In the UK, it is Mothers’ Day. My wife has spent the day going all the way over to Devon to see her mum. I don’t really talk about my mum much, so I thought I’d talk about her death, at least.
In 2012, my mum went into hospital (Liverpool) for a biopsy. She’d told me that she was going into hospital, she hadn’t told me the detail but she had told me she’d be back out in a week, so I assumed nothing special. The first I knew that all wasn’t well was when I couldn’t contact her afterwards. She’d caught some kind of infection during the biopsy, and had been quite poorly.
Either I found her, or she found me, I can’t remember which, but I remember driving up to Liverpool and back the weekend before she died. She was obviously weak, but the same person. I took my daughter up with me and they were made up to see each other.
I got a phone call on the Monday, the day after my visit. Mum had had a bleed on her heart, and had had a heart attack in hospital. If you’re going to have a heart attack then a hospital is probably the best place to have one, except that before resuscitation could begin, they had to drain the area. There was some delay, therefore, in resuscitating her. When I went back up to Liverpool on the Tuesday, mum was hooked up to a life support machine.
We stayed up there for the week. Me, my wife and my daughter. During the week nothing changed with my mum, I spoke to various doctors who left me in no doubt how grave the situation was. In that week, everybody who meant something had come to visit. I can’t remember who proposed turning life support off, but once everybody had seen her, I agreed. On the Friday evening, we switched the support off and mum was on her own. She lasted forty minutes before she died – my wife and I were with her, as was her brother. My daughter was only 12 at the time, seeing grandma in Intensive Care…. well, even that is something a 12-year-old shouldn’t see. Funnily enough, my mum was far closer in life to her sister than to her brother, but her sister – my auntie – was going through her own turmoil at that time, as her mum (my grandma) was also in hospital. It was 15 March, 2012.
My mum’s death hit my daughter hard. My wife and I saw this event as the start of my daughter going off the rails. Looking back, daughter had problems before then, but she was very close to Grandma and it had a big effect. It didn’t hit me quite so hard, my mum was stupid over my daughter, and I did what I could to foster that, but I’d long since grown apart from my mum. It’s ironic really because I enjoyed a different, more affluent life than she did, and yet it is largely thanks to her pushing me, especially in the early days. I know she was very proud of me – just as we all want our kids to have it easier than we did, to take for granted those things that we had to work for, she was no different.
Anyway, mum was only 68 when she died, quite young these days. I did think of pushing for more details about her death – in particular, was this bleed caused by not performing the biopsy properly? I didn’t take it forward because there was a fair amount of grey area, plus the NHS tends to close ranks around its own – something I now believe even more firmly.
The results of the autopsy were the clincher. They found quite advanced cancers, even spread to near her heart, so even if my mum had have survived, she’d have faced hard labour. She had told me about her wish not to be resuscitated long ago, and that goes along with my thoughts that there comes a time when we don’t mind death. Not least, we see people around us living with all sorts of ailments, and we don’t want that for ourselves. In any case I’ve since seen on the stroke ward people who have survived their initial stroke, but who just lie in their beds as shells and no longer have any interest in living. So in some ways it was better for mum that she went relatively quickly, having enjoyed a relatively healthy life, certainly going before she was elderly and infirm.