Saturday, 25 April 2015

Undertakers. #atozchallenge Care for the carers

Two days after her 73rd birthday my Mum took her final breath. She had Alzheimers and Motor neurone disease. For her final 3 months I was her main carer. A privilege I am grateful for and will cherish forever. This years #atozchallenge theme will focus on being a carer / care-giver.

Remember to care for the carers.  


A time to say goodbye.

I remember asking her Doctor. "What should I do when she dies?"

He said, 'Take your time. She won't need an ambulance. Just ring the undertakers...there will be no need to rush."

She died the death of a saint, they said. She got up to pray, then died in her sleep.

I don't remember who called the funeral home.

It was a little before 6am when I phoned the Chief Mama of our neighbourhood. 96 years old, I met her at the top of the street. She prayed. I told her what to expect, she settled my nerves. Chief Mama has 4 sons of her own. My Mum was the pseudo daughter she never had. 

The circle of 11 women arrived one by one and gathered in Mum's bedroom. Chief, Elders, the first generation and her grand daughter. Twelve all together if you count Mum laid to rest in her bed.

We hugged, talked, giggled sometimes, prepared ourselves and prayed. I sprayed her favourite perfume in the room, on her, on the next generation, and the child. The Elders (all older than Mum) and the Chief supplied their own scents. 
We sat in silence

Words of encouragement as I removed her jewellery, except her wedding ring as requested. None of us knew what we 'should' do. We follow each other's lead. Ancient rituals in a land where she is to be the first ancestor.

The undertakers showed up at 9.30am. I didn't listen to people who said it was time for her to go and sent them away. At 11, I delayed them again. 

She created her own life in the Lucky Country. Her and husband's family had remained in their Motherlands. There were no relatives here, no photos displayed, but their presence was felt. When asked if we were waiting for more family members, I told them the ones that lived far away were still gathering.

We reminisced about the contrast of her strength and tenderness as we gathered the things she would need for her final journey. An unrehearsed ceremony.  

By 1pm final memories were created and cemented in history. It was time to take her body away. 

A blessed procession, from the house to the street. A time to say goodbye. One last time, she was leading the way. 


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  1. This is beautiful Ida thank you for sharing it with us. What a blessed death, and also to be surrounded by those who were in the ancient rituals of ancestors -

  2. I worked part time in a funeral home for a while. They had a special room set aside for Jewish funerals where we usually had one or more guardians sitting with the deceased all night.

    1. How interesting Jo - I love learning about different customs. We visited Mum's body often in the days before her funeral. In New Zealand it is normal to keep the body at the house rather than a funeral home. It sounds positively gruesome if you're not used to it, but I can see the beauty in it too...

  3. What a lovely way for your mum to begin her new journey, Ida. Unplanned, new to you and your mum -- sounds like she will embark on a voyage of adventure. Blessed, indeed. I think she's leading the way for you.

    Samantha Mozart


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