Archive for March 2011

Losing My Mother   1 comment

My mother died on 21 January 2011. The night before there was a bright and beautiful full moon, encircled by just a faint brush of translucent cloud . Other than that the sky was clear, a deep, dark, indigo ocean  sequinned with stars. I remember standing there, gazing up at it, my heart like a piece of lead in my chest.  It seemed so wrong that my mother, who by that stage was in a coma, would never see it, this grandiose display of nocturnal beauty. This ethereal grandeur that made one, religious or not, fervently believe in the power of God.

In real terms, I thought I had lost her long before.  For many years she did not know me, did not call my name, did not recognise me as her daughter, her flesh and blood. I was philosophical. Alzheimers. That’s what happened. Only now can I admit that it hurt like hell, that it felt like rejection, even though that rejection was not wilful.  Quite simply, she was shutting down.  A friend, who  had also lost his mother to Alzheimers, explained it like this.  Think of the brain as a city of lights and, one by one, the lights go out, first in one area of the city, then the next and the next, till eventually there is nothing but darkness.  To me that is  the real definition of Alzheimers – the long dark night of the soul.

My sister, my father and I sat with her through that last night, watching her struggle for breath, the indomitable human spirit fighting still for survival, whilst outside the moon spilled silver on the hard hospital concrete paths and turned the skeletal trees into works of art.  Nursing staff tip-toed in and out, offered us tea and sympathy.They slid away again, professional ghosts on their rubber-soled shoes as if to make a noise would magnify our grief.

Three o’clock and there was a concerted holding of our own breath – the hours between three and five being the hours when life was reputedly at its lowest ebb.  Like me, my sister and father sat with shuttered faces, their minds busy, I suppose, with their own private thoughts and what this woman meant to each of them; wife, lover, soul-mate, mother, friend,  singer of songs, dreamer of dreams, story teller, giver of life, heart of the home.

Five o’clock – landmark time.   The witching hours were past and dawn was slowly ushering in another day.  Behind the moon, the sky lightened, black-on-black, then to shades of grey.  A bird, a soloist began to sing. Others joined the feathered chorus. And still we sat,  keeping guard against the bogeyman. Strength in numbers.

At seven, we kissed her, promised to return and drove home through the still deserted streets of Dublin. A sparkling hoar frost covered every surface, giving the illusion of snow. I was reminded of her favourite poem,  Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening. ‘The woods are lovely dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep . . . and miles to go before I sleep’.

She died at nine o’clock whilst we lay sleeping, slipping quietly away. A ‘beautiful death’ the kind nurses said. Can death ever be beautiful?

Three months on, I am only beginning to feel the real impact and if I could go back, I would sit vigil forever. I would fight the bogeyman every step of the way.

My family are not the Waltons. My relationship with my mother was not always easy. But she was my mother and, in so many ways, she made me what I am, be that good, bad or indifferent.  And, even in the darkest hours, I loved her.

On 3 April, it will be Mothering Sunday and the shops will be full of Mother’s Day cards, flowers and little gifts. And, yes, it may be a commercial exercise designed to make money for the big corporations, but what I would give to be able to give her a card and a bunch of flowers and see her eyes light up.  Instead, because I live abroad, I will be asking my father to lay them on her grave.

If you are reading this and you are still lucky enough to have your mother, be kind to her.  Losing her is a lonely place.


Posted March 27, 2011 by Tara Moore in author, Uncategorized, Word Press, writing