Maria is part of our Fundraising Team here at the Hospice and as part of Dying Matters Awareness Week, she is sharing her mom’s story to help anyone who may be experiencing something similar…

I was around 14 when I found out my mom had multiple sclerosis (MS). She used to help me with my paper round and one day my dad told me that she couldn’t anymore because her knees were getting worse and the reason for this was that she had MS. I was a bit confused at the time because I didn’t know what MS was, so I had to research it to actually understand the extent of the disease.

I never thought at that point, that she would deteriorate to the stage she did. As I went along with her to appointments, I learnt more about what MS was and how it would eventually take over her life.

Creating Memories

With this in mind my mom wanted to create some amazing memories and experiences before her condition worsened. We went to Disneyland Florida twice, Las Vegas, San Diego and Austria. My favourite memory of that time was the tranquillity of the Grand Canyon. It started with a helicopter ride over Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon where we got to see the Hoover Dam too. When we landed in the Grand Canyon we stayed in a cabin overnight with amazing views all around us. We went on a horseback ride whilst the sun was setting and on the evening we sat around the campfire with a lady with the most gorgeous voice singing on her acoustic guitar. We looked up to the sky and it was just full of stars! It was an experience I am so grateful to have had and one I’ll never forget. She loved creating photo albums, so I’ll always have precious photos that I can look back on of the adventures that we had as a family. 

Grieving Before The End

During my last year of university was probably when I did most of my grieving, and I think increased levels of anxiety and stress from university didn’t help matters. I struggled with the fact that she was missing out on important days for me due to her health, which I would have given anything for her to be at, such as my 21st birthday and my graduation day.  I also knew that mom was very poorly, her condition was worsening and she was regularly being admitted into hospital. She was in hospital at Christmas and I remember thinking I don’t think she is going to be here much longer and the following February she passed away.

Spending Time in the Hospice

Whilst she was in the hospice, friends and family reminisced about moments they had shared with mom, and I learnt things I never knew about my mom.  People often have a misconception that a hospice is a sad place and that you create unhappy memories there. However, in those last few days I created happy memories that will always stay in my heart. We laughed, we cried, we shared memories and just carried on being the same crazy family that we are!

She wasn’t very responsive towards the end but I hope that she enjoyed those last few days being surrounded by her loved ones, hearing about what an amazing person she was and smiling  to herself about the good times we all shared.   One of my favourite memories in the hospice was when she was transferred from the hospital to the hospice on her 52nd birthday. 

On the evening of her birthday, the hospice held a little party for her. Surrounded by family and friends we were able to share her last birthday. We had food and a birthday cake whilst we read out our cards to her; this will be a memory I will always treasure.

We all had the chance to say our goodbyes. I am so grateful that I had this opportunity to thank her for all she had done for me and tell her how much I loved her, and hope that I would make her proud.

She passed away four days after her birthday on a morning towards the end of February. That afternoon we celebrated her life and raised a glass to her. My auntie and uncle also brought us a rose on that day called Love Never Dies which is a beautiful red rose that blossoms every year.

My Mom’s Funeral

Her funeral was a celebration of her life, and it sounds very strange but it was a lovely day, sharing our happy memories of her and the best way we could have said our goodbyes. We had a Humanist service and the eulogy was all about her life from what she was like when she was a child to when she got poorly and how determined and strong  she was.

Lots of people turned up to pay their respects, which was a real testament to my mom. My sister and I read out a poem that we had written for her and as she loved musicals we had Think of Me from Phantom of the Opera as a time to reflect during the funeral.

"We hope we've made you proud mom,

and we truly hope you'll see.

Your love will be with us forever,

now enjoy that cup of tea!"

Everyone said she was always the first and last on the dancefloor so Abba’s Dancing Queen seemed to be appropriate to end the service with. At the wake, we had pictures of her on the screen from all different stages of her life and a memory line where people could peg up and share their memories of her that as a family we could treasure.

It was the perfect way we could have said goodbye to her and celebrate what an amazing woman she was. It was also a great way to say a massive thank you to our family and friends for all of their support over the years; without that support system we wouldn’t have been able to cope as well as we did.

My mom was cremated and we discovered that you can have ashes placed in glass. So I now have a purple necklace and earrings that have some of her ashes in, which makes it look like a starry night sky. I wear these on her birthday, the day she passed away and Christmas every year, and I plan to wear it for many more special occasions such as on my future wedding day.

The support of my family and friends got me through the time of her illness and when she passed away. I had lovely messages from loved ones, as well as cards and flowers. I just found it comforting to be able to share the moments I had with my mom with my friends and family and for them to be around me just giving me a cuddle and a shoulder to cry on. I am so thankful to have such amazing family and friends around me as my support system who I know will always be there for me when times get tough.

Thank you Maria for sharing yours and your mom’s story with us, you’re a wonderful member of the Hospice team and we’re sure your mom would be more than proud of who you’ve become.

If you’ve been inspired by Maria and would like to share your story, please get in touch with us here at the Hospice. For Dying Matters Awareness Week, please continue to encourage everyone you know to become more empowered to support those around you as we all face death and dying by sharing our stories and advice.