Witters From Down Under

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Having moved from Scotland to Australia in 2005 to find out if she had fallen in love with the country as well as her husband a decade ago, she decided that the answer was ‘yes' and intended to stay.

However life has always had a marvellous way of changing her best-laid plans. And it happened again. An unexpected work opportunity presented itself in mid-2008: one too good to miss.

As a result the Witter from Down Under is now coming from the land of the long white cloud - New Zealand.

Please join us and read Frenchbean's commentary on a new country, a new city, a new job and new friends.

Laughter is the best medicine

Hello Everybody smiley - smiley

Sometimes real life gives you such a bite in the bum that you have to stop and take stock.

At the time of writing my last Witter I was confident that Mum (aka Superwoman) had recovered from her stroke in April and was at home, happily pottering in her garden. As it turns out this was far from the truth. She had in fact had another stroke and was unconscious.

Why should a Witter from Down Under dwell on a health crisis in Scotland? It brought into sharp focus one of the topics upon which I mused last time: where is home and where am I most happy?

For the last 10 days there's been no debate: I would rather have been in Scotland, far away from the cold wet Kiwi winter and close to my (as we thought) dying Mum. I held fast by the phone, reluctant to book a flight until I heard the worst. I cannot afford to fly home every couple of months and since we had spent much of April talking and forgiving each other for not being perfect, there was more of a need for my brothers to sit by her bedside than for me to dash back to see her before her final breath.

Mum has a Living Will, which she drew up with her solicitor and GP in 2001. It contains very explicit instructions about the level of medical intervention that is permitted should she be unable to make decisions herself. When she first showed it to me I was taken aback by its frank wording. However now that we have had to refer to it for real I applaud the lack of ambiguity.

She is not to receive anything that will prolong her life should she be in a coma (this is a DNR with bells on) including water and intravenous sustenance.

So she lay in her bed at home, with my brothers and various nurses caring for her. They washed her, turned her, brushed her hair, sang and talked to her. They delivered flowers and cards to her bedroom. They welcomed visitors who sat and held her hand. But they gave her no fluids, no food and we had no expectation that she would survive.

In addition to her Living Will, Mum had sent me a letter in 2006 which provided details of her Memorial Party (no funeral and no church service); where it should be held, where the intimations should be posted, what kind of food and drink should be provided, the poem that she would like to be read, an invitation for people stand up and say a few words and lots of laughter-filled stories please.

We began to plan for the Party. I soothed my distracted mind in a little retail therapy buying a delightful cardigan to wear at the event. I piled clothes on the chest, ready to be thrown into a case at a moment's notice. I phoned family and friends to cry and grieve with them. My travel consultant was on 24 hour standby to book me a flight.

At the end of the fifth day of the bedside vigil, Mum opened her eyes. Two hours later she had a sip of water. The next morning she made her GP laugh.

As I write this, she has been awake seven days. Last night she managed to eat fresh broad beans and then strawberries for her dinner and she is happily looking forward to two weeks of Wimbledon (no rain please). She is struggling with her speech and the use of her fingers, but although she has some regrets about waking up she has unconsciously decided to get better. She is talking about “when I go home”…

What a woman.

I have stopped in my tracks and taken a hard look at why I'm disenchanted with life at a time when my Mum, who is 88 and was barely clinging to it a few days ago, has decided to launch herself back with all the vigour she can muster.

And I realised that she has never stopped laughing.

That's the trick.

If I learn only that one thing from Mum, I shall be grateful for the rest of my days.

Laughter really is the best medicine.

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