Helen Edwards June 18th 1960 to October 19th 2010
I was standing in the office at the Charman Road shop when my sister Angela called me. I’d had an early start to my Monday and had a full day planned.
The minute she said hello I knew that this was a difficult conversation for us. All she said was that Helen was in hospital in intensive care. Without thinking I said I’d be right there – there was no need to ask or to elaborate, it was perfectly clear to me that Helen had reached a point of no return and Angela didn’t want to do this bit alone.
I picked her up and we drove to Ballarat, straight to the hospital. We were a bit before visiting hours, so we found something to eat and returned. Helen’s husband Rod came down and escorted us up to ICU.
Helen was sitting up in bed, she had various tubes and pipes attached, but still quite lucid and able to chat. Alas, she had lost her voice so was just whispering to us. She was alert and engaging, asking all the questions about my family and what was happening. She chastised us for being there, gave us a scowl.
We stayed awhile before heading back to town. We promised Rod we’d visit again the next day.
First thing next morning Angela rang me again, Helen wasn’t well again. We jumped in the car, knowing that this time it was more serious, this time we understood that death wasn’t far away.
When we arrived Helen was on her bed, back on the ward and was very clearly in a great deal of discomfort. Rod and the children, Melissa and Daniel where there and they all were very clearly distressed. The staff had given Helen something for the pain and slowly her breathing calmed and she seemed better. She was sleeping.
My brother Shane arrived and we sat in the room, mostly in silence. Helen continued to rest. One by one we each spent a few minutes alone with her, able to speak just one on one. It was a very emotional time.
Angela and I stayed til about 6.00 p.m. and as Helen appeared to be stable, we decided it would be ok to go home and return in the morning.
At 11.00 p.m. Angela called me to tell me that Helen had died.
My family of 11, 7 boys and 4 girls was now 10.
I was driving home from dinner.
I stopped on the side of the road. With a family this large we have to split up responsibilities. I again made the rounds of ringing my list of siblings to deliver the news. In between calls liaising with Shane and Angela to make sure we had everyone covered.
It was difficult.
Angela called to tell me about the last moments for Helen. Rod, Melissa and Daniel had returned to the hospital after taking some time to shower and freshen up. They where keen to get back in time for ‘trolley time’ when the hospital supplies some wine or beer to patients. They where laughing and joking with each other. Remembering the times when Helen had to go to hospital, they always joked about making it in time for the trolley. Gathered around my sister, in this moment of light hearted humour, Helen passed away.
What a way to go.
I’ve been on the side lines in all of this. I wanted to support Angela, make sure that she’s ok. For her this has been an incredible roller-coaster and I’m glad I’ve been able to stand beside her and just be there. I admire her for her courage and unconditional love for her sister. Angela extends that love and concern to Helen’s children, Rod and then to others in our family. It’s an amazing thing to watch and I stand in awe.