June and July were busy months for Julie and I, we built her garden, she had her party and we spent lots of time together and with our family. June, July and August were to be among some of the happiest times of my life.
During those last three months or so, our three grown up children spent as much time as they could spare with Julie, not crowding or showing pity, she didn’t want that, but being normal and supporting to their Mum.
For Julie and I it was a time to grow even closer than we already were, a time to be strong for each other. I had come to terms with the fact she was going to move on during the weeks after being told she had incurable cancer. Julie, despite living with the death sentence never gave up. Both of us knew the next phase of her existence would be starting soon.
August arrived and Julie started to lose her mobility because her legs had become swollen with fluid. Her good friend Trudie Hall, also her district nurse, persuaded Julie it was time for a wheelchair. I picked one up from the local Red Cross station, bought it home, then the hard part, getting Julie to sit in it. “If you think I’m going to get into that, think again”she told me. You see Julie saw every pill, every dose of morphine, every moment of sleep as submitting to the disease. “Well we won’t be going very far then will we?” I countered back. A couple of days later we visited Hinton Ampner, a National Trust property and after about a hundred yards of walking Julie sat in the chair and allowed me to push her. I enjoyed pushing her and secretly I think she was glad she had the chair. She reminded me of a regal matriarch?
August wore on, Julie and I spent many evenings sat in our garden talking, surrounded by candlelight and plants. During this time I noticed she was becoming more and more tired, she could fall asleep at the drop of a hat, we would be talking then all of a sudden her head would drop and I knew she was asleep. I’d let her nap for a bit before gently waking her and helping her up the stairs to bed, ensuring she had plenty of drinks to hand. Those last weeks were, I suppose, thinking back, quite stressful. Julie became more lethargic and it became more difficult to get her to take her medication, understandably so because at one period she was taking around thirty six pills every day! During the nights she was uncomfortable and restless, when she was in pain I held her and comforted her while the morphine did its job and waited until she went back to sleep.
My day would begin at around six in the morning, ensuring her meds were ready, I’d take her a coffee if she felt like one and a rich tea biscuit plus water for the first round of tablets. I then got to work doing laundry and emptying the dishwasher. After checking on her, I’d get the work organised for the day, Nathan would then leave to deal with whatever business needed taking care of with our guys but knowing I’d be making my rounds a little later. 7.45 and I would go into the office which is on the same floor as our bedroom and deal with any emails and order materials as required for work. Between 8.30 and 9.00 I helped Julie get dressed then downstairs where she stayed most of the day, generally working on whatever picture she was drawing. I did my rounds before coming back at every opportunity to make sure she was alright. It was during this period Julie wrote individual letters to each of our family, her parents and brother and to her very close friend Debs.
Our son Nathan and his girlfriend Georgia became engaged to be married in August, Julie was happy as I’d ever seen her when they told us ??. On the 29th of August off they went to Rome to celebrate. During the week they were away Julie looked forward to the photos Georgia or Nathan posted on Facebook, Rome was on our list of places to visit had she not been ill.
The week between the 29th and up to 4th of September was a defining time, Julie started to go off her food entirely and could only really drink through a straw. Trudie continued to come in as often as she was needed and told Julie she was going to order a hospital bed to go in our living room, this time no objection from her, she knew she was struggling to use the stairs. The bed was to be delivered Monday 7th. Julie meanwhile was sleeping on her reclining chair, I would stay downstairs until she was asleep.
Saturday 5th Julie had a number of visitors, Trudie, Hannah and Matt, then Debs. Debs was off to The USA on holiday and wanted to see Julie before she went. I walked Deb to her car and told her this might be the last time she would see Julie, Debs was understandably upset.
Julie was becoming visibly weaker, struggling to talk. That night she wanted to have a shower and sleep upstairs, I helped her shower and dress. Julie said to me that evening. “You know the end might be weeks or even days, I can’t cope with this much more”. ” I know my lovely” I replied “Don’t you cling on and keep putting yourself through this on my account”. “You are going to have to tell me to go darling” she told me. “If I’d have known it was that easy I’d have done it 35 years ago” says I. That was the sort of black humour which kept us together for 40 years ❤️?
Nathan arrived back and sat with his mum for a while, relaying all the goodies about Rome. It was good he was there at that time. Julie laid in bed and listened to the stories of Nathan and Georgia’s adventures.
Sunday started as usual but today Julie seemed different. ” I’m very tired today sweet, I think I’ll stay in bed today for a rest”. “You’ve been lovely to me, thank you for looking after me, you’ve been the best husband an father I could wish for!”. ” Thank you my darling” I replied, ” but I took those vows seriously you know”.
She held my hand for a while then I set about the Sunday chores, popping up often to make sure she was ok.
“How are you today ” I asked Julie as I was getting dressed on the Monday “I don’t feel at all right today sweet” was her reply. ” I’ll get your meds then get you downstairs my lovely, OK? Trudie’s coming this morning to change your dressings and Leah is going to stay with you while I organise things” I coaxed, then gently helped her get her dressing gown and got her downstairs to her chair.
I knew I had to go out that morning, so I discreetly phoned Leah who told me she’d be around as soon as she had fed her boys.
“You get off to work!” Julie instructed in a whisper. ” I won’t belong, I love you” I replied. I never told her Leah was on her way, Julie hated causing any fuss.
A couple of hours later Leah phoned me and said Trudie was there and had asked if I could pick up a commode and could I get back to help her move Julie. A commode I thought to myself, this’ll be interesting, I’ll probably end up wearing that, remembering the trouble I’d had with her with the wheelchair and her walking stick (which she mainly used for poking me when I’d made the mistake of dozing on the sofa!).
When I got back, commode and all, I helped Trudie move Julie, I noticed she had deteriorated in the couple of hours I’d been out. I walked Trudie out ” I don’t think it’s going to be long” I said to her. ” Trudie agreed with a tear in her eye. ” Are you ok? ” she asked I reassured her I was and that I knew what to do when it happened.
Nathan arrived back from work, Hannah drove from her job and we sat in the garden while Julie slept. I told them and Leah I didn’t think their mum was going to last much longer and we should stay with her. Julie’s dad asked if mum and he could come and see her, I told them sooner rather than later. They arrived about 7 in the evening, Julie was drifting in and out of consciousness but raised a finger to acknowledge they were there. They left about 7.30, upset naturally, I told them I’d keep them informed.
As I was still dressed for work I went upstairs for a shower, I’d just finished and Nathan called me, Julie wanted to move, I went down and helped them, then back up the stairs to finish dressing. Julie was on the edge of her chair with Leah, Hannah and Nathan supporting her. “You need to tell mum it’s ok to leave ” They all told Julie they were going to be ok, as did I, she started to vomit and struggle for breath, ” I love you all” she said and she was gone. ❤️
I made her comfortable for on last time, closed her eyes and cleaned her up. There were tears but I am so proud of how our three children, who of course are adults coped and treated Julie’s passing as part of life. She too was proud, I know this because she’s only in a different room, not gone forever.
Thanks for reading