Mum and the gathering of the ghosts

Mum had her fair share of health problems over the past few years; osteoporeosis and osteparthritis lead to a lumbardectomy on her back about four years ago; two years ago she had an artery replaced in her leg, and, she has had a couple of colonscopies this year which came back negative for cancer.

About a month ago she had a fall at home, didn’t tell anyone and just battled on, until Tuesday week ago she had to spend the day in bed because of the pain.  On Wednesday morning when my sister went down to check on her she was sitting in a chair in her bedroom crying.  Karen called an ambulance and we descended on Box Hill Hospital Emergency Department.

They did a series of tests; xrays found a fracture in her spine, but that didn’t explain the other pain in her abdomen, so MRI’s and CAT scans followed and on Sunday last week we were told that Mum had cancer in the liver and in her spine and that she only had months to live.  Mum and my sisters and I discussed the option and chose for her not to have any further invasice treatments.  Mum didn’t want to go through what her mother did after being diagnosed with breast cancer in her eighties.  

“How come,” she asked the doctors, “I was alright last week but now I’m dying of cancer.”

Of course she wasn’t alright the week before.

So for the next few days we kept a bedside vigil whilst the doctors changed her medication to make her comfortable and we and she were resigned to the fact that she would end up in care somewhere and not go home.

I had to go to work on Thursday but got a call from my sister that Mum was starting to see a few ghosts.   This gathering of the ghosts is a common one in our family and for me it was reason enough to head straight back in.

We had a wonderful afternoon, we laughed and joked and reminisced.  My brother-in-law Gerry came in and Mum said that he had one of his departed dogs, Bessie sitting on his lap.

“Why can’t it be Drew Barrymore?” he said.

“She’s not dead,” we laughed.

“How about a young Liz Taylor then?”

“She’s not dead either,” and Mum laughed with us.

We left late on Thursday night and by the time I got in Friday morning she was in a deep sleep that we couldn’t rouse her from.   Around lunchtime the Palliative Care doctor came in and said that they would be able to move Mum to a free bed at Wantirna Health and she arrived there by ambulance at around 2 pm.

Her breathing was deep and laboured and at 1:15 am this morning in the company of my sisters she passed quietly and peacefully away.

Mum had a good life and this week had the opportunity to talk to people she cared about and say her goodbyes, with all of them there was a laugh and a giggle and that is what they will remember.

For her children and grandchildren we have lifetimes of memories and whilst the end came quickly I think Mum made sure that she wouldn’t linger and drag this out for us.  On Thursday night, in the hispital ward she a a roiling cloud of light on the ceiling, she tried to describe it to us but said that it kept going in and out of focus.  In the early hours of this morning I am sure that it cam sharply into focus for her and Dad and Nana and Grandad and all of her passed love ones greeted her warmly as the pain left her for the last time.

I’m going to miss you Mum.

Here are a few other posts about my Mum –

If your Father wasn’t already dead
Mothers Day

One loaf short of a curl

I was coming in on the train this morning and was sitting near a bloke with shoulder length curly hair who looked a liitle like James May with the craggy features of  Don Chipp and the beginnings of a Friar Tuck tonsure.  Which will mean nothing to anyone who wasn’t a Top Gear watching, Australian Democrat voting, Robin Hood fan of roughly my vintage.

And before I cop too much flack let me explain that I did in the dim deep past vote Australian Democrat when Chippy was party leader and before they became wig wam living, tofu and lentil eating believers in the doomsday version of climate change and that trees have souls.  Not that I’m saying trees don’t have souls, just that for me the jury is still out, just like it is for global warming, which is another whole reason for a blog post.

But I digress.

Seeing the curly hair on this bloke on the train [remember him from paragraph one] reminded me of my two male cousins on my Mum’s side, both of whom had curly hair.  Actually I had three male cousins but one of those is 10 years younger than me and therefore he is set aside for the purposes of this story.  My hair, on the other hand was straight and I always had a crew cut as a kid, so it wasn’t until the 70’s came and I grew my hair that I found out it did have a bit of a wave.  But both these guys had tight ringlets and I couldn’t understand why given we had at least one set of grandparents who were the same that I didn’t end up with curly hair too.  Any knowledge of genetics and hereditary were still a long way in my future.

Then my Mum came up with a fantastic bit of folk wisdom – “Eat your crusts and your hair will curl” she told me.   So I did.  I even took to eating everyone elses crusts and it didn’t work.   Sometime around the time I stopped believing in Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny, I stopped believing that crust eating would curl my hair.  As it turned out one of those cousins joined the army and had his head shaved and the other grew his long but spent so much time trying to comb it straight that he went prematurely bald.

I like to think that Mum didn’t really lie to me.  That maybe I just had stubborn hair.  After all when I did grow it long it did have a bit of a wave to it.  Maybe I was just one loaf short.

Remember when Mum said if you ate an apple core…

…that you would end up with an apple tree growing in your stomach.  Or that if you didn’t clean your ears or toenails that potatoes would start to grow.  So I grew up terrified that I would turn into a triffid or an ent, or worse that stalks of celery would start to burst forth from my nostrils.  I could only quake in fear at the thought of blackberry bushes growing from other orifices and the damage that the thorns may do to various bodily parts.  And as a result I was very careful never to digest anything that looked like a seed and in fact grew up with a mortal fear of nuts.   Or maybe you don’t remember any of this and my Mum was the only one who managed to induce these fears.


Well I hate to tell you folks but it seems like it was all true.  There is a report that has come out of Russia which states that surgeons who operated on a 28 year old man to remove what they thought was a cancerous growth found a 5 centimeter fir tree growing in his lung.   They believe he somehow inhaled a seed which germinated and grew inside his lung.   It got me thinking that if a single seed can do that then imagine what a few thousand spores could do and I have promised myself never to sniff mushrooms.

So here’s a couple of questions.   What words of cullinary wisdom did your Mum give you?  And check out Discover magazine who are asking whether you believe this is true or not.   Let us know your answer here.

Remember when Mum said if you ate an apple core…

…that you would end up with an apple tree growing in your stomach.  Or that if you didn’t clean your ears or toenails that potatoes would start to grow.  So I grew up terrified that I would turn into a triffid or an ent, or worse that stalks of celery would start to burst forth from my nostrils.  I could only quake in fear at the thought of blackberry bushes growing from other orifices and the damage that the thorns may do to various bodily parts.  And as a result I was very careful never to digest anything that looked like a seed and in fact grew up with a mortal fear of nuts.   Or maybe you don’t remember any of this and my Mum was the only one who managed to induce these fears.


Well I hate to tell you folks but it seems like it was all true.  There is a report that has come out of Russia which states that surgeons who operated on a 28 year old man to remove what they thought was a cancerous growth found a 5 centimeter fir tree growing in his lung.   They believe he somehow inhaled a seed which germinated and grew inside his lung.   It got me thinking that if a single seed can do that then imagine what a few thousand spores could do and I have promised myself never to sniff mushrooms.

So here’s a couple of questions.   What words of cullinary wisdom did your Mum give you?  And check out Discover magazine who are asking whether you believe this is true or not.   Let us know your answer here.