It was a year ago today that my mum died. She was a really great person and I miss her. She had a really great attitude to life and always told me to “spend your money on travelling, having new experiences”, closely followed by a lot of safety advice, usually about talking to strange men. I don’t think that strange men were a big issue in mum’s life, and truthfully they haven’t been too much of an issue in mine.
Mum loved to travel and she and dad did a lot, they loved it. When my sister and I went through all of the personal items as we cleared their home we came across albums upon albums of their trips. There were usually of dad standing, smiling, with a palm tree coming out of his head, or of dad smiling in front of an iconic building. They had some wonderful trips and I know mum and dad would thoroughly approve of my decision to do some traveling this year.
I often find myself wanting to tell them about something I have seen then remembering that they are not on the end of a phone or able to look forward to this blog anymore.
I was having trouble sleeping last night and so I was listening to BBC iPlayer, specifically to Joan Bakewell reading her recollections of her life and her topics about ageing. In one of the episodes she talks about an aunt who wanted to leave her body to ‘medical science’ and then she outline the process that was necessary to undertake before you die. This made me think of the frantic running around to try to make mum’s wish to do the same happen.
Mum had Parkinson’s disease and when we used to chat about health matters (mum was a keen amateur MD) she mentioned to me a few times that she wanted her brain to go to the Parkinson’s society. I assumed that she and dad had sorted this out. Mum had expressed this wish in her funeral plan and I think had assumed that this was enough.
Sadly she hadn’t done was sort out the paperwork and we didn’t realise this until the doctor told us she didn’t have long to live. He told us mum only had a few days, possibly only hours (he had clearly underestimated mum’s grip on life, but that is by the by. She lived another two weeks after his pronouncement). But we didn’t know of this so I contacted the Parkinson’s society in a bit of a panic, no record of Patricia Alexandra Boggiss. “Try the other society,” the helpful lady said. No record of mum there either.
Long story short if you want to do this yourself you need to make a plan. Sandra and I had a few hours of Joe Orton type of dark comedic activity interspersed with tears and mildly hysterical laughter. It did get sorted and we have a letter from the Parkinson’s society to tell us that they were able to use her brain and to thank her and us for the donation. This was a typically mum experience. Generous, thoughtful and pragmatic with lots of funny moments that make for a good story. I don’t know what I would have done during those two weeks without my sister going through it with me, the shared lifetime and being able to share the associated tasks (and there are a lot of them) with someone who just ‘understands’ and who won’t mind whether you laugh or cry is wonderful.
My most poignant memory of last year is of the funeral directors disappearing with mum on their trolley into the early hours of the morning, the day just starting, still dark, a bit foggy and very cold. Kelly, mum’s great niece, Kim, mum’s carer and my sister suddenly left with an empty house. It’s true that when someone dies (this happened with dad as well) that the moment they die something just changes instantly, their body remains but their essence just vanishes.
The really sad trolley scene was preceded by two lovely guys from the funeral directors having to let us know that would need to stand mum up in the lift to get her out of the building, I was worried “don’t worry love, your mum is light as a feather, unlike most people we have to get into a lift”. More darkly comedic moments.
Mum would definitely have laughed and if she could have would have been instructing them not to damage their backs, to mind the paintwork and so on. It was the first time she had been able to stand for many years, and she had two burly blokes either side. Very mum.
She used to tell me “don’t cry after I die, I have had a really great life, don’t be sad for me. That’s just life.” Well mum I do cry but you are right, life does go on and you are sadly missed. I will think of you both when I am in Australia, but mum I can’t promise I won’t talk to ‘strange men’ but I do promise to take care.