“Well, Mum, you’ve set us a wonderful example of how to face life with a cheerful spirit, and of how to treat people of all sorts,” said I as my Canadian sister Claire and I waved goodbye to Mum. “We’re proud to be your son and daughter.” Claire had used different words but I know she felt similarly, as did our London sister Amanda.
Out we stepped from Ponteland Manor Care Home into the mellow October afternoon. We reflected on the simple, memorable folk music recital, played on recorders and viola, that we’d given the previous evening. We remembered the grateful faces of the residents in the packed lounge, including that of our proud mum.
If you were one of my faithful blog readers last year, I’m sorry I fell silent. You may remember ‘The Shadow of Death’, posted on 27th May, in which I shared about Mum’s 11 tormented days in hospital prior to going into residential care. The truth is that 2021 was one of the most exhausting years I’ve known. Mum didn’t adapt easily to Care Home life, a transition that coincided with her loss of mobility. Instead of her trusty tripod trolley, she had to be pushed in a wheelchair. She had to be hoisted into bed.
To encourage Mum, I wrote the three ‘Gladys’ stories, about an old lady like Mum who, despite her frailty, still managed to brighten up others’ lives. Mum made it clear that she couldn’t see herself being Gladys. She complained that her whole life revolved around her four scheduled toiletting experiences. She told us the food was unappetising, the carers uncaring, and the other residents incapable of conversation. Really? Whenever we thought her concerns were justified, we took them up with the staff, who tried their best to help.
Amanda’s masterstroke was to purchase an Aura digital photoframe. She loaded lots of family photos and gave access to other family members so we could enter more of them. She and I cleared out Mum’s house which we then sold (providing material for several future blogposts…). Every drawer in the house was full of colour photos, but in a battered old suitcase in the attic we found a treasure trove of ancient prints. In another cupboard there were slides of all our family holidays…Amanda got to work, and imagine Mum’s surprise when these appeared on the frame in her room!
I must pay a huge tribute to Mum’s village neighbours and friends, who faithfully visited her in the Care Home. They were always full of practical suggestions as to how to make her life happier. They were able to laugh with her in a way we couldn’t.
Mum never reached the point of being ‘happy’ in the home, but in time she began to accept it. It helped that the nursing staff learnt to balance her medicines to improve her physical comfort. Gradually she began to join in with the home’s activities. Whilst she didn’t exactly ‘make friends’, she began to talk to the other residents, whom we too were able to engage with. My wife Jane and I found visiting less of an ordeal. And the staff became very fond of her, for example the Filippino man whom she taught to say, “I’m closing the curtains” in French!
I always asked God for some way to encourage Mum’s soul. Some days it was by sharing an inspiring story I’d read, about overcoming difficulties. Other times it was a few Bible verses, such as Romans 8 where we read that ‘nothing can separate us from the love of God’. I tried to ask Paul the local vicar to pay her a visit, but had to leave a message as he was away on sabbatical.
Mum’s sister visited her shortly after Claire had left. The same week, Mum caught an infection and developed breathing difficulties. Meanwhile Rev. Paul had seen my message and ‘felt a nudge’ to visit on Thursday morning. He prayed with her, anointed her with oil, and answered some of her questions about Heaven. On Friday morning she was told she needed oxygen treatment. Knowing the likely consequence, she declined. That weekend, with myself and Amanda at her bedside, she said her final goodbyes to her family on a video call. We listened to ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’ and similar hymns.
The following Tuesday, Beryl Mary Hearson, aged 99, slipped peacefully from this world. She had run her race and finished it well.
4 thoughts on “The End of the Day”
Thank y ou John. It is a loving account on how to tackle inevitable end
of life. A lot is up to ourselves when the time comes but a loving hand
along the way helps us over the difficult bits!
What an honest and moving tribute to your Mum.
Sorry to hear about your loss, John. My grandma died same time last year ages 99.5! We had really hoped she would get to 100 but she was ready to meet Jesus 🙌🏻☺️
The photo frame was a lovely idea. Maybe all people should have one in their room.
Thank you, Joy, and in return, I’m sorry for your own loss. It’s wonderful that your grandma died ready and waiting to meet Jesus, nice though it would have been to receive that telegram!