The CuriousPages Sketchbook

Farewell to mother

First you started falling—as if the ground were trying to claim you. And you wondered what was happening. Then your knees no longer supported you and I walked beside you, arm in arm, with Rhyan on your other arm, but you could take less and less steps. We tried walking you to the bathroom but could not make it. We collapsed onto your sofa and you told me, resigned:

“Fletch, I’m done for.”

We both sat there, you still the same but your body now a stranger to you, and we both knew you were right.

A few days later we were sat on your sofa and you calmly told me, “I think I must be dying.”

I nodded and said something like, “It could be.”

Then you told me, as if discussing the weather: “I want to be cremated and my ashes scattered by some nice trees. I like trees.”

I told you I had already given my instructions to Rhyan for my disposal, should something happen to me. He was stood in the kitchen preparing lunch and later told me he was listening to our conversation, crying.


But you were not done for yet. You still had not given up. And we still had many precious moments to come.

Even when you could hardly walk, we found countless things to laugh about and you would be holding your sides, telling me, “Don’t make me laugh; I’ll pee myself.”

I would frequently hold your tea cup to your lips to quench your thirst and just as your lips touched the rim, laughter would erupt from somewhere deep within you and the tea would be sprayed. We always shared that same sense of humour, along with many other things. Mum, we were even clothed in the same skin disease—as though we shared the same skin, the same sensitivity. And towards the end, after Rhyan had known you for six months he told me he could now see where many of my personality traits had come from.


Over the last month or so, as the decline in your health seemed to eat away at the fabric of your brain, like the eroding of the land’s edge by the ceaseless nagging of the sea, I noticed many changes in your personality. It was like the outer, protective shell of your personality had been stripped away and the child within you was left exposed. You became outwardly emotional, crying at the least cause. One day just before Christmas, I watched your tears flowing as you listened to Pavarotti singing Nessun dorma.

“It’s beautiful,” you said at the end.

This reminds me of the same comment you would make in the last few weeks of your life when you would sip at some ice cold water or lemonade. You would take the smallest of sips, then your face would contort as though you had tasted the most sour substance known to man. You would even shudder, as if in extreme distaste, and would then say, “Beautiful.”

You would also break into tears when mentioning such things as the state of your health or your family’s relationships.

This display of emotions I found endearing. It was not like you. I had never known you display such emotions in your entire life. It was almost as if you knew the end was near and you needed to catch up, to display all those emotions that your previous personality had not permitted you to.


At another time during those two weeks when we lived with you, you sat on the edge of your bed just before we were about to dress you for sleep and you said, “I can’t do anything for myself.”

It was clear you were depressed about your plight. You had always been so independent. Up until a few months before, you had lived alone, been active, enjoyed your gardening and travelling around town to do your own shopping, but now, suddenly, you could not do a single thing for yourself, could not even managed the simplest of personal care tasks. Of course you were depressed.

One turning point came after a particularly distressing incident for you, when you kept telling me, “I’m so ashamed. I’m so ashamed.”

As always, we did what we could to comfort you, and, though I knew the end was near, as you yourself surely did, I continued encouraging you to be positive and to look forward to the future. You would silently nod, clearly not believing a word of it.

You then moved into the nursing home and for the first few days, each time I visited, you would tell me, “I was calling out for you last night, but you didn’t come in to me.”

“I was in Bristol,” I told you. You seemed to take in this information, though you still seemed to be under the impression I would be sleeping in the bedroom next to yours and would come to you when you needed to use the toilet or needed to drink during the night. At the end of the visit, I said I was going.

“Where are you going?” you asked.

“Back to Bristol.”

“Well, that’s no good to me. How will you hear me when I call out?”

For the first two or three nights that you lived in the nursing home, I believe I did hear you calling out to me during the nights; I felt your “call” telepathically, and I even felt your discomfort. I would wake up with my belly tender and it seemed you were nearby. I even had to get up and check my living room to make sure you were not there. In your house, I had slept in the room next to yours, and, back at my own flat, when I heard your “telepathic” calls during the night, it seemed to me you were still in the room next to me.

In the last night I spent with you in the nursing home, after you had been dosed with morphine and were clearly slipping away, I was talking to the nurse. She told me when she first met you, she suggested taking you to your room to sleep and you told her, “I’m waiting for Fletch to come and undress me.”

When I heard the nurse say that, I felt I had somehow abandoned you when you moved into the nursing home. I thought of you waiting for me, and I did not come; I thought of you calling out to me during the night to toilet you or quench your thirst, and I did not come. Well, perhaps I had abandoned you, on some level, for I felt the need to partially resume my own life. But mum, I’m pleased that we had the opportunity in the last weeks of your life to become so close.

I had always had an intimate relationship to your energy and over the previous few years, I would often feel overwhelmed by aspects of your energy, which I felt transferring to my own body when I would spend more than about half an hour in your presence. I never told you about this, but this was often the reason why I would retreat to your garden, or into another room. And I think this relationship only became stronger in the last few weeks of your life. On that last night, when the nurse inserted a needle into your arm, for a saline drip, I was sat beside you and I felt the sensation of the needle being inserted into my own arm, in exactly the place it was inserted into yours.

Two days before this, on the evening of Sunday 26 December, was the last time I saw you in a fully conscious state. Rhyan and myself had taken you to your room and we were about to leave when you said, pleadingly, “Oh Fletch; I don’t want to live like this. What can I do about it?”

Of course, we both knew what you were asking me, but we both chose not to speak the unspeakable. Instead I told you it had been increasingly difficult for us to care for you in your own home (which you acknowledged), and that it was safer for you to live in the nursing home (which you also acknowledged) and that we were now doing everything we could to make you comfortable.

“I know you are,” you said.

I think I, again, urged you to try to keep positive and see how things developed. But I think neither of us believed what I was saying and you said nothing. You drifted off into a preoccupied state of mind, which, as I remember, seemed to be your frame of mind for most of the previous month.

After we left, when I think back on it now, it seemed that it was at that moment that you had finally made up your mind. You had decided to leave us—without fuss, without comment, but to just quietly take your leave. In the weeks before, you had often told me, “I’m such a nuisance to you, taking up all your time,” and in the nursing home I heard you telling one of the carers, “You must be so fed up with me, always having to take me to the toilet.” Throughout your life, you did not want to be any “trouble” to people, to inconvenience them, to have people doing things for you, spending their time and effort on you, and in the end perhaps this was the thing you could no longer bear. You wanted to save us the “trouble” of caring for you. And three days later, you were gone.

Mum, I was impressed with the way you handled yourself in the last month of your life, the way you came to terms with your failing health, did not complain or whine about unfairness, and the way you finally seemed to accept that your end had come and simply took your leave, without fuss and without wanting to “trouble” other people.


3 January 2011



© Copyright Fletcher Kovich 2008-2017