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Newsletter Summer 2020

 

 

Ruth Mantel, Lucy's mum

An Inspiration, Ruth Mantel

Unbeknown to me my Mum had been living with breast cancer for 9 years, and at the age of 12 I then found out my Mum was dying.

I remember the day so clearly; I was in the car with my Dad to collect one of my Mum’s prescriptions which was a pretty regular journey for us. My Mum had been in hospital for a couple of weeks which meant that I had been treated to many of my Dads cheeky Friday night takeaways and managed to get away with wearing more make up than my Mum would usually allow! My Dad gently put his hand on mine and said “Lucy, I need to tell you. Mummy isn’t getting better this time and I am so sorry, but Mummy is dying”. The heat immediately went to my cheeks and in the moment, I couldn’t establish whether I wanted to vomit or scream. We exchanged an awkward hug and shared some tears in the carpark before dutifully collecting the prescriptions and picking up my 9-year-old brother to break the news to him (over another take away).

My Mum took “dying” fully in her stride, and spent some time detailing to my Dad her wishes, most importantly that she didn’t want to be at home when she died. Returning to hospital didn’t particularly tickle her fancy either, so the Consultant suggested St. Michael’s Hospice. My Gran and Dad visited and immediately noted things like the carpets, lack of hospital bedding, free TV (which Dad was ecstatic about) and moreover free parking! What was nicest about the next few days was that Mum (attached to lots of medical paraphernalia) returned home and although sleepy, we spent some unforgettable days together, talking about life and laughing at old pictures and stories.

Mum was admitted to St. Michael’s via an ambulance. I followed behind with Gran, fearful about what was to come. I’d not so sensibly googled the term hospice, and this filled me with utter fear. I couldn’t have been more wrong. As soon as we arrived, we were welcomed with open arms. The chef later learnt about my nut allergy and even made a mini selection of cakes! I remember being overwhelmed by the number of friendly faces, which made the new environment somewhat less daunting and far less clinical which was comforting. Mum had her own duvet, didn’t have to wear a hospital gown and had the freedom of her own room with unlimited visiting hours.

The next days are a blur, I didn’t know whether I was coming or going and hadn’t quite grasped the concept of death. My Dad and I stayed every day and night, of which the latter seemed longer. My memories from this time include attempting to beat my Dad at cards (which he never let me do) and the kind night staff who were always on hand to provide late night hot chocolates and distracting chatter. The days turned into a week and eventually my 12 year old self started getting a bit twitchy of waiting for “something”. My Dad noticed this and dutifully encouraged me to go to my Gymnastics Club for a few hours which I would usually attend regularly. No more than an hour after I’d left, my Dad appeared and as soon as I saw him, I knew. Time stood still. I looked at my brother who was looking at my Dad and the silent conversation between us was deafening. I was numb and nothing anyone could say or do could change that. I felt like a piece of me died that day with her, and that was something I’ve never got back.

Turns out Mummy had died peacefully with just my Dad by her side - obviously just how she’d wanted it. I still slightly begrudge that she chose that one moment, however I know that it was her last way of trying to protect me.

The feeling of losing a parent at a young age is entirely indescribable and I struggle even now to articulate the feeling. I strongly believe that grief is a journey and time is certainly not a healer. I know everyone thinks their parents walk on water, but my Mum really was the most incredible Mother to me in the short time she was given. I do my best to honour her memory and keep the light burning every single day. My husband and I recently married on what would have been her 50th birthday in the church where she is buried.

I am now a proud member of St. Michael’s Hospice nursing team and am honestly just honoured to wear the uniform. It brings me great comfort to walk the corridors where Mum was in her final weeks and she inspires me to be the best nurse I can be every single day.

Lucy Whyle

Update: since Lucy wrote this piece for us, she has become a proud mum to daughter Ivy Ruth Whyle. We wish the Ivy and her new parents all the very best.

 

 

 

 

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