Aug 1, 2017

Carol and Therese.

Today's post takes the blog to an emotional territory it (very fortunately) hasn't had to delve into recently very much at all.  Its theme is grief and dying.  As always, identities have been obscured and the facts submerged a little.  I also got a bit teary writing it.  Sorry.

Carol and Therese are two strong, wise and all-round wonderful women that I work with (two of many, if I'm to be more precise but you get the point).  They're both a decade or two ahead of me in life experience with their children now adults and at university,  I've always admired their perspective on the world (and on child rearing... namely that this too shall always pass and that they'll pretty much turn out all right in the end).  

I've never really thought of their numerical ages because while they have the wisdom of age and experience, they also have this wonderful youthfulness about them.  Whether it's because we're always working with 'the children' who've just graduated from uni and hence it's become second nature to adopt the prevailing culture of twentysomethings or because they're just deep down cool people (my bet's on the latter) I've just never thought that either of them would have already had to grieve the loss of their mothers.

Therese's mother recently died.  Mrs Mitchell was in her nineties and very much still in charge of her life and those around her up until her final moments.  She still enjoyed regular lunches out at her favourite restaurant.  She was never backward in coming forwards with an opinion or two for her adult children.  In her final days, she took pains to remind the priest who was administering her last rites not to patronize her or sugar coat the reality of her life.

Mrs Mitchell drew her last breath alone in hospital.  Minutes after Therese left her bedside to head home for an hour or two with her husband, hours before her son was intending to make it back to the ward.  It wasn't how Therese planned or hoped it would be.  

'It was that complete absence of life that really hit me', Therese recalled.  'We'd expected and knew that this moment would happen, we knew that it was the right time for her but none of this prepared me for seeing her without life'.

It was at this point that Carol recalled the death of her own mother.  Her sensation of seeing her mother's body in its stillness and pallor and registering this but then suddenly convincing her mind that mum was still breathing.  'She'd been alive and just with me all my life and to suddenly be faced with her suddenly not played tricks on my mind.  I just couldn't register that I would now forever be without her.'

There was nothing at all that I could say.  I could only be there and listen as both of these wonderful women shared me with a part of their lives that would forever be quite raw and never 'fixed'.  The kind of event that you 'learn to live with'.  I don't know if it's 'learning' so much as sharing with another person who has some idea of what you've lost and can show you that you're both not alone and that you will survive with the grief.


  1. Beautiful. My friend is going through this so I thank you for your beautiful words. J xx

  2. I think it is wonderful they had such loving mothers.

    It is such a precious gift and whilst causing enormous pain and sense of loss when they are gone. It must be wonderful to have had that love.

    After having my children I realise the importance of unconditional love. I don't think it comes naturally to me (they are still too young to test it out) and although I have had it, it was not from my parents, rather older acquaintances.
    My husband too did not experience this in his home life. Their were always conditions or else watch out.

    I am not bitter, nor jealous of people that have had wonderful relationships with their parents. I admire these relationships and I wish to emulate them.

    Being an older mother I wish to survive until my children become adults at the very least (I shudder at whom will look after them if I am gone).

    The true love of a parent is precious and irreplaceable although I concede some people do wonderful jobs if faced with that sad prospect.

    Well I've gone of on a tangent but it does fit with what I have been feeling at this time.

    A Lovely thought provoking post


  3. Oh I'm so sorry for your friends loss. I have an older relative who is very almost flippant about death and it seems strange to me, coming from a family where death is something to be grieved over. Growing up I've experienced it in different ways, but in all situations it's helped to talk about it. So while you didn't have any great words of wisdom or your own experience to draw from, just being there and listening was a great help - with both the new pain of loss and the previous pain of loss from your other friend.

  4. It is never easy witnessing a death, whether present at the moment or otherwise. I recall seeing my Mum a few weeks before she died and I had the sense she was already withdrawing - it was an awful experience.
    It seems it is not uncommon for those who are dying to choose a moment when family isn't present, I guess that is their final step in showing love xx

  5. So sorry for the loss of your friends loss. My grandmother turned 95 last week. She is a lot like your friends mom. She still has her wits, gets around (even when the arthritis doesn't want her to), very in control of her life and her children (even though she lives with mum and I), and loves that her great and great-great grands call her "Nanna" (something she didn't want her older grands calling her when my cousins and I were little). Not sure how long we have with her, but we try to spend as much time with her as we can.
    I'm glad that you were there for your friend. Sometimes it's comforting to know that there are people out there to lean on.


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