Cynthia Franklin : 26 March 1943 – 5 September 2007
Mum outside Bouchon in Kingsland. February 2004.
I have just got back from hospital. When all else fails write. Before I forget what happened. I am beginning to forget already. Some time early evening Di Church phoned me telling me mum was going into hospital and dad wasn’t there so she was just ringing me so that someone knew. Then Dad turned up and she got off the phone quickly. And now I can’t remember what happened. Why we didn’t go in to hospital right away. I know I rang Polly and said I think Mum is going to die this time and she told me to go in. It’s good I have Polly to tell me what to do. When I don’t have my wits about me I phone Polly to get instructions. Kevin was out at the shop. Kevin’s phone was in the car. Kevin was not. Dad keeps phoning. Better come in now. You really had. Now. Come. Have you left yet? Get Astrid ready. Make food. Get blankets. And giraffe. Kevin gets home and we leave. I remember doing this trip before. The last time I drove myself. It was quite a few months ago now. Both times I remember one of Kevin’s handkerchiefs just before going out the door. This time I knew I wanted Astrid and Kevin to come too. I just knew I wouldn’t be wanting to drive myself back from the hospital this time. And I knew Astrid had to come.
Into the Emergency Department and they let me through to HDU. In the door to the room, through the curtains and there’s my mother lying on her back, her torso and head lying to one side, her arm down by dad and he’s holding her hand. I remember earlier when Dad called and he said Mum was in a room full of doctors and nurses. I told him he had to go in and be with her and hold her hand. He did and he stayed holding her hand. So we are there. I have seen my mother looking like this before. Only this time she’s more yellow and oily looking. Very thin and fluid like all the life has been sucked out of her. She’s breathing oxygen but I notice the monitor is not switched on. I sit on the opposite side of her, then realise she can’t see Astrid so we move to where she can see Astrid. Everyone says she can’t see. People are talking like she’s not there. Arranging stuff for tomorrow. People to phone. I want it to be quiet and I divert attention to Astrid. Astrid makes some noise and Mum acknowledges it with as much noise as she can muster which is a gentle grunt. She knows Astrid’s there and she can hear what’s going on. There’s a doctor in there explaining what is happening to Mum – about her lung cancer and that the lung has collapsed. They’re not trying to save her and he says it won’t be long now. I silently wish it would all be over but I also wish it had never had to come to this. I don’t think mum wants to hear all this boring talking though in her last minutes and then the doctor asks about Astrid’s name.
Astrid’s name comes from Astrid Lindgren I tell him although Kevin says it’s from the girlfriend of the Beatle that didn’t stay a Beatle. Astrid Lindgren wrote my favourite ever children’s book. And it’s about death I continue. The older brother Jonathan throws himself and his younger, crippled brother, out of a window so that they die together and go to heaven which is called Nangiyala. But they find that Nangiyala has been taken over by evil and they need to fight battles and slay dragons to bring peace to Nangiyala. There is much great adventure here, they rally people together and help bring peace to the land. At the end of the story they die and go to Nangilima which is the next level – or real heaven where true peace reigns. I think at the end of the book they say they can see the light… look, here it is.
Astrid was holding mum’s hand while I finished telling the story. And a few minutes later Mum very quietly stopped breathing and her heart stopped beating.
My god. There’s so much more to say. I’ve been wanting to write about this for ages. Wondering what if Mum would read what I wrote but she’s not even been able to get to a computer for months now. My relationship with my mother was terrible at times and good at others. We got on brilliantly when I was in another country so I made it my business to spend a lot of time in other countries. We’d talk for ages on the phone. I would tell her everything. But when we were together in person, a lot of the time we wouldn’t get on. Especially recently. But I’ve decided I am not going to wish I’d done this, or that things had been any different. I never did the whole big discussion and make up before she died thing. I don’t think we needed to do that at all. Life is what it is. What happened happened. A lot of things I remember about my mother are not great. Like I remember the first massive argument we had. I was about three or four and I had collected a matchbox full of baby praying mantises that I’d just watched being born – straight into my matchbox! Anyway, these newly born praying mantises ended up on the dining room table at dinner time with some guests. I thought it was wonderful. Mum not so.
The other time I remember was the first day I got my period and Mum had to pick me up from school. She was so mad at me I remember her yelling at me that she wanted to kill me. I can now see the humour in both situations – I must have driven her absolutely nuts! I have recently been trying to remember good things about my mother. Especially from childhood. I remember Mum used to skip us to bed when we were really tiny, something to do with goats. And I remember when Mum was an Avon lady we used to walk around Cheltenham doing that. I also helped her when she ran skincare seminars. So funny that. And here I am making skincare products.
I think there’s more of her in me than I care to admit. Ha. But tonight I am just so glad she heard Astrid and that Astrid was holding her hand when she died. And I’m glad I told the story about the Brothers Lionheart too. Even if it was a very quick rendition.
It’s not sunk in yet. It will over the next few days I suppose. And any time I think I want to talk to her. But really, she’s been ill for a while now and it’s been difficult to speak to her, so at least I have had a long time to prepare and in a way be eased into her not being here any more.
Any of you reading this smoke and want a reason to give up? Here’s one.
My mother just died at 64. Her mother died five years ago aged 96. Thirty two years. That’s my entire life minus two years. My mother should have had another thirty years. She said she didn’t mind dying, but just a few weeks ago she found out she had another grandchild on the way too and she wanted to stay alive for that.
Too late. Too late. I’m so sorry Mum. Bloody. Fucking. Cigarettes.
This photo was taken only last February. I was living in London at the time and when we got back I tried to get her to go on retreat to stop smoking. But she was bitterly annoyed with me for saying so. Just a year after this photo was taken she was emaciated. Down to 9 stone – just skin and bone.