Four years ago yesterday, at 3.08 am Pacific Time on the 10th of November 2012; I received a phone call from my little brother in the UK. I fumbled in the dark for my cell phone and answered. He said, “I think mum’s dead.” She had suffered a heart attack, and my brother found her at home on the couch in her living room.
Twenty hours after the phone call, four years ago today, I had made the trip from Vancouver Island, Canada, back to my hometown of Sheffield, UK, and I was at my mother’s bedside in the Northern General Hospital. She laid there unconscious and connected to various machines that made all kinds of beeps and clicks.
Four years ago tomorrow, I was holding her hand while she passed away. She was 62 and had retired only two years previously. The doctors said that there was nothing they could do. The amount of time she had been unconscious meant that she had been without oxygen for too long.
I felt that if there were just a sign, something, movement or recognition that people were there with her, then the doctors would have to do something, but it never happened. They checked on her regularly, and at one point I saw that her eyes were not bright and alive as they had been the last time I saw her, they were almost colorless, and I could tell that she had gone. I had to authorize the doctors to turn off the machines that were making her breathe and keeping her heart beating.
I have never felt as numb in my life, before or since. For years afterward, even to this day, I still wake up at 3.08 am, it used to be every night without fail, but now it is less frequent.
My brother and his girlfriend did everything they could to save our mum. Ultimately they kept her alive long enough to get the paramedics there so they could take over, but she had stopped breathing for too long. I often think what would have happened if I’d just been there, close at hand to help, could I have made a difference. I will always be proud of them for their efforts. I look up to my brother a lot; I am proud to call him my brother.
I still have transcripts of Skype conversations between my mum and I while I was working away, we checked in almost every week, sometimes more. The last time I saw my mum was in Canada when I got married. I am so happy that she got to meet my wife and her family, and was there to see us get married.
One of the last things she said to me was that she didn’t want me to worry and she would always be here for me. I don’t know if she knew that she was sick, but I do know that she didn’t want to spend any more time in hospital after beating cancer twice.
My brother and I spent a lot of time dealing with mum’s things; this is not a process I would wish on anyone, but it did help me see a different side of her. All my life I assumed that she was just my mum, I feel selfish that I never imagined that she wanted different things in her life, hopes, and dreams that didn’t involve being a wife and mother.
Seeing the things she kept and treasured helped me realize that no matter what, whether we think we had a difficult time growing up or maybe didn’t get what we needed, our parents are just people doing the best they can in the situation they are in with what they have. That is the best they could ever be.