Numero P

On Sunday 29 January 2017 at 9.15pm my Mum sadly passed away. For four years my Mum battled Alzheimer’s and later, Pulmonary Fibrosis – two unrelated diseases that unfortunately could not be cured. Still to this day I find it hard to open up about my Mum’s death. My world changed forever when she passed away and the memories and photographs I have of her will be cherished forever. If I could take any positive from such a negative situation it would be the ability to share what I learned from the experience.

Soon after we realized my Mum had Alzheimer’s she developed a persistent cough that she couldn’t shift. She went to the doctors and tried several different courses of antibiotics and treatment, but nothing worked.

It was only when my wife and I got married in Tuscany six months later that we realised just how bad my Mum’s health actually was. She couldn’t walk more than a couple of yards without being completely exhausted and out of breath.

In the lead up to our wedding I could never understand why my Dad was so stressed about how he was going to travel with my Mum to Italy. Now I know why. My Mum ignored the doctor’s advice not to travel. Nothing was going to stop them from attending their son’s wedding. The family took the decision not to inform us of the severity of my Mum’s health as they did not want to worry us or have us change or postpone our wedding plans.

Keri and I got married in Tuscany on Friday 4th September 2015. It was the most amazing day of our lives and we are so grateful to all of our family and close friends who came out to Italy to share our special day with us. The day after the wedding as we were leaving for our honeymoon, my Dad wept as we said goodbye. I asked him why he was crying, and he later told me he thought it was the last time I was going to see my Mum.

From that moment onwards I phoned my Dad every day to check on my Mum’s health. Having tried to enjoy the remainder of what would be their last holiday together in Italy, my parents cut short their plans to fly home and seek medical treatment. Upon returning to the UK, my Mum was admitted to hospital where she remained for a couple of weeks.

After several tests it had become apparent that my Mum’s lungs had deteriorated so badly, they were only working at 30% capacity. This was the best they were ever going to be as she was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis. She left hospital 100% reliant on an oxygen supply.

For the next 16 months my wife and I drove down from London to Bournemouth every two weeks to spend the weekend with my parents and give my Dad some respite. We rotated our visits around my brother and sister to ensure everyone got to spend as much quality time with my Mum as possible before the unimaginable time came for her to go into a hospice.

I made sure I called my Mum and Dad every single day right up until a couple of days before she went into the hospice. I found Facetime particularly helpful as it enabled my Mum to see my face rather than just hear my voice and rely on her memory. I called every day without fail. Sometimes for just couple of minutes, sometimes for an hour. It didn’t matter. As soon as I was told there was no cure for Pulmonary Fibrosis, I made a pledge to myself and my wife that no matter what, however long it takes, I would never have any regrets regarding my Mum. Every time I said hello it was a blessing. Every time I said goodbye, I treated it as the last time.

At 9.15pm on Sunday 29 January 2017 my Mum passed away. The whole family was by her bedside for the whole weekend before she died. I made the decision not to be there to watch my Mum pass away. It was not a memory I wished to be left with. It’s a decision I do not regret. Several hours before my Mum passed away, I was fortunate to spend ten minutes alone with her. During those ten minutes my Mum woke up, gave me a hug and a kiss and told me not to worry. I told her I loved her before she went back to sleep, to never wake again.

There’s not really much I can say that hasn’t already been said before. Life is short. Enjoy it. Never have any regrets. Never go to bed at night feeling you missed an opportunity. Never wake up in the morning dreading the day ahead. Always view tomorrow as an opportunity to start over again.

I will leave you with a lovely quote by Les Brown who once said “the graveyard is the richest place on Earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry out their dream”.

That quote, and many more like it get me out of bed every day. My drive to succeed comes from knowing how proud my Mum would be of everything I achieve.

Copyright © Matthew Parkes 2020

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