RIP Wee Mum

Dear family and friends, most of you already know that my mum died yesterday and I’d like to thank you for your kind words. She was an incredibly brave and fiercely independent woman and she was and will remain a constant inspiration to me. When I think my life is hard, I just think of her and get some instant perspective.

She was diagnosed with MS in the 80s and we watched her slowly deteriorate over the years. By the time my dad died in 2009, she was almost completely immobile and yet, with the assistance of the wonders of technology, the incredible services of South Ayrshire’s carers and some financial support from the MS Society, she was able to go on living in her house independently right up until the end.

She and I used to share Audible accounts for audiobooks and she was often calling to let me know that she’d run out of books, so I’d log in and we’d talk through titles and have some good banter. When speaking on the phone you would have no idea of how her body had failed her. Her mind was sharp, and so was her tongue, as many carers learned to their chagrin over the years!

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know where she got her strength from. Maybe we all have that in us. I remember going through many years of orthopaedic surgery and rehab and people telling me I was strong, but it never really felt that way. But to be fair, I was in my late teens / early 20s at the time and it doesn’t really compare to years and years of immobility. So, you see? She really was a remarkable woman.

She missed dad every day after he died. It was a life-long love that never dwindled and it was after his death that her body began to decline quicker than before. Never her mind though.

She was taken into hospital in early June with an infection, confused and weak. Although the infection did clear up, she never regained enough strength to go back home. We had started the process of looking for a nursing home, but she never really wanted that and I didn’t think she would be here long enough, but we still had to go through the motions. She was just done, you know? Each time I went to visit, she would be in and out of sleep and saying that she just wanted to be with dad. And d’you know, that was okay with me.

It was a comfort for me that it was the summer holidays as it meant that the whole family could visit mum with me, even though we were often only in for five minutes because mum wasn’t up to it. On the last day I saw her, I had Freya with me and that helped so much. I think Freya’s got some of my mum’s spirit in her too and it’s a delight as a father to see that strength coming out for the first time. It was lovely to meet my cousin Louise too after such a long time and I know my mum was happy to see her.

I knew that mum was gone before I got the call at the back of 3 in the morning. I knew because she came to say goodbye. I woke up and she was there in the room, a shimmer of light, and so I got up and got dressed because I just knew. I like that we had that connection. I was on the sofa reading when the phone rang.

I got the first ferry over – again, summer holidays, early boat – thanks mum! I arrived at my brother’s just in time to see wee Matthew heading out for his first day of nursery school. So on the day my mum died, her great grandson started nursery and that was about the best thing that could’ve happened. I saw the cycle of life right there.

Lorraine’s been absolutely brilliant through this whole time, so compassionate and loving. She’s running the shop today so I can have some time to deal with this chapter of my life, even though she’s as tired as I. I did consider not waking her after the phone call from the hospital, but only for about 20 seconds. We sat talking and drinking tea through the night until I had to head off for the early boat. It’s little things like that, you know?

Brian and Lynn have been fantastic too. They’re there on the mainland taking care of things today and we’re in constant contact. We managed to get all the registrations done and the funeral arranged in one day yesterday, which was quite a remarkable feat.

I have a charity tin for the MS Society at the post office and I’ve asked Lorraine if she would sit it somewhere prominent. If anyone reading could see their way to putting a pound in the tin, I’d be very grateful. We’ll have a collection plate for the same charity at mum’s funeral. It’s a horrid, horrid illness and it would be nice to think that one day we’d be able to do something about it.

And thank you to Diane for being so compassionate and resilient, letting me have time away to visit mum and running the shop for me, even with her arm in plaster and a sprained ankle! I’m so glad she chinned me on the doorstep that day looking for some part-time hours!

And so, the funeral. Mum was a member of Prestwick South Church, where both I and my brother were married, so it’s only right that mum’s service is held there. It’s arranged for Friday 26 August at 10:30 a.m., thence to New Monkton cemetery where she’ll be buried alongside dad. Everyone’s invited to join us after that at the Carlton Hotel on Ayr Road, Prestwick Toll for a buffet lunch.

I’ll be closing the post office at 12 on Thursday as we’re all going over on the 13:50 boat so I can go and see mum at the funeral home that afternoon and spend some time with the family that evening.

The last time the whole family visited, mum was awake long enough to ask for a photo of her with the kids and she smiled when I showed it to her. I think she’d be happy with me sharing it, and I’d like to, so I have.