Mothers’ Day

In the UK, it is Mothers’ Day. My wife has spent the day going all the way over to Devon to see her mum. I don’t really talk about my mum much, so I thought I’d talk about her death, at least.

In 2012, my mum went into hospital (Liverpool) for a biopsy. She’d told me that she was going into hospital, she hadn’t told me the detail but she had told me she’d be back out in a week, so I assumed nothing special. The first I knew that all wasn’t well was when I couldn’t contact her afterwards. She’d caught some kind of infection during the biopsy, and had been quite poorly.

Either I found her, or she found me, I can’t remember which, but I remember driving up to Liverpool and back the weekend before she died. She was obviously weak, but the same person. I took my daughter up with me and they were made up to see each other.

I got a phone call on the Monday, the day after my visit. Mum had had a bleed on her heart, and had had a heart attack in hospital. If you’re going to have a heart attack then a hospital is probably the best place to have one, except that before resuscitation could begin, they had to drain the area. There was some delay, therefore, in resuscitating her. When I went back up to Liverpool on the Tuesday, mum was hooked up to a life support machine.

We stayed up there for the week. Me, my wife and my daughter. During the week nothing changed with my mum, I spoke to various doctors who left me in no doubt how grave the situation was. In that week, everybody who meant something had come to visit. I can’t remember who proposed turning life support off, but once everybody had seen her, I agreed. On the Friday evening, we switched the support off and mum was on her own. She lasted forty minutes before she died – my wife and I were with her, as was her brother. My daughter was only 12 at the time, seeing grandma in Intensive Care…. well, even that is something a 12-year-old shouldn’t see. Funnily enough, my mum was far closer in life to her sister than to her brother, but her sister – my auntie – was going through her own turmoil at that time, as her mum (my grandma) was also in hospital. It was 15 March, 2012.

My mum’s death hit my daughter hard. My wife and I saw this event as the start of my daughter going off the rails. Looking back, daughter had problems before then, but she was very close to Grandma and it had a big effect. It didn’t hit me quite so hard, my mum was stupid over my daughter, and I did what I could to foster that, but I’d long since grown apart from my mum. It’s ironic really because I enjoyed a different, more affluent life than she did, and yet it is largely thanks to her pushing me, especially in the early days. I know she was very proud of me – just as we all want our kids to have it easier than we did, to take for granted those things that we had to work for, she was no different.

Anyway, mum was only 68 when she died, quite young these days. I did think of pushing for more details about her death – in particular, was this bleed caused by not performing the biopsy properly? I didn’t take it forward because there was a fair amount of grey area, plus the NHS tends to close ranks around its own – something I now believe even more firmly.

The results of the autopsy were the clincher. They found quite advanced cancers, even spread to near her heart, so even if my mum had have survived, she’d have faced hard labour. She had told me about her wish not to be resuscitated long ago, and that goes along with my thoughts that there comes a time when we don’t mind death. Not least, we see people around us living with all sorts of ailments, and we don’t want that for ourselves. In any case I’ve since seen on the stroke ward people who have survived their initial stroke, but who just lie in their beds as shells and no longer have any interest in living. So in some ways it was better for mum that she went relatively quickly, having enjoyed a relatively healthy life, certainly going before she was elderly and infirm.

Green no more

I have previously mentioned here that I was a member of the Green Party. I did and do believe that we need to start putting environmental concerns higher even than economic concerns. It’s funny, because Tony Benn of the Labour Party, in his later years, classes himself as a “free radical”, and I’d use that same tag, although I don’t agree with everything that Benn put forward.

I’ve stopped supporting the Greens. The reason? Well, in 2016, the UK had a vote which decided upon X. The “correct” response, for me, would have been to say, “OK, within the boundaries of X, how can we best develop policies that protect the future?” Instead, the Green Party responded with “X is wrong, so let’s overturn it”. And, that’s been the case for three years now.

In other words, it doesn’t matter that the public want something different for the future. And have voted for it, too. Their response, instead of working with the public, is just to tell them that they were wrong.

It kind-of worries me when a party, any party, says that they will ignore public opinion, especially when that opinion is expressed so clearly as in a referendum. I’ve heard this from the Greens, but not only from the Greens. Vote for us, because after you do, it won’t matter what you think. I mean, it might well be that you consider X to be a really bad idea, but it is a decision that, however bad, has already been made.

I mean, one thing that has become readily apparent over the last few years is that different people have very different ideas about the meaning of the word “democracy”, but I’m afraid somebody who says “I don’t believe that X is good, so therefore I will keep fighting to overturn it, despite what other people say”, doesn’t do it for me. At the very least I want constructive politicians.

The 2016 referendum has probably damaged me less than most. Whilst I have a view on the issue, I can easily see why somebody else might take a different view. So, I’m not going to fall out with anybody over this. But one area where I have been damaged is that by seeing parties (any party) just trying to wreck the process, rather than using it to be constructive, has heightened my cynicism toward them. I remember hearing Vince Cable (LibDem leader) saying that the main goal was to overturn Brexit, by any means necessary, and that was enough for me to mark him as a “fail”.

One further point, I’ll make it quick, is that if this vote isn’t acted upon, the public then has the proof that their vote is irrelevant. That they decide something, and that the powers-that-be ignore them. Therefore, why should they ever bother to vote again? You know, if you want people to respect elections in the future, then you need to respect those in the past. What is at stake here is not just a single issue, but the whole electoral system.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, my general politics haven’t changed, just my allegiance to political parties. I still believe in protecting the environment, and believe we’re so far up the river, it probably needs to be our highest priority. To that end, I don’t fly and have drastically cut my meat consumption, you’d probably describe me as a “flexitarian” now.