One Time In Her Life

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September 11th 2012
Published: September 11th 2012
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This has nothing to do with travelling but involves a journey which we all will have to take one day. When your journey starts at birth and you find yourself born into a family who do not give a stuff about you, over the years you learn to cope and you learn that there is always someone nearby who does care. For me this was Brenda, she is not an auntie as such by blood, but by friendship to my mother since before the time I was born, she has stayed close until this year, so she has always been my auntie Brenda.

The one thing Brenda always said to any one I ever introduced her to was “ I used to feed her bottle, and read her stories, now look how big she is, I am so proud of you Claire!” She was very proud of this, so was I. This one amazing woman had been with me since birth, no one else could ever claim this.

After my dizzy college years I moved to London aged 20 as a keen and at times naive fashion stylist, the bond between Brenda and I became even stronger. She believed in angels and the afterlife. She was a fellow Aquarian and loved we shared this fact, she was everything spiritual. Whenever I was in any kind of difficulty, Brenda’s first words would be “It’s because you are an Aquarian Claire and we Aquarians don’t do things by halves or behave in the normal way others would like us too, so don’t worry love, you're doing just fine”. We became allies and she became a mother to me; we shared many good times and we had our fair share of arguments, normally this would be about the unbelievable clutter in her central London flat which I gave up on years ago.

I would visit her regularly in Sheppard’s Bush, it felt almost normal to finally visit someone I could call FAMILY. When I experienced life’s ups and downs, she was there. She shared my heartbreaks and celebrations, I sent her postcards from all my foreign destinations, she read every word of my soul cultivator blogs, she loved the photography and got the hang of leaving comments on most posts, at last count she had six laptops and three mobile phones, she was on facebook and MSN, she loved the modern world, even though she didn’t understand it most of the time. She supported all my ideas, hair styles, unsteady career choices and partners; she loved giving advice, comfort and hearing all my stories. She tried her best to help patch things up between me and my family, but it never worked out that way. She was most proud when I joined London Ambulance Service. I admit at that time in my 30's I felt like I had finally grown up, in hindsight It was just the beginning, however Brenda was there for me throughout.

When she first became sick with Breast Cancer it was devastating, my first reaction was to dismiss it, I was now in my forties, a working medic, I should have been able to have dealt with this alot better, but Brenda was the first person I was close to who had cancer, not someone I had picked up in the ambulance, this was real. Then she got secondary lung cancer, she made her own way to hospital appointments, she was a very independent lady, a true Aquarian spirit. She managed to get much needed rest periods at a place called Trinity Hospice . I could not believe how happy she was when she spent time there and the high levels of service they provided. Over the last eighteen months of her life she was admitted for a couple of weeks at a time for some much needed R&R. For me it was a joy to go visit her as there was none of her clutter anywhere! The rooms were beautiful spacious clean fresh, not a place you would associate where people are meant to die. But they do die there, amid the most peaceful surroundings, the staff are full of compassion, time is not a problem, the love and care they give are gifts to this earth.

I remember I called her one Saturday afternoon, I had a strong gut feeling she was not well, she had been taken in to Trinity Hospice that morning. She sounded dreadful, a crackling breathlessness, she was gasping for air, the tumours were spreading, she suddenly wanted to share a few words with Brian who is the love of my life, they got on very well, Brian was working with me that day on the ambulances, she asked him if he would promise to look after me for ever more, he said he would to the end of time, its like she was handing over the batton, she also had bad arthritic fingers and suddenly dropped her Blackberry phone, one of two phones she had with her at all times. The connection was still strong and I could hear a man talking to her, guiding her back to bed and talking about fine chocolates and flowers in bloom that they could see from her wall of gleaming windows which looked out to the heavy rain that fed the sumptuous gardens beyond. This man sounded like an angel, he really cared.

