Doctor Esther Ramsay-Jones was on holiday abroad with her family, when her mother Joyce was taken ill.
She had been staying at Esther’s home in Taplow to look after the cats.
Esther said: “She came downstairs one day and found that all her words had become addled and muddled.
“At first they thought she had had a stroke but it turned out to be much more serious.”
She was dying from an aggressive brain cancer.
Now Esther has written a book called The Silly Thing, an account of her mother’s last months.
The book looks at ‘difficult conversations’ in palliative care, the value of listening skills, the fears that people might have about dying and specifically about brain cancer.
For the author’s mother, the tumour affected her speech and as an English teacher whose life had so intimately been tied up with language the fear of its loss was at times unbearable.
Though the main focus in this book is her mother’s experience, vignettes from the lived experience of practising palliative psychotherapy are woven into the narrative to highlight the value of talking and sharing fears, anger, confusion, loves and gratitude with those who are dying.
Esther lectures on ‘Death, Dying and Bereavement’ at the Open University. She is married to Matt. They have two children Eloise, 12 and Fearghas, 8.
She said: “In some ways, because of my work I had a good idea of what I was in for. People who are dying are often honest and open and willing to share their experiences.
“You have to find it in yourself to say goodbye – not to be in denial.”
Her book is called The Silly Thing: Shaping the Story of Life and Death, published by Free Association Books.