Those hands that once held mine
As I was sitting holding Mum’s hand in the hospital, I thought of all she meant to me and the number of times she had held my hand. I pretty much knew this was the last time she would do so.
Mum had dedicated decades of her life to being the best mother and grandma she could be. She could knit for England, and was sure nobody in the family would ever go cold, even knitting a 13 foot long Doctor Who scarf at one point. She also became a prolific cake baker and decorator, being commissioned to make many birthday and wedding cakes for family and friends, always artistic and creative.
Around Christmas in 2012, her partner Michael told us all that Mum had started to become increasingly forgetful and disoriented. It soon became evident that she couldn’t be left to do even simple things such as washing the pots. At least, not if you ever wanted to find any of them again.
She would often spend weekends at our house, to give Michael some respite from watching out for her. But the constant toll on his wellbeing became evident in 2014 when he had two minor heart attacks. Following an operation it became impossible for Michael to maintain full care of her. We were both in full time jobs; I was away from home a lot. So sadly she moved into a care home.
In the late eighties Mum’s mother Gertrude was diagnosed with dementia and also moved into a care home. It had always worried Mum that this condition might eventually strike her, and she didn’t relish the thought having seen its effects first hand.
Mum was diagnosed with vascular dementia and initially didn’t react well to being in care. She became agitated and aggressive to the point where she was briefly sectioned. But once the correct medication was prescribed she settled into a wonderful nursing home, near where she had lived with Michael and where she was born.
After Mum died, once I got home, the experience flooded out of me as a poem. It almost wrote itself. I read the poem at her funeral. How I got to the end of the reading I don’t know. I guess she was holding my hand one last time.
I shared the poem afterwards on Facebook, and many of my friends who had lost someone to dementia commented how much it struck a chord with them, with many sharing it themselves.
I’d originally written it specifically about MY Mum and MY experiences, but on reading it back I can see how it would fit for so many. As I read it now it gives me strength, and I wonder if perhaps it could give strength to others.
So I give this poem for all to use and share as they see fit.