My mum had gone to the hospice for a bit of a rest, when the dreaded call came in. It was evening and a kind nurse called to say we needed to get there as soon as we could, as things weren’t looking good. The cancer was in her bones, liver and lungs and her breathing was becoming very laboured. She didn’t have long.
My brother, sister, dad, grandparents, aunts and uncles rushed to be with her. The hospice was in an old stately home and as we walked up the cold stone staircase to her room I felt terrified about what we would find. The sickly smell of the lavender air diffuser hit me as soon as we opened her door – a scent that still transports me immediately back to this time.
‘Who wants a cup of tea’ murmured my mum through a morphine induced haze. She was sat up in bed pouring into imaginary cups from an imaginary teapot. If it wasn’t so heart-breaking it would have been comical. She wasn’t ready to go and so life was carrying on as normal for her. After that there were no meaningful last words, just an awful sense of finality.
It didn’t make any sense.
Death is a really weird concept. How can someone be a living, breathing entity one minute, but completely gone forever the next?
Where do you go?
What does it feel like?
Having cancer (or any serious illness) at a young age brutally forces you to face your mortality waaay before you’re ready to. It wakes you up, shakes you about and slaps you around the face – hard.
Like most parents of young children, the thing that upsets me most about dying is the thought of leaving them. Imagining them having to cope with something as enormous as the loss of their mum, like I had to, is almost too much for me to bear.
But I had to consider it, because unlike the vast majority of people my age, my cancer diagnosis forced me to stare into death’s eyes and come to terms with the fact that one day, like it or not – it will happen.
As it will to all of us.
And the funny thing is, realising this has taken some of the fear out of it.
‘Just give me 10 more years’ was my mantra whilst waiting for a full diagnosis and prognosis, but now I’m done with active treatment I’ve become greedy – I want more time, a lot more, at least 30 years more please…but I know there are no guarantees.
It’s difficult to imagine life carrying on without you, but worse still to imagine that it might not.
There’s a famous quote by Benjamin Franklin that goes something along the lines of ‘In this world nothing can be certain, except death and taxes’
Taxes are an unavoidable part of our daily lives, yet thoughts of death can be squeezed far back into the recesses of our brains – something to consider another time, or just not think about at all. After all, it’s not going to happen TODAY is it?
But what if it did happen today? Would you be ready? Can you really ever be ready?