2002 was the year you left me to fend for myself. 2002 was the year my life changed in ways I could never even begin to imagine. The memories from 2002 will be forever etched into my mind, raw and powerful.

Twelve years ago my Mother died. She died from complications from pancreatic cancer. Ten years before this, at age 44, she had been diagnosed with bowel cancer (which we now know is in our family). She underwent surgery and treatment and after 5 years had been given the all clear after all her follow up tests.

Late in 2001 I accompanied her to the hospital as she was having a colonoscopy. She didn’t want to let anyone know as it was just before Christmas, December 22nd. She didn’t want anyone to worry.

On December 28th, as Martin and I watched the penguins trooping in from the sea at Phillip Island, I got a phone call from Dad telling me Mum had a small section of cancer that had been discovered, around the original surgery site. My world seemed to cave in around me.

I hate being moody, it’s all I seem to be lately, not happy at all. Shit. That is depressing. But, and this is not making excuses here, I have had way too much on my plate lately. I still can’t fathom my Mother having cancer again. I want her to be here if and when I have kids, I want her in my life for a long time yet. I feel like I am going to have little panic attacks all the time, I get worked up and feel sick and shit. It bothers me lots. I hate it. I know it’s me, all me, but I can’t do anything about it, I feel like a total git.

My exterior shows perfect calm and acceptance. My interior is all broken up and scattered about. I am in disarray. Even Martin is suffering coz of it, one of the people I least wanna hurt in my life.”

Soon this snowballed to her having cancer on her liver, to also have pancreatic cancer. Things got serious very quickly, our lives were thrown into turmoil. In my memory, Mum got sick very quickly. Nothing seemed to work, the news just got worse and life was lived on autopilot. It’s weird reading my blog from back then, I didn’t talk about what was going on with Mum much, just all the other noise. I guess a lot of it was too hard to think about. It still is.

I felt like I barely had time to wonder what my life would be like without my Mother. I drove her to appointments, to the hospital, helped her in any way I could. She was often in huge amount of pain, helped a little by her liquid morphine, which pretty quickly became a palliative measure. My manager at the time was unsupportive, at one point advising me “not to take too much time off, you don’t know how long (her dying) will take”. I battled through, losing a stack of weight in the process. My stress levels were high.

We had a day, just before Mum died, where we all spent a lot of time at her bedside. Her sister and brothers (my Aunt & Uncles) and other visitors. We reminisced, we laughed, we cried. It was a typical Caine gathering. Only this time it wasn’t for Christmas or a birthday. Mum was lucid and chatty most of the day. It was beautiful. Her oncologist tried a last ditch batch of chemo that day. It didn’t work.

“It’s just after 6am, I can’t sleep anymore. Thankfully I have had a few blissful hours though.
My Mum is dying. We’re not sure of how long she has, but it will be soon. The cancer has become extremely aggressive. Her bloodstream is full of clots. Eventually one of these will end it all for her, I can only hope that it is quick and as painless as possible. She has suffered enough at the hands of this cancer over the last 6 months. 

I am so not ready for this. How can you ever be ready I guess? I just didn’t think it would be so soon. I feel robbed and cheated. The pain is almost unbearable. I am about to lose my mother. My mentor, my creator. I still have so much to learn from her and I am never going to get that chance now. I love her so much.”

On 16th May 2002 I got the phone call to tell me to get to the hospital. When we arrived, things were going downhill fast.

“When I arrive next you are struggling, gasping, writhing in the bed. Surrounded by staff. I feel immediately sick. You reach towards the end of the bed, is it to me or to relieve your pain? I reach out and hold your hands. Do you even know I’m here? You’re slipping in and out of consciousness. Did you see me at the end of your bed, did you feel me holding your hands? I watch and I cry. Great silent sobs.

We all sit on the bed with you. Hugging, holding, stroking. Your breathing gets slower and slower. I can feel the life leaving you. I feel so much love and pain all at once. I want you to be free of this suffering, but I am so scared to lose you. Going against my heart, I tell you to go, I put a shawl around you, you seem to be cold. As you breathe your final breaths my life crumbles.

My friend, my mentor, the essence of me, my Mum, has gone. It’s 4.30pm, the sun outside shines in an eerie way.”

Twelve years later, some days it feels like a life time. Some days it feels like just the other week. You don’t ever get over losing someone close to you, you learn to live with the loss. It’s true that time aids the process. I remember going to dinner the night after Mum died, we’d organised it some weeks before and I figured that dinner with my closest friend was what I needed. I felt like I spent the whole night in a parallel universe, completely detached from everything. It was a really really strange feeling. I’m sure I felt like that for days. We organised and held Mum’s funeral, it was quite lovely. Mum was an amazing, kind hearted, generous woman, who was loved by most people who knew her.  She was a gentle soul.

