Mum passed away at 3pm, on the morning of her death, we had been contacting close family and friends to alert them of the situation. Mum’s brother and my two cousins were hard to get hold of that day – but we eventually did get hold of them and they arrived to us around 4pm. Between Mum dying and them arriving, our family doctor had visited our house out of hours to declare the death and advise us of what to do next. The three of them arrived whilst my Nan was in the loo, and we couldn’t face telling them so we waited for Nan to come out of the toilet (it’s odd the details that you remember). She told them, everyone cried again. My uncle went upstairs and locked himself in the bathroom to give himself some time.
We all hugged. We all cried. The three of them had some time each with Mum, and then we called the undertakers – had to call the out of office team because people still die at the weekends just in case you were unsure. It took the undertakers another hour and a half to come to the house to collect Mum and take her away. In the time between my uncle and cousins arriving and Mum being taken away, everyone in the house gave themselves a little more time with Mum. Sam and my brother told me they took Ian (our lovely pussycat) into the room to show her Mum’s body. They thought as you’re meant to do it with pets when another pet passes away so that they understand what’s happened – they thought they’d employ the same technique. Ian sniffed at Mum and sat on her belly but she didn’t get comfortable – she hovered and padded around but wouldn’t let herself be peaceful. I think she understood that Mum’s body wasn’t the same anymore.
I didn’t go into that room after Mum had died. I couldn’t make myself be comfortable in there, I felt almost disrespectful to put Mum in that situation without her knowing. That being said, I’m not offended or concerned that anyone else spent time with Mum, everyone had their own relationship with Mum and have a right to express their grief in any way they felt would help.
The undertakers arrived around 5:30pm and took Mum away. Sam went upstairs with them, as he felt the least emotionally attached to the situation and wanted to help them if he could. We closed the living room door and allowed the undertakers to “do their thing”. One of the things I noticed in that moment was that everyone else in the room with me was crying – but I wasn’t. I saw it as the thing that was meant to happen, she was meant to be taken away to be kept safe and put at rest. In the moments that they were upstairs, it was as though everyone was holding their breath and let it go once they’d left the house. No one said anything, no one looked at another person in the eye, no one moved.
To this day, I must have asked Sam about what happened in Mum’s room with the undertakers maybe ten times. I had to ask him again to write this. He said the two men came into Mum’s room and had to make a decision on how to move her. They wanted to put her into a body bag and onto the gurney, but because of how feeble and how deteriorated her body was, they couldn’t pick her up without possibly damaging her. Instead, they gently moved Mum into the middle of the double bed and took the bedsheet off of each corner of the bed, they folded it around her body and then picked her up using the excess sheet around both her head and feet. They transferred her into a purple zip up body bag that was waiting on the gurney. They kept her as level as possible as they navigated the gurney around furniture and down the stairs. They took her outside, pulled the trolley out of the private ambulance and gently placed her on it. With that she was gone from her home forever.
We were all sad for a little while longer, before my Nan piped up and said she was hungry – none of us had eaten anything all day and by now it was 6pm. We ordered four massive pizzas – who cooks when their Mum’s just died? I’ll always remember that meal, all nine of us sat there in the lounge – some people squeezed together on the sofa and some contorted on the floor – with our plates on our laps. Reminiscing, sharing photos, talking, laughing, just being together. Appreciating and supporting each other. My Uncle and cousins took my Nan home and then went home themselves around 9pm.
When I went to bed that night, I walked past Mum’s empty bedroom. The shape of her body imprinted on the memory foam mattress. Her V shaped support pillow resting above where she had been lying. It felt empty. It seemed darker, quieter, somber. I felt hollow and defeated when I walked past. I couldn’t sleep that night. Sam and I stayed awake for hours with each other. Wrapped up in bed with each other’s love and care. It was what we both needed.