Wednesday, 17 February 2021

The shock of losing a robust elder

 When you’ve had a parent who has always been - or seemed - well, it’s actually harder for those of us who are left to adjust to their demise.

Captain Sir Tom Moore’s family believed that when he contracted covid_19 he would come home again. Others from outside the family might have thought that - as he was 100 - the chances of recovery were poor.

But when your parent has always been there. Rarely in hospital. Rarely on medication. Still walking about, getting taxis to the Pump Room, in the case of my mum, here in Bath, at the age of 89, it’s hard to believe they won’t recover.

I have great empathy with Captain Sir Tom’s family. When a robust parent reaches their nineties and their centenary their immune system simply isn’t as strong. I believe that is why so many elders die of pneumonia. The body doesn’t, or can’t, shake it off at that grand old age. 

My mother died from a series of mini strokes, not infection. They followed a massive brain haemorrhage two days after her final trip to the Pump Rooms, which she took, by choice, by taxi. She loved the pump room trio and quartet. And she didn’t mind standing in the tourist queue - at 89! 

But a massive stroke felled her three and a half months before her ninetieth birthday. We simply weren’t prepared for it. At the time she was medicated for stage 2 diabetes. (She lost the diabetes when she lost weight). But apart from blood pressure tablets and eye drops she was remarkably fit and able.

However, looking back, we can now see the small changes in her - following a heavy cold - were likely to have been the start of a series of tiny strokes which passed without recognition.

When I read of the wealthy and famous dying in their eighties I feel grateful mum lived as long as she did in almost excellent health. To live to 89 and still be independent and active is a great lifestyle to aim for. To live well and enjoy company also accompanied Sir Tom’s great age.

When a parent is so blessed it is hard to accept they are unwell let alone close to the end.

As one doctor put it to me ‘Your mother’s body has done its work.’ Simple but true words from someone I trusted. That was when I began to accept mum wouldn’t be around for ever. 

It’s so sad Sir Tom’s family have endured trolling owing, I believe, to their taking an overseas trip in December, in a pandemic. But hadn’t the old man earned what was to be his final holiday? Others, of course, have been less lucky. Many families couldn’t sit by the bedsides of their loved ones in a covid ward. That’s the problem with being in the public eye. If he’d raised the money quietly without any media interest they could have had that final holiday and very few would have known about it, I guess. But less charity funds may have been raised. Swings and roundabouts.

My mother wasn’t in the public eye but she enjoyed her last trip to the musical soiree in the Pump Rooms. Enjoying life. 

Let’s not get bitter.

Here’s to you Captain Sir Tom!

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