What losing my mum taught me about death.
Three years ago, in the early hours of this morning, I lost my mum following a tragic accident. She tripped and fell down the stairs which caused injuries she was unable to recover from.
I’d been with her during the day before it happened. Laughing, joking and spending time with her; not knowing it would be the last time I ever saw her able to that.
The night it happened was a nightmare.
I was fast asleep when I felt my husband, Jamie, wake me up. He told me he’d heard from my sister and that we needed to go to the hospital to see mum. She’d been in an accident.
I never normally turn my phone off, but for some reason, that night, I did. I don’t know why, but I never saw the calls my family were trying to make.
I remember jumping out of bed wide awake. Calmly, but quickly. I got dressed in the first clean clothes I could find, jumped in the car, and drove as fast – and as safely – as I could to the hospital.
I don’t know what I was expecting to see when I got there, but I didn’t expect what I saw.
Her body was swollen and she was hooked up to all kinds of tubes and machines that were helping her to survive.
The doctors and nurses were doing everything they could to try and save her, but the injuries she sustained were severe, and the doctors made it clear that she may not be able to survive them.
My siblings were already there when I arrived and we reached out to other family members to share the news. They arrived as the night dragged on and it was looking less and less likely to us that she would pull through.
Still, we held onto hope. We wished her well, cried, and told each other stories about her as we waited in the family room for some positive news to come through.
The doctor’s messages were becoming bleaker and bleaker, as we started accepting the reality of what was happening. We started fearing the worst for her recovery.
We waited and worried and hoped through to the early hours of the morning before being confronted with the heart-breaking news that she wasn’t going to make it. The doctors didn’t feel it was viable to keep her body going on life support. They couldn’t see a way for her to come back to life.
My siblings, family and I spent some time with her while she was on life support. We we’re able to say some final words before the doctors disconnected her from the machines sustaining her life.
We stayed with her and held her while she peacefully passed away.
It was a crushing moment. I don’t recall knowing heartbreak like it.
The loss was felt instantly.
I knew her spirit had gone.
I‘d had a turbulent relationship with mum throughout my life.
We were both stubborn and strong-minded, and it was only in the final years of her life that we were starting to form a good bond. I felt devastated that the opportunity to have a good relationship with her had been so harshly taken away.
I pined for her. Longed for her, and craved her physical presence in my life. I cried into my pillow for hours at a time. Even moved into her house and slept in her bed during the time leading up to her funeral.
I couldn’t cope with the reality of the loss. I just wanted to be close to her.
Even now there are times where I feel like all I want is to fall into her, and to feel her embrace me with a non-judgemental hold as I cry, and weep, and moan about whatever is that is on my mind.
I feel her loss in those moments the most, but her passing has taught me a lot that I am grateful for.
Her death has taught me that no one else can die in your place so there is no point in sacrificing your experience of life for anyone else.
It doesn’t matter how much a person loves you, or how much you love them, or how much you do for each other in life, when your time to go present there isn’t anyone who can die for you.
No amount of people-pleasing, sacrificing your needs or bending to anyone’s will of you can prevent the eventual end of your life from happening to you.
This time in which you are alive now is for you to experience.
It’s your time to enjoy life, and spend it doing whatever you want to.
I live life now in the moment — doing my best to disregard how it might appear or how it might grate against thoughts or expectations.
I also realised that there is no point sacrificing your true self in exchange for being liked, accepted, or validated. You don’t have to suppress your ecstatic expression of life, or try to fulfil a conditioned role or set of behaviours. There are no rewards in mind for putting yourself through that.
I live as freely as I can now— within the natural bounds of being an empathetic human.
I don’t waste time labouring under any illusions that I’m guaranteed to live a long and healthy life.
I work for the things I want to experience now.
I enjoy a passionate and creative life, now.
I see that there is no point in working myself to the bone and being miserable now — in the hope of a brighter future, or a relaxing retirement. I know I might not make it there. I instead find the light of the present moment now, and work from there. Taking action that feels right and in support of what makes sense to do in the here and now. This includes taking care of my personal needs.
I want to see and experience as much of life as I can — with the resources I have available, and I try not to let anything stop me in this work of uncovering what we are capable of in life.
I don’t know how much longer I have left to live, and I have learned to not deny myself the pleasure of living a wonderful life for myself.
Mums death deepened my appreciation for life as a whole.
I appreciate the people who show up in my life. For their love, and for their lessons.
I appreciate the capacity I have to serve others and to give back where I can. I appreciate the beauty of being served and supported by life.
I appreciate the basic experience of being alive and how fucking cool it is. Like, what even is that!? Being alive? I appreciate the ability I have to explore it and try and figure it out for myself.
I’m also less afraid of death.
I realise it is inevitable. A natural part of life.
Feeling death that close changed my understanding of it.
It’s not just something that happens to other people. It can happened to people we love. It can happen unexpectedly. It will happen to us.
I see death more like the end of a party now. Just my time to go home.
I also learned from mum that life’s challenges are never the end.
That no matter how difficult things seem there is always hope because until the unavoidable end comes, life is always supporting and guiding you through.
You are never without grace, wisdom, intelligence, resilience, intuition and an ability to respond.
I am grateful to my mum. For birthing me into this world. For the life, she lived through and shared with me. For the lessons, she has taught me — both in life, and the ones she continues to teach me through her death.
Lots of love, Shaneen x