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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Laurence Cummings

Maureen Cummings obituary

Maureen Cummings
Maureen Cummings dedicated herself to end of life care as a Macmillan nurse Photograph: none

My mother, Maureen Cummings, who has died aged 83, left school with few qualifications and a rebellious reputation. She went on to become a midwife, health visitor, a graduate of the Open University and a palliative care nurse.

Maureen was born in Birmingham, to Blanche (nee Hickman), a nurse, and Stanley Tranter, cashier at the Austin Motor Company. After leaving Kings Norton grammar school, Maureen trained to be a nurse at Worcester Royal infirmary. In 1966 she married Geoff Cummings and they started a family. She soon went back to work as a health visitor.

In 1981, Geoff, a probation officer, died suddenly of a brain tumour, leaving Maureen with three children to bring up. I was 12 and my twin sisters, Rachael and Rebecca, were seven.

Just as we children were leaving home, Maureen embarked on a new career challenge. Appalled by the lack of compassion from medical staff after my father’s diagnosis, she decided to train as a Macmillan nurse, dedicating herself to end of life care. She moved from Birmingham to the Lake District, and commuted from there to her new post at St John’s hospice in Lancaster. She brought solace to so many.

On retirement in 1999, she offered her palliative care skills to VSO, and went to work with the Russian organisation Hospice Volunteers in Chelyabinsk, Siberia, where the nuclear industry had created many medical problems.

The irony of her own diagnosis with a rare and aggressive stomach cancer in April this year was not lost on her. Maureen knew exactly what was to come and she was aggrieved that she was already too ill to travel to Switzerland to avail herself of a more enlightened attitude towards assisted dying.

She maintained her curiosity in the world and was delighted to live long enough to see Boris Johnson go. She loved music, art and the theatre, and had studied for an Open University degree in humanities and arts – her degree was awarded in 1987. She was very active in U3A, and had recently developed a passion for playing bridge.

Throughout her brief illness my mother remained cheerful, concerned only for others’ wellbeing. She administered sage life advice to the visitors at her bedside, who were under the impression that they had come to comfort her. She embraced the hallucinations brought on by her pain relief medication, having helped countless former patients negotiate them, and right up until the end she compiled a daily gratitude list.

She is survived by her children, Rachael, Rebecca and me, her grandchildren, Riley and Arlo, and her brother, Paul.

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