Pretty in Yellow, Picture of The Late Hannah Sarayiah (Isaac's Mum) in or around 1970
Synopsis: She Died in my Arms Tonight... RIP Mum, 1st June 1935 to 13th June 2014
...I haven’t written much this year and even though this is being written for XMAS it is unlike last year’s very informative article, “A Giraffe is not just for XMAS;” this article and my 30th since I started my blog 3 years ago is a more sober and reflective affair. Sadly my wonderful mum, Hannah, and rock of mine and my siblings lives and star of a, “A Mother’s Love,” died in June this year. Since then I haven’t been able to focus on my blog or “blob” as Mum used to call it – never quite getting the lingo correct.
On 1st June 2014, Mum had turned 79 years young and me and the rest of the immediate family (including her 19 month year old grandson - my nephew), celebrated with a 3 course Sunday Roast lunch at a gastro pub in North West London. Nine days later she underwent a 4 hour operation to replace her right shoulder at Charing Cross Hospital in Hammersmith. It was causing her acute distress due to the muscle being worn away with cartilage rubbing against cartilage and having tried every other remedy available on the NHS including very painful steroid injections – this was advised as the only chance of rectifying the problem and healing her pain. Despite my concerns about her having this operation, as I thought there were grave risks, the day following surgery she looked fantastic to be honest. Apart from the sling keeping her artificial shoulder in place and the fact her residence was now a hospital – you wouldn’t have been able to tell she had just undergone 4 hours of surgery. She looked very well in her face and content and very pleased to have survived the procedure. However, the next day her condition had deteriorated dramatically and the medical staff hadn’t noticed. She was telling me that something wasn’t right, but my mum said that on many occasions. I questioned the nurse, but she wasn’t overly concerned.
Tragically, Mum was to effectively die that evening in the hospital and I and my younger sister, Camilla Sarayiah, were there with her when she breathed her last natural breath. I say ‘effectively’ as the crash team managed to revive her several times throughout the night, but she was only alive with the aid of life support and they couldn’t stabilise her and, as far as we could tell, she wasn’t conscious. I still live that day over and over again in my head – passing time only mildly blunting the vivid images of an elderly rotund Guyanese woman struggling to get up from her hospital bed, then when finally stabilising on her feet – tears streamed down her face moments before life left her body, her eyes rolling in her head and falling back helpless on the hospital bed. I believe the tears were her knowing she was about to die - it was my mum’s time. I constantly replay those harrowing events in my head and wondering if there was anything I could have done to save my mum – to change the outcome of destiny, but my Angels had previously told me that when my mum was to go it would be sudden and there would be nothing anyone could do (see "I Believe in Angels") and personally I had thoughts, as to whether she would come back home this time.
At least she lived to, what I would consider, a ‘ripe’ age even though 79 is still relatively young in today’s modern developed Western world. It is also with gratitude that she didn’t suffer a long debilitating painful death despite my mum’s health not being the best; she was type 2 diabetic (as was my late father) and had been for around 20 years with all the consequences that brings. Nevertheless, she still had a pretty good quality of life in her later years and loved being with her extended family. The jewel in the crown for her was to finally have a grandchild and that made her incredibly happy. She used to say now she had spent time with her grandchild she could die happy (whenever that time came).
Had the shoulder operation been a success she was to have the left shoulder replaced in time (as that had also gone faulty). I think she may have been aiming to become the world’s first ‘bionic’ granny having already had her knees swapped for titanium a couple of years back and risk becoming attached to our super stainless steel Liebherr fridge freezer, bringing whole new meaning to a fridge magnet. She was also an avid recycler – often scolding me for not following her strict recycling regime and she made fantastic sandwiches; she loved flowers, knew all their names and her garden was her pride and joy, but as she succumbed to the growing pains of old age she was unable to tend to her garden except for the most basic of tasks. And, unfortunately, much to her annoyance, the person she employed as a gardener pulled out her poppies thinking they were weeds(!) a week before she was to have her operation.
Of course I could go on and on about so many wonderful things about her and how she was always there for me even during some very difficult times and the things she had to endure in her lifetime. I may not have been that reciprocal at times (see “Suicide Blonde”) and at times was also hard on her, but I loved her deeply all the same and we would tell each other that. She was a warrior – someone who endured great hardship and worked very hard to provide for her 3 children; a life force so kind and unconditionally loving, but also a fighter and a brave soul. People were drawn to my mum and, as I spend the first Xmas without her, I will always take solace that Hannah was a very special soul and is missed and loved by so many people; but to be honest it doesn’t feel like Xmas anymore.
I reflect on how I could have done a lot more to ease her torment and I was the cause some of the times; I underestimated the pain my mum must have been suffering, which must have been severe to warrant her to undertake the risks of major surgery again and she suffered every day.
