My last post was about the loss of our precious Duchess. This post is about the loss of my beautiful mother, Grace Evelyn Flood.
Just over two weeks ago, mum became ill. At first with a mild stroke, where she was taken to a local hospital, and after a couple of days of treatment, returned home to the nursing home where she resided. However, she became unwell yet again, and this time was taken to St John of God’s Hospital in Ballarat by ambulance. We were advised that this time her condition was serious.
Within a few hours we were on the road to Ballarat to meet up with my two sisters, Sonnie and Jan. Just before we left, I made a made dash around the garden to pick a small posie of flowers for mum, I knew that she would love them.
We all met up in the emergency department where mum was seen by specialist doctors, and the staff were trying to stabilize her condition. Late evening the staff assured us that she would soon be moved to a ward and it was safe for us to go and get some rest. Sonnie had arranged a three bedroom cabin in a local caravan park, that was quite large with all that we needed, including a well equipped kitchen, two bathrooms and large living area.
The following day we met with surgeons and mum’s oncologist. It was decided that she was fit enough to endure a small procedure, but the procedure required an anaesthetic. Mum was adamant, “yes, please do it” even with the high risks involved given pre-existing conditions. That evening around 7:30 she was taken to theatre (after a rather funny mix up with another surgeon in her room – but that might be a story for another day), and we were advised to return to our accommodation, they would phone us when the procedure had been completed. Unfortunatley the news was not good, they had been unable to achieve what they had planned. Before the surgeon spoke to Sonnie, a nurse had phoned to advise that mum would not be returning to the ward she had been in. Mum had been a regular patient at St John’s for many years, and it was decided that she should be taken to the oncology ward where she would be amongst familiar faces and in familiar surrounds. We were touched by the thought behind this move.
It soon became apparent that mum was a familiar face on this new ward. As we sat with her the following day, staff and volunteers popped in to say hello and see how she was. We had more meetings with the doctors and spent another day by mum’s bedside, she was not so well.
Wednesday morning we were en route to the hospital when we received the call that things were not getting any better. Mum was not strong enough to endure any more procedures and all that could be done now was to keep her comfortable during her final hours/days. It was decided it was time to call the family. This will be a day we will all remember with fondness. You have to understand, we do not have family living in Ballarat, the closest family members live approximately an hour away. Mum’s niece, Narelle, brought her mum, Diane, our mum’s sister to visit, and they spent several hours talking and reminiscing, providing a few laughs along the way.
Her three grandsons John, David and Christopher traveled from Melbourne as did two of her great grandchildren Kai and Keira (John’s children), then her great nephew, Michael, and great niece, Bec, with her husband, boy-Jo, visited, followed by her nephew David and his wife Mum-Jo (yes there is also a girl-Jo, and all from the one family!). All getting to spend quality time with mum and able to say their final good-byes. David and Mum-Jo left to make the drive home, or we thought they had, but all of sudden, mum-Jo re-appeared with a small bottle of whiskey, she said “I asked and they said it was OK” with a cheeky smile on her face. Mums’ face lit up, she had always enjoyed little tipple. Of course we checked with the nurses, and they encouraged us to give mum whatever she wanted…
The grand children and great grand children returned to Melbourne and Torquay for work and school, only to return to visit each day. Mum’s face lit up everytime they walked into the room.
On Friday she new that there was someone else visiting, Olivia, Christopher’s fiancée. Mum had not yet seen the engagement ring and was so looking forward to seeing Olivia and her engagement ring. When I reminded her on Thursday evening, her face lit up and she said that it was going to be a very special day. Christopher had taken the day off work and stayed overnight with us at the cabin, so Olivia drove up on her own. Chris and Olivia spent more quality time with Mum, before it was time that we all really needed to eat something other than trail mix, sandwiches, etc.
With Sonnie and Jan by mum’s side, John and the grandchildren safely back in Melbourne, Dave on his way for more time with his grandma, we returned to the cabin where Olivia and I set to, preparing a meal of lamb chops, pork stirfry, and a vegie bake. With the vegie bake in the oven and most of the veg prepped for the stir fry, Jan rang, mum’s breathing had changed, but the nurses said she would be ok. We continued to cook, but a few minutes later another call. So we dropped everything, turned everything off (well I thought I had), and headed off. Just down the road I was unsure about the stove top, so turned around and Christopher ran through the park to the cabin to check (it was quicker), and yes, I had left the gas on under a pan of water – phew! Back at the hospital, we gathered around mum, and she seemed to settle. It was decided that we would return to the cabin and continue on cooking, eat, and then some of would return to take the next shift with mum. We knew that it would only be a matter of time…
Dave stayed at mum’s side with Sonnie while we went back to finish cooking our meal and arrange beds for the night, (Olivia had been encouraged to stay, given the hour, and would need to return to Melbourne in the morning for work). Once we had eaten, Christopher, Jan and I returned to the hospital where we worked out who would take what shift. Christopher and I would remain, David said his final goodbyes and headed home to Torquay, and Sonnie and Jan returned to the cabin so that Sonnie could eat, and both could get a little sleep before relieving Christopher and I around 3 am.
