The miracle of granny’s death and new life

5 08 2010

Part One:

I’ve decided to write this real life story in separate blogs, as it takes place over a ten year period from 2000 to date, and contains incredible details of granny’s amazing death experience, her in-between time as a ‘ghost’ and her after-life shennanigans….!

My strong and upright mother-in-law died a very demeaning death from the dreaded disease of alzheimers.  She had always dressed smartly and carried a handbag on her arm, was very polite to strangers and neighbours but a little scarey when her Irish roots occasionally let rip….a real force to be reckoned with when it came to protecting her family!   When her son once narrrowly missed a mother and a child in her pushchair as they stepped into the path of his reversing car, he had shouted ‘you stupid woman!’ to her.  Quite rightly too, the woman’s husband approached the open car window and said ‘don’t speak to my wife like that!‘ – and had the surprise of his life when the kindly old lady sitting in the back seat had leapt forward weilding her handbag at the bemused chap and shouted ‘you shut your gob!’ 

A very intelligent woman who played bridge regularly and once won a prize for completing the Sunday Telegrap’s crossword, it was quite a shock when we realised she was losing her short term memory.  Aged 82 and after only a year she declined rapidly, trying to leave her home at dead of night to ‘go and find a job’ or ‘check up on dad’, who had passed on many years previously and, worst of all, unwittingly abusing the sister who tried so lovingly to care for her.  And for whom she had cared for all her life after the death of their mother during her birth.  Eventually she needed constant supervision and it was a relief when she said ‘this place means nothing to me anyway’ and moved without a fuss.  

Normally such a kind and empathic person, she had always said ‘poor wee things’ when she saw anybody in a wheelchair or not in their right mind and ironically,  ‘I hope I don’t ever get like that’…so when, several months down the line, she had become a shadow of her former self, it broke our hearts.

Now here we were, visiting again in her nice room overlooking the grounds of the pleasant care home, but a nurse laughed nervously as we entered, saying she didn’t particularly feel comfortable around Sheila as ‘strange things sometimes happen’.

What do you mean?” Michael asked….

Well I was making the bed and out of the corner of my eye I could see the pillow I’d placed on the table was moving…and it started to spin round and round of its own accord…getting faster and faster! Your mum was just sitting staring at me and I felt it quite unnerving,” she laughed, understandably bewildered.

What did you do?” he asked.

I just knocked it on to the floor…it was scarey!” she admitted, and then slunk out of the room.   I looked at Sheila, who always had a mischievous twinkle in her eye, despite her lack of awareness of who we were.  I had ‘introduced’ her to our teenage son and daughter in turn, as they were unlikely to see their granny again on this side of the veil.  Her face lit up like a lamp as love just poured from her eyes and she took each of them by their hands and said ‘so pleased to meet you!’ 

And so it was that several months down the line the nursing home warned us of Sheila’s inevitable but sharp decline and her refusal to eat.  Michael took a week off work and together we sat beside his mum, now a bag of bones, and talked lovingly to her of her ‘days on the farm in Ireland, her adventures in Berlin, when she worked for Sir Paul Chambers with the Claims Commission at the end of the war – and where she met Michael’s father Kenneth.’  She did not move; her breathing was rasping and it seemed her time was fast approaching.

However, she held on to life as we know it by a thin thread. Michael had to return to work, so I offered to sit with her.  I decided to be honest with her and let her know how terrified I had been of her, as a young bride who somehow felt she never lived up to her mother-in-law’s high expectations for her only son. Many a time I trembled at the powerful disapproving looks flashed towards her husband and wondered what it was I had done this time….was it the way I held my cutlery….or the fact I said ‘pleased to meet you’ instead of ‘how do you do?’  Sheila had been brought up by a strict Victorian grandmother and it showed!

Whilst still in her own home but sliding backwards into her child-like personality,  I continued to set her hair in rollers each week, and was touched when she turned to gaze at my little star-shaped diamond engagement ring, taken off while I squirted mousse over the rollers to set them in.

“Oh what a lovely ring!” she had cried, bringing joy to my heart:  Twenty years earlier she had refused to come to our wedding, saying – among other hurtful things (due to fear) – that Michael had bought me a ‘pathetic’ ring.  One advantage of losing her memory was that she also lost her memory of all that had passed between us.  Each time I set her hair and gave her strict instructions not to remove the rollers until her hair was dry (“of course I won’t…I’m not that silly!“) – and wrote a note to this effect which she clutched to her bosom as I left – I would return home only to get a frantic phone call from May to say “she took them out when I wasn’t looking!”

After 3 hours sitting with Sheila (her sister lost for words) I decided to return home for a bit of shut eye and return around tea time.  Ten minutes later I felt my tired bones relax onto my soft bed and closed my eyes.  Suddenly a flash of lightning flung them open again and my head was drawn towards the source of the light at the windowIn that split second, I felt my mother-in law’s spirit overlap with my own and knew that she had come to see me.  In that split second I knew everything about her; I felt every emotion she had ever felt; I understood her totally.  There was a clap of thunder…and the phone rang.  It was the matron at the nursing home.  ‘Sheile is worsening.  Can you return asap?’

I hurriedly dressed again, picked May up from her house and was at the home within minutes.  As the matron opened the heavy front door she lowered her head sadly. 

“I’m sorry.  She’s gone….”

“There was a rumble of thunder…” I said.

That’s when she went.”

To be continued:

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