My mum died on Sunday morning at St. Luke's Hospice in Plymouth. It was sudden and unexpected although in hindsight I think my mum knew it was coming. On the Saturday she was very tired and confused: during the later parts of the afternoon she woke up now and again and would ask me about things she'd imagined, I would reassure her and she would happily go back to sleep. At one point she took my face in her hands, gave me the biggest and most beautiful smile and said, "I love you". It is a memory I will treasure for the rest of my life. I know that even though she was confused and didn't really understand what was going on by that time, in that brief moment she was my mum as I always knew her. She knew what was going to happen.
My partner and I left her sleeping, not wanting to wake her up to say goodbye. The next morning as I was preparing to go back I got the call telling me that she had passed away. I miss her terribly and yet I feel glad that she did things her way and was strong right to the end. Where other people may linger in this world, gradually fading away, mum left quickly during a time when I wasn't around. Of course, as her daughter and her carer, I wanted to be there when it happened but she wouldn't have any of that. She had to be in control and she was determined not to put me through that. She had never liked allowing me to take care of her: as my mum, she felt it was her place to look after me. It was only begrudgingly that she would allow me to take over her responsibilities but when I did, she never hesitated to let me know how much she appreciated it.
I am grateful to the staff at St. Luke's for ensuring that my mum was allowed to die with dignity in a way that was appropriate for her. She was surrounded by the most gentle, caring and compassionate people who I felt genuinely liked her and wanted the best for her. Mum had always been terrified that she would die the way she had seen her dad die. I am so glad that did not happen. So glad she did not have to go back to the hospital she hated.
Even now that she is no longer here, my mum is helping us. She had planned and paid for her own funeral years ago using the money we got from her compensation claim. She has appointed two of her oldest friends as executors in her will, people who she knew would only have our best interests at heart. I don't think I would be able cope with any of this if it wasn't for our friend Wendy. I don't know how I will ever be able to thank her for all she is doing at a time when I know she is hurting from the loss of a dear friend.
People have been asking me which charities they can donate to in her memory, so I am listing them here along with the reasons why I have chosen them.
- St Luke's Hospice - They provided us with a nebuliser for mum to use at home and medication to help control her pain as well as the place where she spent her final days. I know she felt they were more of a help to her than her GP. Mum was always unhappy about being admitted to hospital but I never heard her complain about the hospice. Further down on this blog she spoke a little about how nice it was out there and how wonderful the staff were, and I am in total agreement. At one point when we'd had a bad day, one of the nurses popped in to her room later just to give her a hug. That's the sort of people they are. Just lovely.
I will still be doing the midnight walk in her memory and if you would like to sponsor me, I know it would make her proud.
- Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund and June Hancock Mesothelioma Research Fund - Raising awareness about mesothelioma and the dangers of asbestos are things my mum believed in passionately. She never wanted anyone else to suffer with the disease like she did and I know she would still love for effective treatment to be found, even now that it can't help her.
- Jeremiah's Journey - They provided, and are continuing to provide counseling and support for Kieran. I feel this is a charity that may get forgotten amongst the others but I know my mum felt strongly about it because she bought raffle tickets for something she really didn't want to win because the proceeds were going here. Losing a loved one is hard at the best of times, but particularly hard on children who have to grow up and face a future without the people who matter most.
- Macmillan Cancer Relief - They helped us financially with grants for a break away from home, and I seem to remember they paid for one of our kitchen appliances as well. Right now, they are providing me with counseling and a grant to help pay for all the costs I incurred traveling out to the hospice as it is a long way from our home and my mum was the only driver. Helping people now, even if it's just to make their shortened lives a little easier, was something that was very important to my mum.
I think this will be the last entry on this blog. It was her space, not mine. I will be keeping it up indefinitely to preserve her memories and so that people may learn from her journey but I cannot step into her shoes. At a later date, I may go back and categorise things for easier reference but this is something I need to think on in my own time.
Finally, and this is not aimed at any one person in particular, I would like to ask everyone to please remember that although Debbie was a very vocal campaigner for asbestos awareness and loved by many people, she was first and foremost our mum. We have difficult decisions to make and we need to be given the time and space to come to terms with our loss.
Although we know that everybody means well, we are being bombarded with messages, calls and questions, many of which are not related to the painful issues we are trying to cope with right now. We are finding this overwhelming and I know that if she were here my mum would want to protect us and ask you to please, please respect our boundaries. It would hurt her greatly to know that her children were suffering because of the work she did and the name she made for herself.
Please do not assume that you know what my mum would have wanted, however close you may have felt you were. You are perfectly entitled and encouraged to grieve in your own way but please do not force this onto others, especially ourselves.
If you would like to do anything outside of your own personal 'space', we respectfully ask that you request our (myself, Richard and Kieran) permission first and if you feel like it is not important enough to bother us with at this time, then it must surely not be important enough that you must do it right away. We may very well have our own plans for many things and we would be saddened to have them taken away from us before we have even registered her passing.
If any of us need help, we will ask for it. When we have made arrangements for mum's service, you will be informed. We do not wish to speak to any media. Again, I want to stress that this is not aimed at anyone in particular and I hope it doesn't offend.
Thank you to everyone who supported our mum during her life. She appreciated your friendship and cared deeply about you all. I think she would like me to tell you to continue your fights and live your lives to the full.
Siobhan, Richard and Kieran