Over to Cirencester for lunch at Rory and Judith’s. Such a lovely group of guests including Nicky and Karin from Owlpen; Charmain and Terry Murphy( who taught at the art school when I was there and much later taught Nathan drawing too ) and Katrina Rory’s sister from Wales. Its a beautiful town house and the kitchen where we eat has french windows opening onto a beautiful garden courtyard full of geraniums and sculptures. and two small studios where Rory also works. After delicious lunch Rory shows us his studios and the lime pit beneath the courtyard stones, which he uses for mixing the coloured lime washes he makes for buildings etc. After the Murphys and Nicky (who is opening a fete) have left, he and and Katrina take us and Karin to see his late Uncle’s house and garden next door which he has just bought. Its fascinating as it was originally a baker’s with old built in oven downstairs. Richard notices a very old wooden section of panelling which seems to be divided into three arch shapes and Rory’s immediate and most generous reaction is to give it to us as he says he can imagine it with my paintings in after Richard has lovingly restored it. He takes photographs of us and Katrina standing in front of it in the garden of this house which he intends to restore.
Working tirelessly as am increasingly aware that time is diminishing but enjoy the intensity.
Up to the National Star College for a performance of Tyto Alba, a piece of music written and performed by the students and staff inspired by my Owl in the City painting as a surprise thank you for me. Unfortunately some of the students are in quarantine as there is a virus in their residential accommodation so various members of staff are sitting in but there is one place right in the centre of the semi circle which Paul invites Richard to fill, to play the digital cello. The piece is divided into three parts. One of the students had suggested that perhaps the Owl represents the artist. The second part is where the music reflects what is happening behind the windows and the third part they imagine being outside with the people on the street. It is quite magical and totally fascinating for me to listen to this wonderful collaboration on this spellbinding musical journey. I am so moved honoured and humbled by the sheer joy and intensity that the students and other musicians display in response to Paul’s conducting. This is truly one of the most wonderful gifts I have ever been given. Richard really enjoyed taking part and was presented with an OrcheStar black T shirt. When I stand up thank them all, I am amazed to be presented with two other gifts from the Creative Arts Department, called ‘A View From the Art Room Window’. Unwrapping the contents from the blue tissue paper, I am holding an exquisite artwork, in glass, within the rectangular piece there are drawings, images and colours from the students in the department. It has been beautifully put together and there is an accompanying booklet showing the students at work on the drawings etc that they have contributed. Louise, head of art, tells me that this is their second piece as during the firing, in the first one the rabbit exploded so it all had to done again. It is truly beautiful and I am so touched to receive this most meaningful and special gift.
Then after chattering to students and staff we’re taken to lunch in the Star Bistro by Kathryn (the Principal); Gill (head of Appeals); David (Chief Executive) and Peter (vice principal). Delicious meal of spinach and ricotta cakes and truly delightful company.
Continue in Studio
When my dear Mum comes round for Richard to take her shopping I notice that
she is rather breathless, so suggest that she stays in the car whilst he goes in to Waitrose to do her shopping.
Write a letter to my Mum’s doctor explaining that I am rather concerned about her shortness of breath and that after she had a fall a couple of weeks ago
she’d been taken off her blood pressure daily tablet as they can contribute to falls particularly in patients aged over 90.
Dr Hardwick rings in response to both my letter and phone call he is very helpful and gives me an appointment to take my mum down tomorrow when her own doctor who is
also a heart consultant will be there, after discussing the having come of the blood pressure table which he says could contribute to the breathlessness.
