Day 225 of 366: Blog Challenge 2012

Hello all

As I sat down to write my blog today I became aware that it was on this day – the 12th August 1989 – that my brother Eddie arrived at our house to tell us our father had passed away suddenly. Twenty-three years ago now.

My mother was staying with us at the time, recovering from an operation two weeks earlier in which cancer of the pancreas had been diagnosed. She had been given three/six  months to live.

Mum and Dad in June 1989 celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary and looking feeble

My father had turned 80 in March of that year and had recovered after a battle with cancer of the throat (some years earlier) but he was still fragile. He had relied heavily on my mother for support so we had put him into respite while Mum recovered from her exploratory surgery.

We tried to get Dad to understand that Mum had advanced cancer and there was nothing more the doctors could do for her but he refused to believe it.  The stubborn old Cockney – that was my father – down right refused to believe it! He was in denial. He was not dying nor did we expect him to die at the time.

All we can piece together is that he told the nurse he did not feel well and asked her to come and sit with him for a while. She told us she was not aware that he needed anything more than a little TLC. After she had sat with him a short while, he closed his eyes and passed away. Quietly and with no fanfare, Dad was gone without a chance for us to say goodbye.

I had just just spent a lovely week with my mother while she recuperated. We had sat in the sun together. I made copious pots of leaf tea served with nice cake on special china. I played her favourite music for her. We laughed about old times. It was a precious time.

My mother, who struggled to show her emotions normally, let down her guard and told me how lucky she was to have a wonderful daughter like me. She hugged me and thanked me for my care. I could hardly believe that this was my reserved mother telling me all the things I had once longed to hear but never had.

And then my father died and it all ended. Mum was inconsolable and insisted on returning home immediately with my elder sister who was visiting from the country. Margaret would stay with her until Dad’s funeral the following Tuesday.

All of us were in shock at losing our father so unexpectedly. We had hardly come to terms with Mum’s illness and now Dad had upstaged her and gone before her.

If we thought things were bad that Saturday with the news of my father’s death, things were about to get a whole lot worse.

Mum, still weak from her operation was now pushing herself far more than she should. Family visited, friends came to console her and there was a lot of activity around her. When she stayed with me, I made sure she rested on her bed after lunch each day, but there was no rest now.

On the Monday night, Dad’s body was open for a private viewing at the Funeral Home and the family gathered for our last goodbyes. We tried to say the Rosary together but it was difficult and a lot of tears were falling as we prayed.

Afterwards, Mum went up to the open coffin and cried out to Dad: “Ted, I want to be with you! Take me with you!” We were so distressed by this that all of us children pounced on Mum telling her not to say this … but Mum would not be silenced and continued to call out.

As I said goodbye to Mum that night I said to her: “Mum, you look exhausted. You cannot keep up this pace. You need to have the strength for Dad’s funeral tomorrow. Mum, make sure you rest tomorrow morning.” She promised and I kissed her goodbye.

The next day was Tuesday 15th August 1989. A date that will be imprinted on my mind forever. That morning, the priest who had kept being detained, finally came to visit and talk to Mum about the funeral. He had asked Mum: “How did you and Ted meet?” when Mum said suddenly that she felt strange and with that, her head dropped and she was still …  she had passed away sitting in her chair. A heart attack from the strain, they said.

The events of the next hours passed by in a blur although I do remember my neighbour coming over and hugging me while I cried “I’m not ready to lose my mother” for Geoff had gone off to locate 14-year-old Daniel at the skate board arena nearby.

We cancelled Dad’s funeral and held a double funeral two days later. The Church was packed to overflowing. There in the front of the altar were two coffins side by side. We believe that Dad had heard Mum’s plea that awful night when she cried out to him and now here they were together. It was a beautiful funeral.

Friends, I would prefer that no one lose their parents in such a way as this. I felt I had been left orphaned and yet I was 43 years of age. I found out that day that we are never ready to lose our parents, no matter what our age. But life does go on.

However, this much is true, that the more the years pass by, the more I become aware that their passing together was a great love story, one which none of us could ever have planned.

Dad was not left alone without his wife of 50 years. And we did not have to watch as Mum went through a painful death from pancreatic cancer either. Their story had a fairytale ending in a  way we never dreamed possible.

I felt our prayers for their healing had been heard but not in the way we all expected and not in the way the world expected either.

Often too, I look back at the last words I spoke to my mother: “Mum, make sure you rest.” Those words had come true in a way I never thought possible. Finally, Mum was at rest … and Dad with her.


Thank you for all you gave us