Health is the bedrock of everything, yet it is one of the easiest things that is forgotten. Many of the ailments we suffer in later life may have been preventable if we kept ourselves healthy and fit. Yet death comes to us all and her life is to be celebrated .
My mum went to sleep on 12th June 2014 and I end this article with the eulogy I wrote and spoke at the funeral service and which, to my surprise, received spontaneous applause from the packed church of mourners (my sisters did not receive any applause for their respective eulogies!). The mourners were from all walks of life and included friends, neighbours, family, the postman, window cleaner and cleaner.
I owe you everything Mum. Merry XMAS to you in Heaven.
...I lived with my mum and so saw her first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Some days – especially on a Saturday morning when I was rushing to go to the gym I would hurry my mum from the bathroom, as at this time her passing years slowed her down. On other mornings we would hug and kiss and just show our love and appreciation for each other.
I am not the ideal son that she would have dreamt of before I was born – I am certain of that, but she loved me unconditionally all the same. At times we would have rows – in fact I had one with her recently - a few days before she went into hospital for her ill-fated shoulder operation, but at other times I would just tell her I loved her and she would me and we’d both be very happy. She stood by me when I got into some difficult situations.
Sadly, as the years wore on, as is natural I suppose, she became more and more frail and her mobility, which once upon a time saw her up and down Neasden on a daily basis with her shopping trolley in tow - became just a memory. When I was a kid my mum seemed to know everyone she encountered on her 200m walk to Iceland (previously known as Bejam) and 30 years later, she still seemed to know everyone. At times – well all the time to be honest - it was frustrating, as I selfishly just wanted to get from point A to point B with as little fuss as possible, but she always had time to speak to people and people loved to chat with my mum and emanate love and affection for her.
She was loved by so many people and it is a privilege that I was able to share those moments and the love that she gave, as well as the love from the people her path crossed.
As my mum’s mobility stalled, she decided to get some new knees. Alas this seemed to make her walk even less and even though I tried to get her to go for walks she decided she’d rather enjoy the likes of Jeremy Kyle and Deal or No Deal instead and wanted to be driven everywhere, which was not good for her. I was concerned about her fitness levels and that if she didn’t use her knees that they would eventually cause her more pain and that being relatively sedentary was doing her harm, which she didn’t realise.
Nonetheless, at times she would still cook for me and I managed to get her to write down some of my favourite recipes so I will hopefully be able to reproduce them in the future, but I am sure they will never be as good the original. And recently – me not being the most learned cook – she showed me how to peel a clove of garlic and chop up mushrooms!
At home I used to spend a lot of my time in the front room fiddling with my laptop with my mum sitting on her cream leather recliner in the back room. She would read the celebrity mags such as Now or Ok! and always wanted to hear news about the royal family! In the evenings she was an avid viewer of Emmerdale, Eastenders, Coronation Street and the Kardashians and it pained me to sit there and watch these with her. I would always try and change the channel, but she wasn’t having any of it.
And it is fitting, I suppose, that in the few minutes before she effectively died I was busy setting up freeview on the tv they had in her hospital room so she could watch her soaps. The tv was one of those old 14 inches, but I had a freeview box so I brought it in and hunted all over the hospital and local shops for a tv aerial cable to get it working and the last thing she saw on telly was the start of the world cup – asking my sister Camilla if that was in Brazil.
Alas this was one operation too far for my mum – maybe lulled into a false sense of security by the relative success of her new titanium knee operations – even if she never used them anything to their full potential. This was an operation that I was weary of and I did not want her to have it and told her so, but she was determined.
And as we all share in our grief and the loss of someone adored and cherished by so many – there will be many now realising that if they visit our home they are unlikely to get offered food and drink with the same voracity that my mum presented. My mum always made sure our guests and friends were fed and watered and many times it was hard for a visitor to turn her down, as - at the 5th time of asking they succumbed to her caring charm.
As I end this I will just say one thing about my mum, which I did not cherish at the time, but now I will religiously make sure that her wish is kept – and that is to pull the curtains. My mum was always telling me to pull the curtains – it was as if she was a woman possessed. It could still have been gloriously sunny outside, but sometime in the evening she would call out, “Isaac, pull the curtains.” And even though at times I did not obey that wish of hers until much later in the evening – when it was actually dark outside, I will always remember my mum when I do so from now on.
The times we did share together and the memories I have of her are precious and can never be taken away and I loved my mum dearly even though I never told her anywhere as much as I should have done, but she will live on in my thoughts and spirit. I miss you mum and I just hope in Heaven they have some curtains for you to pull.
Rest in Peace.