Brian has many talents, skills and life experiances, he is a very experianced paramedic and has experienced this whole cancer thing for himself with his mother Sally Mear who he nursed single handed for 6 years until she passed away from cancer at Thames Valley Hospice just 2 years ago. This was all so fresh in his mind and a difficult time for him to relive it all, however, Brian became my rock and guide. We drove in the pouring rain to the Hospice after work that day. Brenda was not her normal happy smiley self. We met Izzy her only niece and Shaun, for the next 10 days we were all on rotation, keeping vigil, dabbing her lips with a sponge on a stick that looked like a lollipop, telling stories, admiring the vibrant flowers that were displayed in vases in her room.

Brenda and I had a little hand squeeze thing going on when her energy dropped out and her consciousness drifted to other places, she could at times hear us yet could not speak and needed to respond, by day 4 she had clearly deteriorated. Brenda was always strong in mind and she could hear every other word at this point. This is the number one rule in ambulance work, the last thing to go is your hearing. As an ambulance medic this was a challenge for me too, normally I would be responding to a patient by getting them comfortable, with a trip to A&E where drugs and procedures would be given to assist in sustaining life, this was the opposite, we had to watch the staff keep her comfortable and assist her in a peaceful passing.

As she once fed me my bottle and read me stories when I was small and vulnerable, I was now giving her her baby tumbler of water to keep her hydrated and reciting all my stories, I looked down at how tiny she was and felt proud of her too. She was loyal and devoted. The ever evolving cycle of life presented itself that day.

The vigil continued, when Brian and I went in late at night, it felt special and peaceful, soft lighting guided my pace as I walked up the corridor to the tea facilities for a much needed break, I could see volunteer nurses and helpers sat in the individual rooms by the patients sides like angelic guardians watching over them as they slept. By the end of day 4 the petals from the Gerbras were starting to break away from the limp stems falling to the ground like burst balloons.

By day 5 the morphine increased, by now Brenda had said goodbye to us all in her own way, her hand did not respond anymore. Wildlife perched by her window throughout the day and night. At one poignant time on a warm clear evening when Brenda was inbetween rare moments of lucidity a beautiful fox looked in and tapped his nose on the window. At this point all the fresh flowers in the room had absorbed their last drops of moisture, the petals began their descent. I shall never forget that moment, how nature mirrored human life.

Come the day that I am free from this constricting body, when you, with sympathy, and complementary phrases bid me adieu....When you flower-deck the form, discarded, that you thought was me; by then I'll be beyond these mundane things, in silver silence soaring without wings, through another level of eternity, where, in another vessel suitable, I will continue learning LOVE, the mastery of, in essence, the only prerequisite for entering HIS presence. Delma Luben

The specialist care nurses of Trinity Hospice

Kate Ward was Brenda’s personal specialist nurse from Trinity Hospice, she became her closest confidant and friend, she became her everything. Kate was there at the beginning of Brenda’s initial respites at the Hospice when Brenda’s happy smiley face and Aquarian chattiness masked the truth that her cancer had started to get too much for her to cope with on her own, Kate immediately recognized the signs.

Brenda’s last admittance to Trinity was in April this year upon Kate’s final home visit and strict instructions, Brenda really was not coping alone at home, battling the final effects of secondary lung cancer, she was unable to drag the heavy oxygen bottle from her living room to her bedroom, she was not eating, dealing with failed chemo on top of her failing knees, her arthritic fingers, painful hips and everything else that was just too tediously domestic.

When Brenda was admitted to Trinity, she asked Kate, Is this it? This is a tough question to ask, and equally tough to answer, Kate is one of Trinities best nurses, she was diplomatically honest every step of the way, Kate said to Brenda that it would be like falling asleep. Kate continued to emotionally guide Brenda forward which helped Brenda spiritually to get ready for her next and final stage.

Trinity allowed us all to spend as much time as we needed, 24 hours a day, we could bring food in, unlike restrictive hospitals visiting times, we would have been able to see her pass over in peace. When it finally became Brenda’s time 11am 3 May 2012 we had all gone home for a break, this was so typical of her to finally go it alone! When we left her for the last time she felt as if she was not there, it was just a body asleep.

