Today has been a difficult day.
It started when I finally found Mum’s address book.
For the past few days I’ve been so busy with the legal matters relating to her death, my brain has been preoccupied with making phone calls and filling in paperwork … however with the discovery of that little brown book, it meant I could finally contact the last of Mum’s friends and break the terrible news to them.
Every call started with the same gentle conversation.
“How nice to hear from you?”
“How are you?”
“How is your little boy?”
Before they got to the question I dreaded.
“How is your Mum?”
Every time, as the words informing them Mum had died left my mouth, I would breakdown.
I tried not to – I really did – but it was as if my brain was listening to the words for the very first time each and every time.
I felt so sorry for Mum’s friends.
There was a slight delay between them hearing the news and hearing my tears before they understood what had been said and then the pain would hit them like a tsunami before we went through the very English thing of trying to make each other feel better.
It was hard and emotionally exhausting but nothing compared to the other thing that happened today.
This afternoon, I met the surgeon who operated on Mum.
He wanted to explain why an operation that usually achieves such success failed on my Mum.
This was not his attempt to shift blame – there was no blame to shift – he just felt I deserved to know what had happened because not only did he know how devastated I was, he was genuinely sad for how things turned out
Basically Mum’s heart was broken.
When Mum was very young she had rheumatic fever and that disease ultimately attacked Mum’s heart slowly and deliberately for over 80 years.
What this means is that when the operation took place – an operation by one of the best and most experienced surgeons in England – it set off an incredibly rare chain of unstoppable, irreparable and catastrophic events that sadly and tragically led to Mum’s death.
In essence, my Mum’s heart broke apart.
To put into context how rare this situation was, of the 8,000 operations the surgeon has done, he had only seen it happen on five occasions.
As I said, I don’t blame anyone.
We always knew there was a risk [initially around 10%] and the reality is if Mum didn’t have the operation she would have had a painful and miserable few months of life until the same sad end occurred.
Of course part of me wishes she was still here so I could hug her, tell her how much I love her and put her grandson in her arms but there is also a big part of me that is happy [if that’s the right word] that she died quickly, peacefully and with me by her side because the alternative is unthinkable.
[It is worth noting that had the operation worked – as we all hoped and as all initial signs indicated – she would have had a much better quality of life for years to come so, based on the extensive information we all had at the time, it was worth the risk]
But here’s the thing.
Hearing this news made my Mum’s dying official.
I know that is mad but there was a part of me that thought – or hoped – she was still around. That she would walk through the door and say “hello”. That there had been some massive mistake and she was waiting in the hospital, wondering why I hadn’t come to see her yet.
It has destroyed me all over again, driven home by the fact I collected her belongings from the hospital.
A little travel bag and 2 plastic bags.
So insignificant and yet so significant.
We walked into the hospital carrying those bags together and yet today, I brought them back alone.
I can’t open them. I can’t see her pyjamas or her clothes. Not yet. So I’ve rested them on her bed and in some strange way, it feels like I’ve brought a part of her home. A part of her that will forever stay in this house. A part of her that means I will always have somewhere to go to feel close to her.
I hope so, because I don’t want to let her go.