She’s Dying – Part 4

The last part of this series of posts detailing Mum’s death – this may be slightly graphic for some readers.

At one point in the morning, Mum started dribbling so I grabbed a tissue and went to wipe her face. Now, I had worked with children for 7 years at this point (nearly nine today), I have dealt with my fair share of gross bodily fluids. However, there is nothing on earth that I think could have prepared me for the amount of foul-smelling green and brown phlegm like fluid which secreted from my mother’s mouth at that moment. The thought of it still makes my stomach turn. Once the body starts to deteriorate and signs of death starts to creep in, it is shocking how different your loved one will look. It is painful to see your favourite person wither away from themselves.

The six of us (me, Sam, brother and girlfriend, Nan, and Mum’s partner) took it in turns to spend time with Mum. My brother and I found some old photos and talked about them with each other to Mum, so that she could hear our voices. We bummed around the house, until it became cabin fever-esque. Sam, my brother and his girlfriend and I went for a walk. Sam and I arrived home about 1:30pm. Mum was still in the same position. Her face had relaxed ever so slightly, probably due to the hella good hit of morphine she’d had. Her breathing was becoming shorter and faster, as if she was trying to catch it. Her body was becoming colder, regardless of being in pyjamas and underneath two duvets. I felt empty.

There’s a strange moment when a loved one is dying from a terminal illness. That moment is when your feelings around their death go from “Oh god I don’t want them to die, why isn’t there anything that can stop this?!” and they change to “I want them to die, I want them to be out of this undignified and unfair situation. I want their pain to stop.” The sheer torment that one goes through watching somebody die starts to manifest itself as selfishness. I didn’t want to spend time at home watching her die, I wanted home to be a nice place to live again. I didn’t want the stress of being sure that the right medicines were taken at the right time, I didn’t want the responsibility of organising her funeral. I wanted my lovely Mum back to how she was circa November 2016. No one had ever told me that I might get these feelings, but surely I can’t be the first person to have felt them.

At about 2:45pm, my Nan shouted for me frantically and told me to get my brother and his girlfriend back. Mum was dying in that moment. They started to walk back home immediately, but Sam offered to go and get them in his car. He managed to get them in time, and my brother was in the room for Mum’s last breath (Sam has since told me that in that moment he drove at 70mph down the heavily snowy residential streets of my town).

Mum passed away at 3pm, with all six of us in the room. I had been holding her hand here and there, Nan had been sat beside her, but when Mum was taking her last breaths, Nan couldn’t be next to her. She stood up and turned away. Mum’s partner held her other hand, and when my brother got back, I got out of the way so that he could cuddle her as she was taking her last breath. Her death was scary. Of course it was upsetting, but another thing that people don’t tell you is just how helpless and uncertain you will feel when it is happening. I didn’t know what to do, who to contact or tell, or how to act. The way that death is depicted in the media, TV and films is so far from the truth, it’s almost insulting. Mum wasn’t propped up perfectly in bed. She was lying flat, defeated, with the life sucked from her body.

I will never be able to forget the image of Mum’s dead face.

(So here’s a photo of her lovely smiling face)
Susan Szumowski, 02.08.1963 – 03.03.2018

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