It is thanks to people like Kate Ward and all the staff at Trinity Hospice, that Brenda’s final transition to the heavens was a beautiful experience for her and for us all. This is why I am writing this as a blog post, she loved my blogs its bazaar that I am writing about her here, but there is a big reason for all of this we are also raising as much funding for Trinity as I physically can, to say thank you for making the experience of Brenda's final months, weeks, days, hours, minutes a comfortable one, and for helping make her death a peaceful one.

Shine on my guardian angel.

A Gift In Season Is A Double Favor To The Needy - Publilius Syrus

We held a music festival MearFest3 in her name.

We had live bands and a fantastic DJ Mr. Colin Hudd AND Mr. Danny Rampling who all donated their time. We have nearly raised £2000.00

We have a fund raising website:

We have a just page You can still donate online.

Or if you are in the UK you can send us a donation via text message, it is free to send and we get every penny.

Text: MEAR88 £5 or MEAR88 £10 to 70070 could not be simpler.

THANK YOU if you have already donated to Mearfest3/Trinity Hospice

Please spread the word; we are all so very grateful.

Patient Brenda with specialist nurse Kate Ward film by Please watch.

Additional photos below
Photos: 12, Displayed: 12


Her cluttered eco coffinHer cluttered eco coffin
Her cluttered eco coffin

We sent her off with all her postcards she had collected, photos of her over the years and even letters she had recieved from special people. It was a beautiful send off.

11th September 2012

Thank you
What a moving description. Mum so glad that you could be there with her at the end of her life, I can't imagine a better person to be there than you Claire. Love you.
11th September 2012

So sorry for your loss
Dear Claire, Thank you so much for writing such a beautiful tribute to your 'Aunt' Brenda. I just lost a dear friend last Sat. She was only 58 and was diagnosed with colon and liver cancer in early June. She, too, spent her last days in a Hospice in Amherst, Massachusetts. I left Memphis and came east and was fortunate to have had 3 visits with her. It was exactly as you described right down to the dabbing her lips with the little sponges, squeezing her hand, and her acute hearing. I traveled with her on my first trip to Peru in 2001 and another trip there in 2003. She loved Peru and was an adventurous traveler. I know her soul is now flying with the condors over Cusco.
12th September 2012

Dear Carolyn....So lovely to hear from you again. And I too am so very sorry about your loss. You have some wonderful memories of your friend and she was a lucky lady to have you there at her bedside. Its an experiance that stays with us for ever. You are a good friend. Thank you for sharing your story, I appriciate your comment. Much cosmic love to you Claire X
11th September 2012

lovelight witness
Sweet Claire, your blog truly is a gift to us all. Thank you. Your courage to feel and express those feelings, your eloquent insights, your strength in flourishing because of it all (rather than in spite of), your whimsical curiosity, well darlin', quite simply I love you, I am very glad you are here, too...
11th September 2012

Heavenly Hospice
I'm so glad you had someone so special in your life, and that she was cared for by hospice. When not traveling, I'm a hospice volunteer and it's a great thing that you're doing--raising funds for such a caring organization--best wishes!
12th September 2012

Thank you.
Dear TaraCloud Thank you for taking the time to comment, and a big hug for volunteering at a hospice, I admire you so much. Best Wishes Claire
12th September 2012

Very touching blog
Thank you for sharing. Take care and know our thoughts are with you.
13th September 2012

i lay here tears trickling down my face,so touched by your words,your experience..your an amazing woman Claire xxx
13th September 2012

What a glorious one so dear...thus Brenda cannot be forgotten...only remembered. Take care, Claire...your heart has been opened...grief laid bare...Brenda would be proud of you.
19th September 2012

So moving Claire, Brenda was surrounded by love and knew how much you adored her xxx.
23rd November 2012

Sorry for your loss Claire
Lovely blog post Claire. So sorry for your loss of an important person in your life. So pleased she was comfortable in Hospice, they are very special people.Great job on the fundraising. Hope you are well xo M
30th November 2012

Dear Michael, This message means an awful lot to me. Thank You X
28th February 2015

Much missed!
What a nice tribute to a great "auntie". I feel like I know her from your story, but would have loved to meet her myself. We are so lucky to have people like this in our lives. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful person with others!

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