29th March 2016

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Chief Executive GMC - registration, training and standards for doctors

The circle is complete  
News and Comment from Roy Lilley
For fourteen days the family have sat, sentinel.  For fourteen days and nights they have watched the rise and fall of her chest.  Sometimes stirring, never rousing.
For fourteen dawns they have watched the day paint the water colour wash of dawn on the black windows.  For fourteen sunsets they have watched the amber glow melt away against the bedroom wall.
For fourteen days they have watched as their Mum is turned very two hours, bathed, creamed, hair combed and rested against clean pillows.  For fourteen days, mouth hygiene, caring, stroking, whispering.
For fourteen days, in the dead of night they have noticed the quiet hum of the special mattress.  For fourteen days their fitful sleep broken by pre-dawn blackbird.  As a midwife helps with taking the first breath, the family will be there to help with taking the last.
She'll go when she is ready.  The family are exhausted; taking turns to be sure this frail skeleton is never alone.  Insisting she leaves this earth with love and a farewell.  Where ever her journey will take her we may never know, but she won't embark upon it without a goodbye kiss.
Living well with dementia is hard enough, dying with it unbearable.  Forgetting things, living with fragments of the past.  Tiny anchor points that slip through your fingers... there are work arounds but it is a disease that tortures families.
When we forget how or why we need to eat, when you sleep because you can't remember how to stay awake, when the body keeps ticking over like a car parked on the drive, the end will only come when it runs out of fuel. 
For fourteen days this body has been ticking over.
This is not an easy closure.  It is a gradual fading; losing memories, losing wakefulness. Loosing colours.  The yellow pallor stark against the white of the pillow case.  What a cruel fourteen days this has been.
Looking into the glazed, sightless eyes it's hard to remember how they once danced; lit up at the visits from family, cried with sadness and laughter in equal measure.
It was Cannon Henry Scott-Holland who wrote; 'death is nothing at all'... he could never have known about dementia and death.  

This is not 'nothing'.  This is painful, protracted, unbearable.  For fourteen days; every throbbing second an agony.  For fourteen days; each minute prolonged.  Each day, agonising.  Every night, excruciating.
This death is not 'nothing at all', it is awful.  When it comes the family will privately admit it was a relief.  Perhaps, in time they will overcome their exhaustion and see there is no such thing as death, as long as we have memories.  Life lives on in our recollections, reflections and reminiscences.
The memory of the fourteen-days will give way to memories of better days, brighter days, sunny days.  There should be no regrets.  What more could they have done.
On the evening of the fourteenth day the vigil ended when the family held their breath and watched the last breath.  

The very next day a midwife helped to take the first breath, a child is born.  A girl.
This woman clung to life for so-nearly long enough to see her beautiful and perfect great granddaughter safely into this world.  She must have known.
Now she can rest, the family can rest; the circle is complete. 
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