My mother died at ten past one this afternoon, in a nursing home in Dalkey. She was 93. Euphemisms aside, her 'passing' actually was peaceful. Over the last decade her osteoarthritis had worsened; she had become house-bound, then room-bound, then essentially chair-bound, her world shrinking. Recently she began to have trouble eating and drinking. She was very frail. They had moved her to a private room around two weeks ago. My wife and seven-year-old son had just called in to see her. I think she knew they were there. She was able to make small sounds of acknowledgement and to respond when her hand was squeezed.
After they left, I was sitting holding her hand when I realised there was a change; her breathing, which had been fast and shallow, was slowing. Her hand was unresponsive, lax. I called in the nearest person I could find, who happened to be Alice, the marvelous woman who runs the place. She brought in a couple of nurses, who were both efficient and warm, truly caring professionals (despite the fact that this would obviously be routine for them).
I could barely speak at first. One of the nurses brought me a cup of tea. I kept looking at mum, detecting phantom movements, as if she was still breathing, then I'd glance out the window at the view I have become so accustomed to, a row of neat, shingled bungalows running uphill along a little footpath beside the nursing home: back-gardens with wind still tousling the cabbage palms, blurry pale blue rips in the rushing clouds, inexorable life.
My wife and cousins (who also happen to be close friends) have been brilliant. Arrangements, phone calls, etc. have been made. I am writing this now partly because I am unsure what else to do with myself.
Mum was second eldest in a family of seven. She often said she was always 'the peacemaker'. She never married and I grew up with my grandparents. Though I believe she was a popular and stylish young woman, by the time she settled in Dublin her circle of friends became small, mostly family (two sisters lived nearby). As her parents aged, she became their carer, as, eventually, I became hers. She was a very loving mother, immensely kind and gentle. And now the world is minus her.