Mum died Tuesday morning at 7 am, full moon. Sans, Yatri, Vimlan, Megan and I spent all night in her room in the hospital, camping out on the floor staying with her to the end.

One of us had been with her constantly for the eight days before too. She did it beautifully and was her lovely self all the way through. We made sure she was comfortable, and if she looked distressed we got her more diamorphine. She didn’t need much, and for the last seven hours needed nothing. She waited till we were all asleep on the floor – except for Yatri who was by her side, and then she breathed her last breath. There was magic in the room through the whole night – and after.

We told the staff that we were some weird religion and she wasn’t to be touched by anyone but us for six hours. We didn’t tell them she had died an hour earlier. It was beautiful sitting with her, we had a sense of relief that it was over for her. Then my friend Cara, an Alternative Funeral Director came and helped me wash and prepare her body. We massaged lovely oils into her, Sans and Vimlan helped.

archas story 3 Clare, Mum’s nurse, who came three times a week to bath her and take her out for coffee or just chat, arrived and was in tears, she felt Mum was her surrogate granny. She and Yatri chose some clothes; a pink jumper that Mum loved, even though it had tomato soup stains on the front, and her mauve trousers, some socks and shoes.

We told the medical staff we wanted to take her home. This shocked them all, and they all ran round like headless chickens. They told us that due to paper work that she would HAVE to go to the hospital mortuary ice box for a couple of days, until the doctors got round to signing the papers. We said “no way” was she going to their ice box, we would just put her in our car and take her home.

They had never experienced anything like this before.

The nurses couldn’t believe that relatives should pour so much love into a patient and then want to take her home; they loved it but were also challenged and flummoxed by it. Eventually the charge nurse took the initiative and spent the morning sorting it all out for us and we got Mum home. Vimlan, Sans and Matthew prepared Yatri’s front basement with rugs and candles and music and a beautiful Buddha figure and we laid her down on a bed of flower petals, her leopard rug and pillows. Here she lay until Friday when we had her ‘farewell party’ and cremation.

Lots of people came to visit her, talk to and meditate around her. George, Clare’s eight year old son, said he was never going to shoot anyone on his play-station again after his visit. Dilly and her puppies ran all over her and the puppies tried to nick all the daffodils we placed around her head. She looked lovely – as cold as alabaster but a good colour, just as though she were sleeping. She had chocolate with her too. On her first night at ‘home’, I had a bath and put my pyjamas on, and kissed her goodnight. It was lovely to have her there, to be able to sit with and lay next to her. Yatri spent the first night asleep at her feet and I had a cuddle too. I was so glad she was at home and not in an icebox; to be able to go and visit her whenever we wanted; mediate next to her; sit and drink coffee with friends next to her; gossip over her; have time to see and be with her body and gradually realise that it had become just a shell now. It really helped us to let go.

archas story1We had a “Margie Farewell Sherry, Irish Coffee and Nibbles Party” on the morning of her cremation. Friends arrived and visited her beautiful bamboo basket (coffin). We then had some lovely music, soppy songs, some poems and we surrounded her with lots of old photos of her life; people were leaning over her open basket looking at them, it was a bit like ‘pick and mix’. There were lots of tears and laughter and yet it all felt very natural. Then six guys carried her out of the house and up the road for one last ‘look’ at her old house, and then into the back of our Mondeo which Megan had cleaned and prepared with a lovely cloth and flowers.

A few friends had prepared the crematorium with flowers and candles and there was more music and songs. At the back of the crematorium, we heard the oven being turned on and sat for a while until we knew the burning process had begun and she was ‘blowing in the wind’. Then we left.

archas story2The last few weeks have been incredible, it seems death gives us far more than it takes away. We are taking her ashes to her birthplace, Bideford in a week or so.

Love, Archa.