I ring my Mum to tell her, then again early evening and there’s no reply so walk round to her house and we let ourselves in. I call out several times but she doesn’t hear me; she is in bed and I gently touch her hand which makes her jump. She says she’s alright, just rather breathless - my sister rings whilst I’m there. I come back home but decide to ring her again before we have dinner. Again there’s no reply so we go back round. She’s obviously knocked the phone off the bedside table and seems to me to be getting worse so I phone the NHS line who tell me to try and keep her sitting up. A doctor rings and says he will send a doctor who arrives very quickly in an ambulance - a doctor who looks like Damian Hirst, a trainee doctor and a paramedic. They do and ECG and other tests; he puts a cannula into her hand and gives her an injection all the time explaining to the other doctor what and why he is doing this. They also give her morphine. She asks what these three men are doing in her bedroom and I have to explain that I’m the culprit. They have given her oxygen and leave a canister with us saying they are trying to keep her at home and not in hospital. She hates having the oxygen mask on and keeps pushing it off. The doctor writes down his name when he leaves having asked if I can stay with her through the night but says to phone again if there is any deterioration. A little later when she’s coughing I grab a lined basket from the bathroom and can see there considerable blood within the sputum so decide to ring the NHS Direct again but its two different paramedic who arrive this time. The procedure is much the same, they give her an ECG and manage to speak to the first doctor and they say they need to take her into hospital. I know she isn’t going to like it and sit in the ambulance behind her whist Richard follows on in the car. Thus we arrive in Gloucester at about 3.30am and a series of tests and observations begin again. A very nice young Scottish doctor tells me she thinks she might have pneumonia so is giving her antibiotics - she’s also taken for an x-ray. The results seem to indicate both severe heart problems and pneumonia. By now its just after 6am and I decide to ring my sister as I now she rises about this time. She decides to get her secretary to cancel her meetings and drives down from Bedfordshire. Mummy is moved to the intensive care ward and I am beckoned by the young Scottish doctor, her consultant and entourage to a private room where he asks me the resuscitation question and wiping away a tear I say I would have to trust in their judgement but would also have to ask my sister who would be arriving this morning. arriving just after Dr Gordon, the consultant for the elderly has been to see her.Shortly afterwards we are moved to ward number 9 on the top floor and the very nice sister says that we can use a small room for patients’ families to stay in so that on of us is able always to be with her. Gill sits with her through the day and I through the night after going home to collect some things.
I must have dozed off in the chair next to my Mums bed as I’m suddenly aware that Gill has just arrived back. I stay to wait for the consultant Dr Gordon who seems rather more optimistic today and talks about her perhaps being able to go home at the end of the week. She sits in the chair beside the bed for most of the day and seems to be doing a bit better. Richard and I take turns to sit with her again through the night.
This evening Gill and the night sister say they think I ought to go home and that perhaps Mummy will sleep better if I do.
To the National Star College as its their Awards Ceremony today where I’m presenting my Capturing Art prize to Bethan Griffiths, who has been an amazingly energetic and extraordinarily creative student through her first year, in whatever area of creative arts she has applied herself to. She has made an exquisite self portrait that we had seen at last Thursday’s CAPA evening. Its always such a moving occasion to see the students, most of whom are leaving after their 2 or 3 year tailor-made study courses here, having achieved so much. During the lunch I try to find the students who have created and performed the beautiful piece of music based on my painting Owl in the City and the exquisite glass artwork made by the students all of who I had written thank you cards to.
Then its back to the hospital in Gloucester. But I am rather sorry I didn’t stay with Mummy last night as apparently she was rather distressed, getting out of bed and trying to walk out to the toilet still attached it to her oxygen unable to make it she sat down on one of the other beds. The night sister said someone had to sit with her to hold her hand.
The sister was very kind and when she saw me standing by my Mum’s bed in the night she went to get me a chair, a pillow and a cup of tea & biscuits. They are all so very caring and patient - and she says well, you are family.
Dr Gordon says he wants to keep my Mum in over the weekend as her condition hasn’t improved.
When I come back to take over from Gill in the evening they tell me they are going to move her into a little side room, which is much nicer, having the privacy, though sadly she seems to be getting weaker and now not able to get out of bed and walk assisted to the toilet.
Richard and I took turns to sit through the night with my Mum and now she is too weak to use the commode so we have to call for the bed pan at frequent intervals. She must be exhausted but still always manages to sweetly thank them for every thing they do for her even though she is now back on the full oxygen mask rather than the nasal application. She hasn’t really eaten more than a mouthful or two for days
After staying with my Mum and Gill, Richard and I go down to meet Henrietta and Kev who have driven down from London leaving the boys with Kev’s parents en route to be with my Mum. We take them to Dr Foster’s the hospital restaurant and sit (at Henrietta’s request) under my painting, Big Eaters. for a coffee and chat about my Mum’s condition. Henrietta is also concerned about us and Gill and wants to do her turn. She sends Gill home to Bedford. My Mum’s face lights up when she sees them and its the most animated we have seen her for awhile. They leave mid evening to go and collect the boys from Kev’s parents and take them back home.
