My mother moved to Haslemere at the beginning of 1963 and lived in the area for the rest of her life.
On Thursday 19 February 2015, a nondescript winter’s day, I had just stepped onto the pavement outside the cafe where I often had lunch when my mobile rang. It was my mother’s nursing home in Wormley just outside Haslemere. I knew something was wrong because they rarely contacted me about anything. A nurse told me that my mother, eighty-six and having suffered from advanced dementia for several years, was ill. I could not really tell whether she was just unwell, or whether her condition was life threatening.
In a telephone conversation on the Friday, a senior nurse confirmed that my mother would probably die over the weekend. Rushing back to England was an almost impractical possibility. She was unconscious - and even if she regained consciousness she had neither spoken nor acknowledged people or events around her for three years.
I had to work on the Saturday, but finished early around three. I drifted into a shopping centre out of the cold and phoned the nursing home. A nurse told me in heavily accented English that my mother was comfortable and stable, but the home would phone if there were any change in her condition. I went to bed on Saturday slightly comforted, but not knowing that mother was by that time already dead.
Unbeknownst to me, my phone was on silent. The following morning I went out to do some shopping in the nearby shopping centre where I glanced at my phone. I saw several missed calls from the home. It could only mean one thing. I dialled the number, my fingers slightly shaking, and was told by the duty nurse in a matter-of-fact way that my mother had died at around four the previous day, a mere hour after I had called.
I wandered across from outside McDonalds where I had been standing towards Tesco’s. Yes, it was over a decade since Mum and I had enjoyed a sensible conversation, or since she had recognised me. Many would say that the passing a speechless, reactionless person was a blessing. Yes, Mum and I had had our quarrels and differences, but she was my mother and she was now dead. Tears poured down my cheeks, and it was a while before I phoned my wife and older son to tell them the news.