiful girl with unruly curls and floppy ears will keep her company.
“The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?” – Edgar Allan Poe
Change is inevitable, but for the last month of the year I am hoping for a calm, peaceful time at home. The twenty-eighth October to the twenty-eighth of November this year has been a memorable month, for many reasons.
For those of you who haven’t heard what I’ve been up to this year, there is a logical explanation as to why I haven’t added any new posts to In My World for nearly three months.
Late last year I began an online course through the University of Tasmania, a Diploma of Family History, which whetted my appetite for writing to such an extent that I searched university websites for something – anything – where I could formally learn more about the art of writing.
As it turns out, a local university offers an online Associate Degree in Creative Writing, just what I wanted, but there was a catch – I had to have completed high school before they would allow me to enrol, which I hadn’t done. But an alternative to returning to high school was offered, a short course which, if I passed, would guarantee my enrollment in the associate degree.
I couldn’t sign up quick enough! And after having successfully completed the preliminary course by June, with three distinctions and one high distinction, I am now tackling my third unit in the associate degree.
An assignment is due tomorrow, which needs my immediate attention, but isn’t it ridiculous not to have a regular writing routine when studying writing? I don’t know how successful I will be in finding time to add more regular posts to my blog, and I can’t make promises to regularly visit my friends’ blogs either, but I can try.
Only time will tell if I can succeed in arranging my time management skills to this extent. Hopefully, I can.
It was on this day, a Monday morning twenty-three years ago, that I said goodbye to my mother. I could have said she died, or that she went to heaven, but I don’t feel comfortable with either of those terms, as she is still with me today.
After so many years, some of the details have escaped my mind – was she in hospital at the end for one week, or was it two? How many days did my eldest sister and father sit at her bedside, from morning until night, awaiting the inevitable, wanting to be with her when she took her last breath? Why did the two of them ask me to try not to cry in front of her, as I watched her slip away?
So many years have passed and a million new memories have been made, yet I remember the significant details of this particular morning, twenty-three years ago, as if it happened only yesterday.
My youngest child was nine months old. At 9:00am, I dropped my two older children off at school and pre-school. I left home that morning planning to head home immediately, do a few chores and visit mum in the afternoon. But The Universe (or whatever the force was) had other plans for me. I found myself turning off the main road and heading to the hospital to see mum first.
Why did I make that choice? To this day I still have no idea. But as it turned out, that impulsive decision would lead to one of the most significant and memorable times in my lifetime.
My baby and I entered an empty room, all but for my mother laying silently in the single, metal hospital bed. Mum liked a soft mattress and I often lamented the board-like shelves they liked to call ‘beds’ in this place and wished my mother could beat this demon that kept her imprisoned in the stark cell. I wanted to see her return home to her pretty purple and gold bedroom, the one she had taken such care to decorate. But that wasn’t to be.
I felt so at ease sitting beside mum’s bed. She had become comatose sometime during the weekend yet I felt sure she knew I was there. She could hear me, I knew it, so I spoke to her. I told her that my baby and I were visiting her, that my father and sister hadn’t arrived yet, that we were alone. I looked at her hands, the right hand holding the left, and took a mental photograph of her hands, to hold within my heart forever. I never, ever wanted to forget my mother’s healing hands, her creative hands, the hands given to her to carry out deeds of kindness during her time on this earth.
I touched mum’s snowy white hair. It felt so soft, even during her time of illness. It was so fine, so beautiful…I told mum that I wanted to remember every detail of how she looked, so that when she had gone, I could see her any time I wanted to in my mind’s eye.
About half an hour had passed, yet my father and sister still hadn’t arrived at the hospital. I expected them to bustle in at any moment, interrupting my visit with mum. They arrived early every day. Something held them up that day and I was glad for the time I could spend alone with mum.
After a while, it occurred to me that mum may have slipped away. Her chest wasn’t moving, but when I touched her face I felt the warmth of the skin on her delicate, fair face, and I admired the beautiful English complexion that I had inherited from her. And when I looked closely, I saw a pulse beating in her neck. She was still alive.
During my childhood, my mother had visited various sooth-sayers. She needed to know what the future held and constantly sought guidance. Mum’s mother had died when mum was only ten and mum told me that she always felt the spirit of her mother beside her, guiding her, protecting her. As her daughter, I had no doubt whatsoever that my mother was the wisest person in the world. She knew the answers to every question imaginable and if she lacked the definitive answer, she had an opinion. Mum’s wisdom, to me, expanded the bounds of earthly comprehension, yet she doubted her abilities. To reassure both myself and my mother during that last visit, I told her she could continue to contact me, that if she ever wanted to speak to me all she need do was send me a sign, I would be waiting and know it was her, and I would visit someone clairvoyant so she could pass messages onto me.
I looked around the private hospital room at the white walls, trying to see what it was that my mother had seen before slipping into a coma. During previous visits, as I sat beside her watching her sleep, her eyes would suddenly spring wide open, yet she didn’t seem to see me there. She would look around the room at something only she could see. One day I asked her what she saw when she looked around the room and she told me they were closing the door soon. I looked at the bulky, grey sliding door and asked her why they would bother closing it and she shook her head no, repeating, they are closing the door soon.
