Reflecting on love and death

Reflecting on love and death

Jean Allan, who has recently joined the Hospice Waikato Marketing department, shares her story of love and death.

Death was not something I personally thought about until my mother was diagnosed with incurable stage four cholangiocarcinoma. I am still able to determine the exact minute, hour and day that forever changed my life- December 13th, 2011.

What started out like any other Tuesday, turned into a day that started a chain reaction of events that forever changed our lives. Three small words whispered by my mother ‘I have cancer’ and my shocked response of ‘Who’s got cancer?’, were followed by silence and stillness with my mum’s muttered reply of ‘me’.

I was in shock and denial thinking that this must be some joke, no matter how black the humour would be. However, this fast became our new reality. The following days were a blur of pain, hope and utter devastation.

When my mother was first diagnosed, her prognosis was dire. It was challenging to accept the fact that she was incredibly sick with an impending departure date. She refused to be a victim to a disease that destroys the mind, body and soul. Acceptance is vital but does not equal a death sentence.

She never accepted her death sentence, nor did she give up emotionally or mentally, and to this day, her strength is truly inspirational. While she did go through several bouts of harsh chemotherapy, it had little to no effect on the tumours, but it did give her extended time for us to create wonderful living memories together.

My mum was my rock, best friend and parent all rolled into one. When I was born, she jokingly made the promise to give me twenty years, but unfortunately, she came up five years short.

Those first fifteen years were filled with memories and experiences that set me up for life. During her fifteen final months, she did everything in her power for us to have memories together, ‘to create living memories’ as she put it, that were able to be compiled into a treasured life story, written up by a Hospice volunteer.

The morning she passed away is a memory that is seared into my mind and was one of the hardest things to witness. We all experience grief differently, there is no right or wrong way. It’s an emptiness that won’t ever disappear - while the hole will never heal, it will blend and become a part of my life to learn and grow from.

‘That’s why it’s important to talk about how you’re feeling, when the time is right, and the services and care we received from Hospice was a comforting presence, knowing that they had dedicated staff to help us through the journey before, during and after death.”

My mother’s death has made me stronger, with the courage and strength she modelled during her battle with cancer to see out the years she promised. I honour my mother’s memory and know that whatever happens, she’s watching and proud, and now my being a part of Hospice Waikato brings a true sense of rightness.

- Jean Allan
Hospice Waikato

Hospice is here to help?
Nothing alters your life like finding out your loved one has a terminal illness, with only months to live. At Hospice Waikato, we have qualified counsellors to support families/ whānau who are affected and/or caring for a terminally ill family member.

Our counsellors are here to provide support and tools to help our patients and their families/whānau through their grief.

We need your help to continue to offer our end-of-life services free of charge.
Can you help us? Please donate today.

Pictured: Jean Allan.
Photo inset: Jean celebrating her 14th birthday with her Mum.

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