On the 17th April at 2.20 in the morning my mum died. She woke up and told her nurse that she was not feeling well and asked for a glass of water. She went and sat in her chair and a moment later passed away. For us her family she had, in a sense, died about five years before. So badly had her mind disintegrated that she did not even know her own name or even who we her children were. It is only when someone you know has dementia that you realize how much of a person their mind is. Their body tells you this is them but much of what they do and say is of a stranger.
Brought up in the Depression mum learned very early to be self-reliant. Her education at Emily McPherson College stood her in good stead throughout all but her last few years. She was a skilled and creative dressmaker, cook, cake decorator and transformer of old junk into much sort-after objects. She could eye a patch of ground or an off-cut of fabric and in no time and with seeming ease turn it into a lovely garden corner or an attractive blouse. In her last years just for the heck of it she would go to flea markets and buy unpromising pieces of furniture at knockdown prices, repair, paint or varnish them, upholster them and sell them for very substantial prices. She was good with things.
People were another matter. Mum was quick to take offence and just as quick to cause it, she was petulant, demanding and incapable of admitting she was wrong. At times she could be breathtakingly selfish. Her relationship with her parents and siblings was always stormy as it was with her husband and children. During her last 20 years she was happier than she had ever been, living alone, pottering around in the garden, reading and visiting the places she had always wanted to go. For us her children our regular phone calls and occasional visits were a nice way to keep in touch without having to spend too time with her.
Mum’s passing evokes mixed emotions. I’m relieved that her physical self finally caught up with her mental self. I feel a touch guilty that I was never able to love her as much as an offspring should be able to. I am sad that her life did not see more peace, satisfaction and fulfilment. And I have a strange awareness that something of what I am has ceased to be.