The resident psychologist had visited my mother’s room a few times while I was at the hospital and after mum speaking so adamantly about the door closing, I found the psychologist and asked her if she could decipher the meaning of what mum said. I told her I didn’t think mum meant the physical door of the room. The psychologist told me she had heard the same thing said many times before by patients who only had a few days left to live. She assured me that there was more going on around us than we could see and that the years in her profession had provided more questions than answers. I asked her if she thought that mum’s ‘door’ was the door to heaven. She didn’t know that it was the door to heaven as such, but strongly believed it to be a door to another place, a place that we couldn’t go to.
Being around my mother during the last weeks of her time on earth, watching her changing actions and hearing her cryptic words taught me lessons she didn’t realise she was giving me. I had always suspected there was more happening around us than what we could see with our eyes, but twenty-three years ago I was still sceptical. Now, thanks to the lessons that my mother still gives me, I feel another dimension of life surrounding me. I know there is more to this world, more to human beings, than the physical aspect.
My mother seemed so alone and vulnerable, lying in that dreadful hospital bed and I knew that mum hated being alone. While I enjoyed (and still do, to this day) time spent alone with my own thoughts, mum was the opposite. She needed to be surrounded by people, otherwise she felt neglected and alone.
Before I left the hospital room on that final day, I said goodbye to my mother. Every time I left her prior to that day, I would tell her when I would return, saying to her ‘see you later’. I couldn’t let her go. This day, I knew I had to.
After buckling my baby girl back into her car seat that morning, after leaving my mother for what would be the last time, I switched on the car motor and the radio came on – playing ‘Mum’s Song’ – Eric Carmen’s ‘All By Myself’…
I’d only been home long enough to tidy up the breakfast dishes when my husband arrived home. He just looked at me, saying nothing. I asked him if she was gone, yet it was more of a statement than a question.
Minutes later, dad phoned me. He and my sister had arrived at the hospital just after I left, only to be met by a nurse…
He told me the nurse had seen me leave the room. Moments before leaving, I had seen the pulse beating in my mother’s neck. When the nurse walked in, just after I said goodbye to my mum, she was gone.
For twenty-three years I have waited to write mum’s story in its entirety, yet couldn’t. It’s difficult to write through tears and my heart couldn’t cope with the sadness. This year, I can write from the place of a beautiful memory. There are no tears, although if I heard Eric Carmen’s song at this very moment, I’m sure the tears would begin…
It’s not easy saying goodbye to your life-line. That’s how I felt on that Monday morning, twenty-three years ago today. I didn’t realise it then, but losing the physical presence of my mother was a gift…
For the next five years, up until dad decided to join mum on another August day, my father became a real person to me. Without my dominant, chatty mother around, we became close and I learned how much alike we were. He, like me, enjoyed his alone time, yet there were times when dad and I would sit and talk for hours. During a five-year period in time, I got to know my father. He told me his stories, from his point of view. Dad supported me, yet allowed me to fall. Mum had always been afraid to see me get hurt, protecting me to the nth degree. Through her love for her child, she unknowingly impeded my growth. Dad gave me my wings and set me free.
My mother has never left me. There is a golden thread that joins our souls, a thread which can never be broken for eternity. Mum knows now that she must allow me to grow. She gives me the freedom to handle things my way, whilst standing beside me every step of the way. She doesn’t need to have all of the answers for me any more – I can find my own truths, yet she often sends me messages. I never visited a clairvoyant, I don’t need to; I feel mum’s guidance when I need her.
I love my mother to the depths of the deepest ocean and to the heights and width of The Universe. I know she arranged the time I had alone with her that last morning, with the help of those in the room who I couldn’t see. When I said the word goodbye to her and after she knew I had left the room, they helped her to close the door behind me.
After the excitement of yesterday, or house is rather quiet today, which leads me to the question…will this be our last Silent Sunday for a while?
If it isn’t, I’m not complaining, no, not one little bit!
Yesterday, around lunchtime, my lovely daughter-in-law gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy, so, dear blogging friends, let me introduce you to my grandson –
Braxton Samuel Keevers
Here you see him getting to know his totally besotted father, my son, Adam. When Adam phoned to tell me that his son had arrived, he told me that Braxton’s birth was an incredible experience, he’d never felt that way before, he couldn’t explain it, to which I replied, “You don’t have to, remember, I gave birth to you!”
This precious little baby boy is loved so much! He is a precious little bundle of happiness and love, dreams fulfilled and promise for the future.
Adam, Mary and Braxton (who live at home with us) are heading home soon, to begin their lives together as a new family. They have memories to make and even more dreams to fulfill, hugs and kisses and love to give to their new little baby by the bucket-load!
I look forward to the clatter of noise, the chatter of voices and before too long, the patter of Braxton’s tiny feet as he runs around the house with the two dogs…
Yes, we have two dogs here now as well, Adam and Mary’s two year old girl, Forrest and my ten week old puppy, Bronte!
I’ll tell you all about Bronte next time I write. 🙂