Archive for November 2, 2019

In Memoriam

Posted in Biographical on November 2, 2019 by telescoper

This is going to be a very short post, but also a very difficult one to write. My Mam has passed away, having lost her struggle against Alzheimer’s Disease. Mercifully at least the end was peaceful and she’s now at rest. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.

This is a picture of us in happier times taken just outside the Brighton Centre just after I received my doctorate from Sussex University in 1989.

Can that really have been 30 years ago?

The first I knew about her final illness was at the end of 2015 when I visited for Christmas and noticed how much her memory and behavior had changed. Shortly after that came the official diagnosis. Her condition deteriorated rapidly thereafter as dementia cruelly took hold and about eighteen months ago, being virtually completely incapacitated, she had to move into a care home. That was about 18 months ago. Fortunately she seemed relatively happy there. In the end it was pneumonia that took her, but at least she slipped away gently.

During the years of her illness I have never written about it here because I couldn’t find the words. Now I have to admit that when I heard the news that Mam had died my first reaction was a sort of relief that her torments were over. That was quickly overtaken by a sense of guilt (a) that I had felt like that and (b) that I hadn’t been there enough or done enough to help. Now I just feel numb, unable really to take it in. I keep hoping for some sort of catharsis, but it doesn’t happen.

My Mam’s illness was one of the causes of stress that led to my decision to step down from my role as Head of the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at Sussex University back in 2016. I had a notion that moving to a part-time job I might be able to help look after Mam, but I found the whole situation too painful and other things got in the way. I wasn’t strong enough to contribute anything significant and the burden fell on the shoulders of others. Now I’ll never be able to put that right.

I have to reorganize quite a few things next week so I can attend the funeral in Newcastle, so I’ll occupy myself doing that.