Just as our household was stirring awake on a cold winter morning, the phone rang downstairs. It was 7.00 a.m. on Tuesday the 2nd of December, 2003, 8 days after Mum had come back home from hospital.
I heard Rob's voice on the other end of the phone line; he usually called at night to give updates on Mum--I knew this couldn't be good news. He told me that Mum was on her way to hospital in an ambulance.
As he recounted the circumstances, they broke my heart.
The house that Mum and Dad had shared in Snake Lane for their last years together after moving from Bear Hill, was old and very basic. I would guess that it had been built at least 80 years earlier.
When I visited them in the month of October for the years they were there, I would sleep under layers of blankets because it was so cold. If it was -3 outside, it was not much warmer inside, and I remember once, writing on a postcard to family back in Canada that I felt as though I was sleeping out on the side of a hill.
The windows were draughty and the only heat upstairs was a wall electric fire in the bathroom, which we would use sparingly to avoid freezing during our ablutions! Downstairs there were two gas fires, the only other source of heat. Like the one upstairs, they were used sparingly.
Rob had been stopping by to check on Mum each morning as he rode his motorbike to work at the Rover Motor Company. When he had arrived that morning, he found that Mum had fallen at around 2.00 a.m. as she had tried to reach her commode. She had managed to take off her soaked clothes as she lay there on the floor, but she was unable to get up. She had lain there, shivering, for 5 hours by the time Rob found her.
Mum's Life Line lay near her but she had been either too confused or in too much pain to press the button that would have summoned help.
Immediately Rob set about getting Mum warm and calling for help. The doctor who arrived and examined her didn't like the sound of her lungs, so he facilitated her admission to hospital. Rob said that there were warnings of a flu epidemic to come in England and the doctor didn't want to take any chances.
I imagined Mum, suddenly so vulnerable and helpless, and I prayed with all my heart that she would not be one of those elderly people you read about, on a stretcher in a hallway, seemingly forgotten and alone, waiting for treatment. I prayed that God would be with her and that she would soon be settled into a warm bed, with all her needs cared for, and room mates that were not disruptive.
I had never imagined that Mum would have to suffer so much in her old age. She had lived a life of suffering, one way and another, and I had hoped that she would end her days with the comfort, friendship and happy times that she was so deserving of.
How helpless and far away I felt. Our home in Canada was brightly lit and decorated for Christmas. Our children and grandchildren were close by. This all felt like such a contrast to the struggle that Rob and Mum were engaged in.
Writing about that time, 9 years ago now, I see that God gave us the strength for each day as it came. It was good that we took one day at a time and didn't look too far ahead.
To be continued...