As the fireworks explode and people hug and cheer to welcome the new year; my new year is tinged by sadness. Last year I sacrificed my attendance at Watch night service to spend it with my very ill aging parents. We toasted in the New Year hugged and kissed them so happy they’d made it through another year.
The year brought much laughter but also many tears. In March dad had a minor stroke according to the medics but it was devastating on top of myeloma. I struggled to breathe as I took in that the healthier parent was now struggling to speak, eat and walk. In the ambulance and the long wait in A&E he had to comfort me instead of the other way round. After 6 weeks in hospital they dismissed him with an 18 week waiting list for physio and speech and language.
Unsurprisingly, he did not manage to get this treatment; he deteriorated quickly. He managed to make it to my 50th birthday party – he refused to leave early despite feeling tired. It was his last venture into the outside world. My mum had to press panic button three more times before he was admitted to the hospital. Everyday he was less and less communicative; barely conscious; not eating or drinking.
Every day was filled with anxiety, would the hospital call? Would the carers call? Who would go first mum or dad? It was difficult to call. It turns out it was dad. From the cancer diagnosis to death it was exactly a year. The whole family was with him at the end – we prayed; we sang; we reminisced and he slipped away quietly and peacefully.
Mum seemed to handle his death with strength and resilience. She helped us plan the funeral right down to the coffin, his burial outfit, the songs and the tributes. I could only admire her courage, her husband of 54 years died in September ; it looked like she would be able to carry on. I was wrong. She said she missed him I thought I understood how much but the truth was she didn’t want to – she couldn’t live without him.
The 5 years of living with PSP took its toll on her fragile body. At the beginning of November she was admitted to hospital with a chest infection and by the end of the week we were told there was no hope.
I have no words to explain the devastation on the family. The matriarch who brought the family through all the highs and lows in our life would no longer be around. We didn’t want to let her go. Not now! So soon after dad it didn’t seem possible.
During the two weeks she was in hospital we spent time as a family and we could remember the hilarious stories from our childhood. Losing both parents in such a short space of time has left a gaping hole in my life, but occasionally I manage to fill that hole with the many beautiful memories they have given us. As the year comes to a close with fireworks and hugs there are two empty chairs in the living room and an occupied mansion in heaven. RIP Isaiah and Eulalee Jackson.