Holding on for dear life

Last week, I was busily preparing a new post for this blog when some unexpected news came through, leaving me unable to concentrate on anything much since. Life has taken on a new light and we as a family are quite literally ‘on-hold’.

Ten days ago we moved my 88 year-old mother-in-law into a local nursing home as it had gradually become too difficult to manage her care around the clock despite daily help from a small team of carers. Last Wednesday, a blood test unexpectedly revealed that she is in acute, end-stage renal failure from which there is no return. Her days are acutely numbered. This news came like a bolt out of the blue and initially left the whole family reeling in shock. We were given the option to transfer her immediately by ambulance to hospital for treatment which might at best, prolong her life by a few weeks or alternatively, to allow her to die naturally within days with palliative care provided at the nursing home. The whole family were all in agreement that she should be allowed to end her days peacefully without the interference of emergency medicine and we have opted to maintain a bedside vigil for her in the nursing home. My in-laws are spread far and wide but over the past few days they’ve arrived in a constant stream to take their turn in helping to smooth the final journey of a much-loved mother, and granny.

My mum-in-law was a legend in her own right. She lived a privileged life and together with her late husband, raised four fine sons. She was an outstanding cook, seamstress and gardener in her day. She loyally moved location every three years throughout her husband’s career and everywhere they went, she set-to with gusto to furnish each new house using her old-faithful sewing machine. No task was ever too great and she was never idle. She always found time to spend in her beloved garden where she designed and created gardens that were the envy of all who knew her. When her four children were very young, she made all of their clothes and continued this tradition for her grandchildren making beautifully embroidered smock dresses for the girls, individually crafted hand knits, clever fancy dress outfits and gorgeous soft toys for everyone. She also produced many fine tapestries in her time. She was the stalwart of the whole family and her home was always a place of warm welcome with lovely home cooked food in abundance. She was well-renowned for taking under her wing children less fortunate than her own and she would lovingly provide them with the stability needed to thrive. When I first met my future mother-in-law, she welcomed me into the family with open arms and I shall always be grateful to her for all her love and encouragement over the years.

She’s had a very good innings but now her time is rapidly running out. She’s being kept very comfortable in the nursing home and has rallied somewhat due to a change in medication. In the past few days she’s been more alert than in many months and her family have been able to enjoy some special time with her. It’s like her final swan song before she departs. Her funeral will be a huge celebration of a life well-spent but until then, this is my tribute to the mother of all mothers.

12 Responses to Holding on for dear life

  1. robert says:


    My sympathies are with you and yours. She sounds like a real character and I hope that will always be the way you remember her. And I’m sure that is just the way you will do.

    I can’t say anything that will make any difference but to me it sounds like a reason to celebrate an exceptional person.

    My thoughts are with you all.

  2. Baino says:

    Oh Steph, I’m so sorry. All you can do now is keep her comfortable and surround her with those who love her. It’s strange how at the end of a life, there are moments of incredible lucidity, I remember that with my father who passed with metastatic liver cancer 5 years ago. I wish you all well and send much love and condolences albeit a little prematurely. You were fortunate to have known someone so special.

  3. little medic says:

    Really sorry to hear about this, its a really brave decision by you and your faimily to let her pass in peace, but i’m sure its the right decision.

    She certainly sounds like quite the character and I hope you and your family continue to have as many special moments as possible.

  4. Grannymar says:

    Hugs and prayers Steph for you and all the family. The only suggestion I have is to get a favourite happy photo of her and put it where everyone can see it!

  5. bendygirl says:

    Oh Steph, I’m so sorry to hear this news. She sounds like the most incredible woman, and what a beautiful tribute you’ve written her. Hugs and love for you and yours. BG x

  6. Caoimhin says:

    What a lovely tribute to someone who sounds like a wonderful woman. All my thoughts and best wishes to you and yours Steph.

  7. Steph says:

    Thank you one and all for your kind thoughts and comments on this one.

    My mother-in-law is still hanging on to life and it’s very much one day at a time. Her eyes light up with delight each time a new family visitor arrives. For someone who based her whole life on looking after others, it’s a delight for us all to be able to shower her with love. She is one special lady and I have indeed been very fortunate to know her and to share in her magic.

    On a lighter note, the very first time I stayed the night in her home with my then, boyfriend she turned to me and whispered “I hope you’ve come well-prepared” ๐Ÿ˜‰ This was my first introduction to her directly honest approach to life and I grew to love her for it. She wasn’t all sweetness and light but she was and always will be, the rock of the family.

  8. Melissia Regis says:

    Dear Steph,
    What a lovely tribute you have written. She is sounds as if she has been a gift to those who know and love her. You and your family have been blessed with many memories and I pray for for time to make more.

  9. Kirk M says:

    Hi Steph,

    As one who took care of both parents along with my sister until they both passed on in 2000, I know a bit about this time of life and what you might be feeling.

    Sounds like your mother in law has followed her path her whole life (not as simple as it sounds), brought so much to others and gave time to herself as well. Not many folks around it seems like the woman you describe and now she has some extra time given to spend some moments with her loved ones before she continues on. Give her a smile fore me if you can.

    A wonderful and rare tribute you’ve written, M thoughts are with you.

  10. Steph says:

    Kirk – Cheers and welcome!

    Thank you for your understanding comment. I’m sorry to hear what you’ve been through with parents but I suppose it comes to us all at some time or other. Both of my own parents are also in a nursing home with varying degrees of dementia and disability so I’m no stranger when it comes to old folk. Putting them all into care was agony but I sleep well knowing that they are in safe hands.

    Hope you feel better soon ๐Ÿ™‚

    btw I like your cat pic but don’t let Grannymar see it as she’s on the look-out for cats today!

  11. Kirk M says:

    I’m on the mend it seems, thanks! I’ll stop back often to see how things are.

    Ah yes, my very first Gravatar. Never had one before. The cat’s named BV (short for Beavis) and that pic was one that I snapped when I caught him sitting on my computer desk acting like he belonged there or something. And thanks for the warning about Grannymar. Seems like I have a need to watch my back…er…cat as it were. ๐Ÿ˜€

  12. […] take place next weekend when family and friends will gather from around the world to celebrate a dear life. She was a wonderful mum and a real supergran and will be deeply […]

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