WE buried my mother on Thursday. She died, a week earlier, in the care home where she had lived since February.
My father was at her side when she died, suddenly but peacefully. They had been married for 73 years, so it is some comfort to know he was there when she passed away.
Dad decided that he would not go to the funeral. I was glad. At the age of 100 (it is his 101st birthday tomorrow), the physical and emotional effort would have been too much for him.
I spoke at the service on his behalf. I asked everybody to remember mum as she was throughout her 95 years. Remember the sense of fun, the love for her family, the capacity for hard work, and not least her determination to have things done just the way she wanted them.
I did not want family and friends to be left with abiding memories of how she was in the last year of her life. Dementia’s baleful shadow had darkened the joy, but she deserved much more than for dementia to define her life.
I have written before about the modern phenomenon of people reaching retirement age and still having living parents. My parents, for example, were still young when their parents died. My two grandfathers were hard-working men; one was a coal miner, the other a tinplate worker. Men who did those sort of tough physical jobs tended not to enjoy long retirements.
But for us products of the ‘baby boomer’ years immediately after the second world war, things can be different. Many of us have the privilege of having parents who reach advanced age. With the privilege comes responsibility; often, as in my case, that responsibility eventually comes down to the moment you realise your parents need to move into a care home for their own comfort and safety.
My mother’s long life is now over. Dad remains in the care home that he had shared with mum since June. Both of us are finding ways to adjust to our changed circumstances.