The nurse on duty wanted to set up beds in mums’ room for us, but we told her that we could use the window seat and the recliner in the corner – we would only need a pillow and a blanket. But no… She still wanted to set up a bed for Christopher – he insisted he would be ok. She then set to making the seats into beds for us, sheets, blanket and pillows, we felt so guilty, we were sure that she must have had better things to do rather than be fussing over us.
Making sure she could not make us hot chocolate, but insisting on providing iced water and biscuits (including gluten free for me – they must have had it in their notes), she left us, advising that they would pop in to turn mum and check her during the time we would be there. I fell asleep for a little, and woke with a start, I did not want to sleep, I needed to listen for mum’s breaths, they had calmed and I would occasionally get up and check. I dozed, waking now and then to check on mum, or when the nurses come in to turn mum or check on her.
Sonnie and Jan returned around 3 am and Chris and I provided a little update before heading back for a rest. I briefly spoke to Olivia as I walked past her sleeping on a mattress in the living room, then went to bed.
Gary was up at 6, dressed, I think he and Olivia had it organized, he drove her to her car just outside the park, before heading up to the hospital to send Sonnie and Jan home for a rest. I did not know that this was happening, and when I heard footsteps poked my head out to see them there. They made me a cuppa and we sat on our bed and chatted to allow Christopher to sleep a little more.
Eventually we all returned to the hospital. We knew that it would not be long. Mum’s favourite nurse, Kim, who had nursed mum of and on over the last 17 years, was on duty again. She was wonderful, chatting to mum, (mum was now in a comma), chatting to us, making sure we had everything we needed, and guiding us through mum’s final hours. Just before midday Kim come to check on mum, and tell her that she was about to take a quick lunch break. She said to mum, “now, if you want me here when you leave, you will have to wait for 20-25 minutes until I’m back.
Finally just after midday on Saturdy 21 March the Angels took our beautiful mother away. Those who had been there through her final hours were all with her at the time, Sonnie, Jan, Gary, Christopher, myself and, yes, she did wait until Kim had returned from her lunch break before she left us. She was now at peace.
We were left to have as much time as we needed with mum, we cried, we talked, we hugged each other, phone calls were made, and Kim insisted that we eat – she had ordered hot meals for us. Not wanting to seem ungracious, we all sat around, having a last meal with our beautiful mum (we know that mum would have approved, it was roast lamb!).
My family and I cannot thank the St John of God’s Hospital in Ballarat for the care they provided for mum and the compassion and support they afforded her family. From the time that we entered, it was clear that they were not only there to care for our beautiful mum, but also for us. We could visit whenever we chose, we could, and did, stay all day. We just had to ask for something that mum needed, and it was provided. The pastoral care provided, was beautiful, with daily visits to make sure that not only mum’s requirements were met, but also to check that we were all doing ok, and if there was anything we needed. We were taken to private rooms for chats with doctors and care givers, and provided with privacy as we comforted mum’s sister, Diane after she had said her final farewell. If we arrived early, they provided breakfast, if we were there all day, trays of sandwiches materialised, and as mentioned above, on the final day, a full cooked meal was ordered for our lunch. They guided us every step of the way, there were no surprises, we new what to expect. Finally with the increasing concern over COVID-19, it was clear that all those patients that could be sent home, were being sent home. Rooms and beds were emptying and there was a limit of 1 visitor per patient. However, because mum was nearing the end of her life, we were all allowed to visit and be with her when we wished.
To Professor George Kannourakis, the care that he gave to our mother over the years, has been amazing. Mum did not only look upon George as her oncologist, but also as a friend. I think that she knew all of George’s family history and she spoke regularly of his family. Mum was under George’s care for the past 17 years.
Grace Evelyn Flood (nee McDonald)
1 May 1931 – 21 March 2020
Forever in our hearts.
One of the snacks I provided during this time was my trail mix and I was asked to give everyone the recipe. I think that this is the ideal place to share it, as we will all remember eating it during this last week with mum.
After sharing this with family when we were in a situation where food was low on our priority list, everyone wanted the recipe. I didn't really have a recipe, so came home, measured everything that I put into my mix, and here's the recipe.
I always have a container full on hand, it's a great snack for when you need a quick energy boost, and is also a nice little snack with coffee.
- 1 1/2 cups raw nuts of your choice
- 1 1/2 cups dried fruits of your choice
- 1/2 cup raw pepitas
- 1/2 cup raw sunflower kernels
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
Combine all ingredients in a large container.
Store in an airtight container in a cool place.
- This is a great way to use up any bits and pieces from the pantry. Just create a mix of what you have on hand when it comes to nuts and dried fruits, even seeds.
- For the nuts I always include raw almonds and raw walnuts for their heart health benefits, but also add other nuts such as hazelnuts. But really, you can use any fresh raw nuts, though.
- Use a combination of dried fruits. Here I have used sultanas, cranberries, goji berries, blueberries, cherries.
- I prefer to use the Nestle brand of choc chips.
- I like to store this mix in the refrigerator, it keeps the fruit and nuts fresh and the chocolate doesn't go soft.
Until next time
Keep safe and send love to your family and friends.