On her return Gill sends us home to tie up a few things there but we haven’t been back long when she phones to ask if we can come back as the prognosis is not good and Mummy
to ask if we can come back as the prognosis is not good and Mummy is being moved to the respiratory ward where they have a new piece of equipment that give a greater volume of oxygen nasally rather than through the mask. The youngish doctor says that they have tried several different antibiotics but the pneumonia doesn’t seem to be responding so they think it best to take her off the medication. I ask whether she will be in pain and he says that if she seems to be in distress they will give her morphine. She obviously knows that she is dying as she says to me “I won’t be going home” I tell my Mum that Nathan is on his way to come and see her and I phone Henrietta who had made me promise that I would, telling her that Nathan is on his way. She rings him and even though he is well out of London he turns back to go and collect her and they both arrive at about 9, just as my sister is leaving. They sit with her holding her hand, after we’ve got a nurse to pull the blinds round the bed, whilst I talk to her about all the nice memories of her life. About my father and Henry and going to Tiree and about Henrietta’s lovely boys. I see them off at about 11pm as Nathan has to work on a shoot early in the morning.
The nurse says to me that she thinks my Mum seems very peaceful and doesn’t need morphine. I do another drawing of her and then at just after 1a.m. I notice that her breathing has become more regular as I hold her hand I know that this might mean two things, the unlikely chance that the antibiotics have at last kicked in or that she is nearing the end. The breaths are quite peaceful, there is no gasping or trembling with it now but gradually they become slower and fewer until the last breath when I know that she has departed this life. I just stand there silently weeping and stroking her face, probably for a few minutes until the nurse reappears and I tell her that I think she has gone. She says she thinks I’m right and comes back with another nurse who conforms that I am. The nurse leaves me with her and I ask if I can phone my sister so that she can come and say goodbye too, which I do and then phone Henrietta who with Nathan driving is still on the way back. Like Gill she is weeping and I suspect Nathan might well be too as Henrietta says he is making a good job of driving. She says how pleased they are that they came and how pleased she was that we took my Mum to Tiree when she was 90 and we must go back there again as it was her special place. My sister arrives shortly afterwards and I give her my Mum’s hand that I have been holding all this time and tell
her its still warm. The very nice nurse makes us cups of tea and when we have finished takes us into another room and informs us of the number that I need to ring at the hospital tomorrow. I ask if I can go back and cut some locks of my Mum’s hair for which she gives me scissors and two envelopes. I ask Gill if she would like me to come in the car with her on the way back and she says no as imagine she wants to speak to Ian on her hands-free and cry. But we arrange that she will come round after we have had some sleep.
We to go to the undertakers in the village Alexander Burn. When my father died many years ago I bought three plots in the then new cemetery, not knowing at that time that she would meet Henry so sadly when he died about twelve years ago, we ave the third plot to him, leaving the plot in the middle for my Mum. Alexander Burn. Phone her brother my Uncle Les and her Niece my cousin Rita and sent out the following to my friends and those who knew her.
Lost my darling Mum, who was only three days off her 93rd birthday, in the early hours of 21st when she passed from this world into the next with me holding her hand and Richard by my side, having just been visited by Henrietta and Nathan who had driven down from London and my sister who had been alternating with Richard and me so that one of us was always with her for her final week, in Gloucester Royal where all the doctors, nurses and staff were very kind and caring towards her and us. They treated us with great respect too. Sadly her pneumonia did not respond to the several different antibiotics they tried. As we live just round the corner from her for the past thirty five years, she was a huge and important part of our lives bringing us all much joy.
I am trying to finish the paintings for the exhibition which is probably quite cathartic as it also gives me time to contemplate all that has happened. My eyes well up unpredictably at intervals and I find myself weeping.
Henrietta, Kev and the boys arrive late afternoon. It would have been my Mum’s 93rd birthday so we have a cake with candles and sing Happy Birthday to her then drink a toast.
H,K and the boys go off to Devon for their holiday
We now have a project that has taken precedence over the exhibition and I can see how organising a funeral is also there to help the grieving process. and the coming to terms with the fact that we will remember my Mum and all the time that we have shared and spent together rather than the ongoing enjoying of her company. I do realise how fortunate we are that she remained relatively healthy and active and able to enjoy life through her final years living just around the corner only 5 minutes walk away.
Richard goes to Gloucester to register the death.
Gill and I go and organise the flowers. We also buy two blue hydrangeas and two blue ceramic pots to put onto my father and Henry’s graves.
We both see Father John who we went through the order of service with.
We have put together an order of service using a lot of photographs of my Mum through the various stages of her life, one as a baby, then at her wedding, with my father and Prince the black labrador we had; a couple with Henrietta and Nathan as babies or children; with my father after they had retired; later with Henry; then with both Isaac and Samuel as babies and one in Tiree.
Richard then began to print out and tie together with ribbons 60+ of the sets of pages.
During all this Richard’s been taking in the paintings which I have been trying to finish, to the Darkroom to have transparencies made as the deadline Panter & Hall had set some months ago ironically has turned out to be the day of my Mum’s funeral. service.