Joanne Gallacher
By Joanne Gallacher

Losing my Mum: My journey

And why time really is the GREATEST healer

It's been nearly four months since losing my Mum. Finally, I'm starting to see things a little clearer - thanks due to the luxury of time.


And in this time I've learnt a lot about myself during a relatively short space of time.

1. I am stronger than I thought.

2. I can cope actually.

3. I am a good person!

So, let's tackle these startling revelations. I am strong but I always thought I was weak. In some ways I have little confidence. I always see a fat, short person in the mirror with no fashionable clothes. Now I see someone who is average weight and yes small but post January 2012, let's call it petite.

I do have some "on trend" clothes but I dress as I want to - not to please others. Much better to stand out from the crowd then to blend in! Ha ha, that's my excuse! I'm a coper, who'd have thought it? Before my Mum died I was always on the phone in a panic and looking for constant reassurance - much to her annoyance! Daughter number one isn't on the same reading level as her friends, and if she hasn't been invited to a specific birthday party I question if she's liked? Will she fail her GCSE's - she's six by the way! What about daughter number two. Will she ever stop breastfeeding and sleep through the night?

She has a cold, do you think it's swine flu Mum? My Mum listened patiently for a while but would soon snap. "Joanne, you're not happy unless you're worrying about something," she used to shout down the phone. I'm getting by though, making my own decisions and I'm starting to look at things in a different way.

Back in January 2012 when we were told she had 48 hours to live, I cussed and cursed. Life was cruel, I must've been evil in a previous life, to lose one parent is unlucky but both parents before I'm even 40! I genuinely felt I'd been dealt a wrong card. Surely the loss of a parent should be shared around? I now see someone who was lucky to have a Mum who saw her get married and have children. We knew she'd been ill but I thought her malaise and loss of appetite was down to some sort of depression. This was the Mum who, when I was young, would get up in the early hours to do her housework but suddenly she couldn't be bothered to leave the sofa. My brother and I begged and cajoled her to go and see the GP. She wouldn't. She was waiting for scan results you see and she said she'd see the doctor then.

That wasn't good enough for this busy-body daughter though. I went behind her back and phoned the surgery for advice. I was told they wouldn't do a house visit so I'd have to take her there - confession time! She came with me but she could hardly put one foot in front of the other. How had I missed this? When she shuffled in and the Dr lifted her baggy top I could see the loose clothing had been concealing a bag of bones. How could I not have realised? But of course I had! Had I failed her? - I'll have to cope with that thought - there's that word again - cope! Sat in that sterile room our world was about to come crumbling down. Mum was smiling but you could see even the use of those facial muscles caused a strain.

Then the killer blow was dealt. IT WAS CANCER. In the liver and we later discovered spots on the lungs too. We were talking days not months. Mum was sent home to die. In the car she was silent, wouldn't discuss it but said she'd wait to see her consultant on Thursday January 26th 2012. She refused help and only my brother and I were allowed to know the true prognosis.

After 24 hours of us trying to do everything on our own and finding her collapsed on the floor I realised we couldn't cope. I phoned the district nurses - again behind her back. Are you getting the picture here of a disobedient daughter? They came and my brother and I were told she had 48 hours. She still wouldn't entertain a hospital, a hospice or Marie Curie nurses. My brother and I took turns to stay with her throughout the days and nights. What we both wanted was a Hollywood ending.

We wanted a death-bed declaration of love and hugs. We didn't get it. We know she loved us though and even in the end this stubborn woman was going to do it her way! The end came on Thursday January 26th 2012 - how ironic, the very day she was due to go and see the consultant. She slipped away with my 33-year-old brother by her side. That little boy who was the apple of his Mummy's eye. That little boy she idolised. In the blink of an eye that woman who defended him throughout his life, who turned up in the cold and rain to watch his football matches, who ran on with oranges at half-time and who washed the kit every Saturday - was gone. He has to cope with those last images and I have to cope with the fact I wasn't there. Four months on and I still struggle to cope.

This morning I saw her coat hanging up in my downstairs toilet and for a fleeting second I believed she was there. I've lost count of the amount of times I've grabbed the phone and been on the verge of dialling her number. Finally though, I have to believe I'm a good person. All we did for her was with the best intentions. I have to believe I'm a good wife, mum, sister, sister-in-law and friend. When I went behind her back and got medical help it was because I wanted to make her better or at least comfortable. When I ignored her wishes to keep quiet and phoned her sister and Mum it wasn't done out of malice. I wanted them to have the opportunity to say goodbye. I couldn't deny them that. It's the good we see in people which enables us to get up every morning and carry on. My Mum had relied on my brother and I for a long time and I had started to get annoyed with her - there I've said it.

I feel terrible and in her last years I found her demanding and at times bloody difficult. Now though, through this luxury of time I can look back and dig out the good memories, the good characteristics which shaped me and my brother and made us the good people we are today. She will help shape her much loved Granddaughters and Grandson and lives on through them.

She would've been 65 on May 12th 2012 and my brother and I went off for the weekend with our respective families to remember her and celebrate her life. We saw a lot of her on that weekend. The stubborn gene has passed on to Granddaughter Number One, the determined - I'm always right gene to Granddaughter Number Two and the little six-month-old Grandson got the impatience.  If they get her kind heart though, they'll do alright. On the whole SHE was a good person who's very much loved and missed by us all. X


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