Cora Young first came to Royal Star & Garter for respite care in 2013, before becoming a long-term resident. She died in April, aged 95. As the nation commemorates the anniversary of the first lockdown with a National Day of Reflection, her daughter, Margaret Clements, praises the care at the Home, and is grateful that her mum had a happy life and a peaceful death.
Mum was redoubtable. It’s tough to think of another word that sums her up. She could cope with anything that came her way.
She was born in Armagh in Northern Ireland in 1924, and lived in Belfast. Mum was a Physical Education teacher and played tennis, golf and bowls and had a life-long passion for rugby. After my dad died in 2004, she decided that she wanted to be closer to me for help and support and moved to Kingston the following year. She volunteered at a church, organised a Tai Chi club at her sheltered accommodation and lived an independent life. She was self-reliant and resourceful.
In 2013, my husband and I decided to follow a Lions rugby tour and Mum decided she would need some respite care. Royal Star & Garter offered to have her for the six weeks and she loved it. My dad had stayed in a similar home in Belfast that cared for veterans. He had served in North Africa and Italy during the war, so Mum had great confidence in Royal Star & Garter. She moved in permanently in March 2018.
I would visit twice a week. She had a ground-floor room and we spent many a happy time sitting in the garden having a chat and a cup of tea. I was so happy with the Home, I don’t think we could’ve chosen better. The staff were really brilliant. I always felt welcome. Volunteers were brilliant too. There was always someone to talk to.
Mum died in late April 2020. She just stopped eating. She was living with dementia and her memory and general health were not great. I honestly don’t know if she had Covid or not. I know staff suspected she did.
When we knew she was dying, (Nurse) Jude called me on a Sunday to come in. I was in full PPE. When I walked into her room, Jude was sitting with her, reading a book about the community where Mum lived in Belfast. It was really beautiful. I talked to Mum and stayed with her a good, long time. She was aware I was there and talked to me. During lockdown, my brother Bill has been stuck in Switzerland, he’s still stuck there and was not able to see Mum. The Home organised for him to phone during that last week, and he was able to speak to her.
I was also able to visit again the night she died, though I wasn’t with her when she passed away. I can honestly say I didn’t have any regrets in the manner of her passing. She had a really happy life and died a peaceful death. It would have been a difficult year for her without having visitors and seeing her family.
I can only imagine how difficult it was for the staff in the Home. During that first month they couldn’t have been more communicative and helpful than they were. I’m so grateful that I was allowed to go and see her in that last week.
On the day of her cremation, we arranged for family and friends in Northern Ireland, here, Australia, all over the world, to simultaneously make Mum’s signature chocolate biscuit cake, and we all had a cup of tea with her.
I’m not thinking much about the anniversary, but I can’t wait until we’re out of this. It’s been such a long, slow process. My eldest daughter is in New Jersey, my brother in Switzerland. I can’t wait to be able to reunite with friends and family.