Mum and I are quite similar. We are both Aries women, stubborn, fiery, strong. This caused some issues in my late teen years, but as soon as I moved out of home we became best friends. We’d do our grocery shopping together, we emailed each other every day. We spoke often. We were very close. I relished spending time with Mum, I looked up to her. She was a big reader and would give me her books after she’d finished them. I still love reading today. She also loved to spend a lot of time in the garden and I have inherited this trait too.

I was 27 when Mum died. An adult. I had purchased my own house, I’d been living there for a couple of years. I remember when I sold it and subsequently moved, feeling upset that Mum was not around to see this. I’ve felt this way countless times over the years. Most recently I cried silently to myself when my darling niece, Pippa, was born. Mum used to squirrel away books and clothes for our ‘future babies’. She was so looking forward to grand children. She would have been an amazing Nanna. I think a small part of me doesn’t want kids because Mum isn’t around, silly I know. Well that and the fact that my poor old body is wrecked. I missed Mum acutely when I was sick in hospital. I remember one Sunday crying my eyes out because I just wanted to be cuddled by my Mum, I just wanted her to tell me that everything would be okay.

Death of a loved one can change you in all sorts of ways, both good and bad. I have become strong and self sufficient. I followed my heart and went to uni to study as a counsellor based on my own experiences with my grief counsellor after Mum died. I sold my house and lived overseas for 2 years, because I felt life was too short to be tied down with a mortgage and a job I wasn’t overly fond of.

But I am unable to maintain relationships now, and this is due to my fear of loss. I can’t do goodbyes, I can’t cope with the thought of people leaving. I get panicky, I feel like things are out of control and I project this onto people and eventually I scare them away. I sabotage things. I know I’m doing it. I can’t expect others to understand why am I like this. It makes me really emotional to think that I have ruined relationships with people I loved because of this. Now I just think I’m far better off alone, then I can’t hurt myself or anyone else along the way.

Twelve years seems like such a long time. But when you’re talking about life changing events, it’s a blink of an eye.

Every year I try to take the day of Mum’s anniversary off and I try to spend some time with my family. This could involve going to the cemetery where Mum’s memorial plaque & garden is, or going out for lunch or just a hot drink. I really never know how I am going to feel on the day, some years I am good, some years I really struggle. This year I am already struggling with it. I think because it’s so close to Mother’s Day it rams home the fact that I am motherless and I truly miss my Mum.  The older I get the more alone I feel. I still love my Mum to bits and I’m forever grateful that she brought me into this world and was there by my side for 27 years.

Mum was the sort of person we wish we were like. The kind of person you base your aspirations on. She was confident, loving, full of life, full of knowledge and wisdom. Mum was a rock to both of us, our solid foundation

Mum always had the answers to our questions or would at least point us in the right direction. She didn’t judge us, but knew we would learn from our mistakes and experiences. Even if she wanted to yell it was pointless as above a certain decibel Mum’s voice would disappear, resulting in an eruption of laughter.  She was always there to pick up the pieces regardless.

Mum was the best role model a child could possibly have. Her voice was often soft and soothing, never threatening. Her attitude was selfless and dedicated. She instilled in us a high regard for upholding morals and maintaining and open mind.

Mum loved to garden and shared this love with both us daughters. We often made numerous trips to nurseries or Bunnings on the weekends, then wondered how on earth we ended up with so many plants afterwards! Mum passed on a few of her crafty ways. We learned to sew, to cross stitch and other activities, though we can never match the quality of the teacher.

Mum’s love of good literature was definitely passed on to both of us. We had an endless supply of quality books to read after she had finished with them herself. Her own thirst for knowledge made us also eager to learn.

Mum possessed a spiritual side shown by her love of alternative therapies such as meditation and yoga. Like us, her emotions ran deeper than often appeared on the surface. She was a sentimental person who bottled things up to be dealt with in her own unique way.

Mum was always looking forward to the day when her girls would make her a proud grandmother. So much so in fact, she has been collecting children’s books and keepsakes for when they finally arrived. Although she won’t be alive to see this day, we know that our children will have a beautiful guardian angel watching over them. We know she would have been the world’s best grandmother.

Our Mum was a wonderful person. We admired and respected her immensely. Her love and compassion for us was boundless. She was an inspiration and a fantastic mother, as well as a friend.

While we could dwell on the fact that we are unlucky to lose Mum so early, we feel privileged and honoured to be her daughters and enriched by being part of such a beautiful, wonderful life.


~ by Fen on May 16, 2014.

2 Responses to “Twelve”

  1. Beautifully written and very courageous of you to open up like that.. I remember the Phone call from Rob as I was on the way to pick up Mum and take her to the hospital. I had the unenviable task of breaking the news to Mum, That was something I will never ever forget, To hug her as she broke down, to feel energy drain out of her in what was and still is the worst moment of her life. I had never seen Mum cry before then and haven’t since. I shed a tear every May 16th and I also ponder how much better our lives would be like if Gilda was still here.

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