In loving memory of my mother, Annette Young.
On Sunday,13 February, I said my final goodbyes to my mother.
My wife Marie Young and I were privileged to accompany Mum through her last hours, after she lost what to us has been an emotionally devastating and prolonged seven-year battle with dementia. I am so incredibly proud of the character of my wife Marie for sacrificing years of career and opportunity to care for my Mum as if she were her own.
Care often takes place in the shadows of life where nobody sees.
As a family, we watched and participated with my mother as she went from a fully functioning adult, living with us in the household, to being completely incapable of communication, in palliative care.
The emotional effect of our watching a beloved family member's cognitive decline has been devastating on myself and Marie.
It broke our hearts.
Not all heroes wear capes, and Marie heroically chose to step out of her full-time career several times to provide care and support for Mum.
Over the last few years, we have had to put our business and personal lives on hold, the impact of which has been beyond measure. Some of you may have experienced this in terms of disconnection or unavailability from me.
As Glyn and I discussed my mother's condition, we became aware of a phenomenon called Terminal Lucidity. This is a state within which dementia patients become lucid for a brief period before they pass on. As soon as we got the word from the rest home that my mother had stopped eating, Glyn and I agreed that I should take extended bereavement leave, so I would not miss this special moment of farewell and connection with my mother.
The last few years have been a prolonged and emotionally traumatic farewell to the person I have known all my life, as Mum's consciousness disappeared not in an instant, but in painful increments, each imperceptible.
You are barely aware of the impact it is having on you, but other people notice.
I never got to have that "last words moment" with Mum. I can't remember the last time she spoke, and whether those words made any sense. Since 2020, when we came back from the first COVID lockdown, Mum couldn't speak coherently. Sometimes she would say "thank you", or mumble something we couldn't make out. But over the last year, her body began to shut down. In recent months, even opening her eyes was an effort.
But on the night before she died, as Marie and I sang to her, Mum’s eyes opened, and she looked straight at us. Clearly. Curiously. Appreciatively. It was a beautiful moment of farewell. She was communicating with us, beyond words.
I never knew Mum's last words to me. But as I prepared my eulogy, I realised Mum's whole life had been a message. Every word she ever said to me has made me who I am.
So, you could say I am Mum's last words.
Last Wednesday (Feb 16), we had a very special send-off for Mum. I am sure she would have loved it. Marie's close and extended family members gathered around to make the venue and the decorations - especially the flowers - reflect the colour palettes that suited Mum best. I really wanted to tell her all about it. That means, we did it right. It is very satisfying to honour someone at their passing, and it makes me focus on how to honour those in my life who are still alive.
I am grateful for the outpouring of love and affection.
Thank you, Annette, for who you were, and how you loved.
Your loving son,