Winfred "Freddie" Bulmer, born 1 October 1917, peacefully dying June 2013
...to Our Ma, whose long and impressive life is inching quite serenely towards its end.
When we saw her yesterday she was in warm, well-appointed and comfortable room on her own, lying propped up on pillows but semi-comatose. She wasn't able to open her eyes, but she was aware we were in the room and her mouth made little movements in response to some of the things The Husband said as if attempting a smile or an answer, but we may have been imagining that.
I could see at a glance she was at death's door, waiting patiently to be admitted. We wept a little, and held her hand and stroked her hair and chatted to her for a while, trying to keep the tears out of our voices. When we were satisfied that she knew we had been there and that we loved her, and ascertained she had much rather be left alone, we went off in search of some information about the medical side of matters.
Her nurse for the day, a delightful Spanish woman, filled us in on as much detail as she was able. She says Our Ma has deteriorated rapidly since her (the nurse's) last shift on Friday. Then she had been able to say a few words, but now she is beyond that. Our Ma's blood pressure had dropped abruptly that morning, which is a sign that her remarkable heart is failing. She has oxygen to enable her to breathe more easily.
They will stop administering anything by mouth now as she is so likely to choke it wouldn't be kind, and in any case is as though she is heavily sedated, even though she isn't, so it would be impossible. They will just keep her lips moist with wipes and her body hydrated with a saline drip. The nursing team had spent three hours with her on Sunday morning, getting the room to the right temperature for her comfort (35.5C), bathing her and taking care of the skin on her arms which is dry and cracking in places like eczema, so she has been bleeding in odd spots, perhaps where she has scratched it in her previous restlessness.
The nurses had asked the doctors to stop by and see her as they feared she may be suffering somewhat so they want her to be written up for morphine. That way, they hope she can slip away quietly with no more pain. The nurses suspect the discomfort is from internal bleeding. She really doesn't have long. Hours rather than days, probably.
We timed our visit well.
The Husband took it all on the chin like a big boy, but it doesn't matter how old we are when a much loved parent dies we are for a while an orphan in the storm. He told The Daughter on the phone, when we emerged from the hospital, that he felt "an eighth of an inch from crying". Much later, on our journey back to Wales in the car, I teased him that when Our Ma is gone that will make US the top generation at the head of the family - The Olds! Did that mean we would finally have to grow all the way UP?
But no, we we have decided we have done all the growing up we are ever going to do. We put the bins out and pay the bills, keep the garden tidy, and drive sensibly. I have brought a child up to maturity and had jobs doing this and that, and he has done forty years of very conscientious meticulous work as an engineer.
Soon, he and his sister will be arranging their mother's funeral, and that is plenty grown up enough for one year.