I suppose I should have posted this yesterday, but I was preoccupied. My mother passed away thirteen years ago on 11th July 2005. This is how that day unfurled.
I was attending our Friday morning work meeting at 8am when the phone rang. It was my sister Ann calling. She had just heard from Ireland that our mother had suffered a dense stroke in the early hours and was in a bad way. Dismayed, I told my colleagues my bad news. Without exception, they told me I had to go to her, and they would cover my absence, no worries. I rushed home and packed my bags to catch the afternoon ferry.
Before I left, I thought to call the hospital in Ireland and spoke to the RC chaplain. I explained the situation, and asked if he could administer the last rites to Mum. He was only too happy to oblige. I then drove off at speed to Fishguard.
The journey was long but I eventually parked up outside the hospital and found my Dad waiting at the front entrance. He led me in and through to Mum’s bedside. As we approached, alarms went off and the cardiac arrest team descended. The bedside curtains were drawn as they got to work. My father and I were ushered into the ward office to await developments.
After a few minutes, the medical registrar came to talk to us. They had successfully restarted Mum’s heart, but she was still severely stroked out. One option was to take her to the intensive care unit. I looked at Dad, and he looked at me. Without words, we both agreed that ITU was not necessary. His wife, and my mother, was dying, and should be allowed to do so with dignity. The arrest team withdrew, and we stayed with her during her last minutes of life. I kissed her forehead as my tears dripped onto her face.
Dad filled me in about the day’s events. Mum had been enjoying several days of respite care at the local cottage hospital, but was found to have suffered a stroke that morning. She was rushed to the acute hospital and scanned etc. She had been terribly agitated until a Catholic priest turned up from out of the blue, and administered Extreme Unction, the last rites, after which she became very calm. Mum had been a devout Catholic for all of her life you see.
The Franciscan chaplain came along shortly afterwards. I thanked him for his works, then took him aside. In a quiet stairwell nearby, he heard my confession and absolved my sins. I was thus prepared for the religious ceremonies ahead.
Mum’s wake was held at the local funeral parlour. Many, many people came to visit and pledge their sorrow for our troubles. It was an incredibly moving experience.
At Mum’s funeral, I did the readings and psalm, and led the bidding prayers which I had written. She had died on the Feast of St Benedict of Nursia, and one prayer asked for his intercession on her behalf.
At Mum’s interment, at which hundreds of people attended, the priest used a portable public-address system to make his voice heard over the windy weather. Due to some gremlin this technology issued what sounded like an enormous “raspberry” before he started to speak.
Those of us present who remembered Mum’s wicked sense of humour saw this as one of her practical jokes!
In true Irish fashion, the mourners then retired to the local bar to celebrate her passing over some food and drinks.