Having a small funeral home in our local area I deal with families and loved ones every day. Why was this day different? It was our family that was directly impacted by the death of a loved one. My mum. My mum witnessed my first breath as I witnessed her last. We were on the veranda of our local palliative care unit, listening to the birds, the sun was on her face, and the trees were whispering their call.
We had many conversations in the previous two years about her end of life wishes. Mum had an advanced care directive in place so we were aware of her choices, her wishes for her funeral, and were able to inform doctors and nurses of these wishes. We sat with her during her final two weeks for many hours.
In the first week whilst she was in hospital she told the doctors and our family she wanted to stop treatment, no longer did she wish to breathe through the high flow oxygen, or be filled with a torrent of drugs, she was ready to meet her maker. We all respected her wishes, so the oxygen was turned down, the drugs turned off. It was with a tear filled heart our family went home, went to bed with an ear our for “that phone call”. Imagine our surprise as we trooped to the hospital the next morning to see her in true Bev fashion sitting up in bed, eating her porridge, a small smile on her face, telling the young male nurse and us, that she had changed her mind, she wasn’t ready to meet her maker. The look on that young nurses face will stay with me forever.
I feel very blessed to have been able to pick mum up from the hospital to take her to our holding facilities. We wrote and planned her funeral, washed her, dressed her and looked after her. We chose a natural ecofriendly coffin that was woven as per her wishes. Her funeral was attended by her extended family, her friends, her community. My mum was known for her hats, she had to wear them whilst outside due to having Lupus. She had a collection that would rival Jackie Kennedy’s Pillbox hats. Her hats sat centre stage during her funeral and we invited everyone to take one home. I certainly didn’t want to see them sitting in the op shop. Everyone chose a hat and proudly wore it, whilst sharing scones, a cup of tea and the sharing of stories. The local CWA bought all sorts of delicious food.
The first weeks after her death I made myself very busy. There was her granny flat to clear out, her clothes, her abundance of wools, tapestries, cookware, paperwork and the list goes on. I had to wonder how she could fit so much in her little granny flat. She left behind her little dog Mollie, who was bereft. We washed the walls, cleaned her cupboards, her place was cleaner than mine. She had bright yellow walls in her granny flat which in our wisdom we decided to tone down to a soft pink. I rang the painter and asked her to come around for a quote….She diligently went around, took eyeball measurements, and emailed the quote later that same afternoon, along with a start date that she was available. It was a very reasonable quote. I fell apart. There was something so final in changing the colour of my mums walls that I had looked at everyday for the past 16 years. It felt like I was colouring over my mother, brushing her out. Getting rid of the last vestiges of who she was. Grief is a funny thing, it charges in when you least expect it. I spent the days crying and trying to understand how something so simple as painting the walls could bring forth so much sadness, loss and grief. For now, mums walls will stay bright yellow.