Whilst away abroad for a few days a couple of weeks ago, I got a phone call at 2.30 in the morning (the time difference was 7 hours) from the care home that my mother had been in for the past twelve years, Many of the people who read this blog have come to know her through the post on this site that I did called ‘Lost memories of Alzheimer’s’ and others through the radio broadcasts I became part of because of my personal experience of dementia. The phone call was to inform me that Betty was being tended and cared for, and gently rolled from her back to her side to prevent bed sores, when she simply stopped breathing and died. She was 93. Through the miracle of modern communications and mobile phones, as far away as I was, I was able to alert the family and roll into action all that needed to be done at a time like this. After so many years of distressing decline, eventually resulting in mum not being able to walk, talk or in any way communicate with us and after years of drastic weight loss and physical wasting, our natural sadness was also tinged with a sense of relief for her and for us. A blunt and straight talking family, we would often talk of such matters around the meal table and elsewhere and we knew mother’s will that she would not have wanted to live in the condition that eventually overtook her. I have talked before of my disinclination to approve of euthanasia, preferring to continue to care for the person who continued to be our mother and who was living out another stage in her life on this earth. I cling to that view, but now rejoice in the words I once heard from the lips of a former parishioner, who never darkened the door of the church and whose mother’s funeral I was about to conduct. The words were high theology for the daughter said that her mother, who had been aged and crippled and worn, was now free, whole and healthy again-she imagined her now as a young girl. Something of this hope and expectation inhabits my heart and those of my family for, having completed her life on this earth, mother’s pilgrimage to God continues for ‘neither death, nor life, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord’.
In a very real sense Mom continues to live in our memories and we find that now is a time to think back over the years and to remember the shared fun and sadness, the mutual learning and the atmosphere of love which the family home had, in no small part due to Betty. And the strange thing is this, that after many years of caring for someone who could not reciprocate that care and concern, our care and concern continues and is not diminished by her physical passing. This one thing alone seems to be a hint of the resurrection that is promised, for all things in life decay, pass away and die but one thing is inexhaustible and eternal and that is love. It is that knowledge which now sustains us.
RIP Elizabeth Mary Ellis.