Bittersweet news

Mum on the day she was diagnosed with terminal cancer
Mum on the day she was diagnosed with terminal cancer

Mum. She’s dying. Ever since Judy our dog died when I was Ms Brand’s class in Grade 4, I have known that death is there, and that it is okay. Still, it’s hard and some deaths are harder than others. I find it especially hard when someone who is so alive, is suddenly dying.

With Mum it feels bittersweet. She knows where she’s going, and she’s following Dad to the same place. It’s where her eternal peace and love is and she has no fear. I’m sad for me and my kids. We will miss her and all her ways: wise advice, pragmatic opinions, and deep conversations. She’s the woman who introduced me to reading, writing (see my other posts about how she challenged me from being too bland and formulaic), gardening, sewing, cooking, music, play and God. She was also a great role model in mature age study, independent life within a loving marriage, and volunteerism.

One week after we learned that she had cancer in her liver, lung and spine, my brother, two sisters and I squeezed into the hospital room where we were told it was terminal. She took it bravely on the chin and joked with the doctor about his tie being dirty. She then offered to have the biopsy (they still haven’t discovered where the primary cancer is) so that the profession can learn. Not so that she can prolong her life. A community service still, to the end.

When I got her home from the hospital that afternoon she shuffled around moving things and laying washing over the line. ‘Best to keep doing real jobs,’ she said when I tried to stop her.

I asked her if I could record this remarkably positive journey she was embarking on. I told her that I was thinking of a photojournalist approach, with words that she might have told me, something that was playing on my mind or hers about her impending death, or other’s reactions. I told her that my hope was that others could learn something from her fearless approach to death. And it would also help me to hopefully deal with it.

Mum asked where I would like to take the photo, then she combed her hair, put on a little lippy and sat in the garden, one of her favourite places.

So this, my dear readers, is the start of that journey for Mum, me and you. I will keep it up until she dies and I hope that you will find it interesting to look at and read. It may be hard at times, but it feels like an honour to give her this space.

My Facebook post three days ago

“Things have been crazy in my world lately. More than usual.
Mum has gone from living to dying when we discovered her body is being consumed by tumours. She has the most admirable positive attitude to dying that in one sense she is more alive that she was a week ago. It’s hard to marry the idea of her dying with her liveliness.
I’m overwhelmed at the people who not just care about her, but also have been inspired and touched by her. I’m a jumble of emotions as we celebrate her and the life she lived, and prepare for a time without her here. My experience tells me that I laughed and enjoyed life again after Dad died – at the time that seemed impossible – so I know will again after Mum dies. It will just be a roller coaster of grief and relief as we head closer.
To those I know who have spoken with her, emailed her, or popped in, thank you. She loves being surrounded by people and being reminded of her life lived.
She really is an inspiration.”

Mum in her fern-lined courtyard


This is part of series about my mother’s journey with terminal cancer.

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