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Wales Online
Wales Online
Robert Harries

'My mum died in hospital and I lost my dad three weeks later - but I can still celebrate Mother's Day'

Mother’s Day is a special day, one filled with celebration and love. A day to be spent with families, be it out for Sunday dinner, a stroll in the sun, or just sat around the telly together.

It’s a day that many take for granted, except of course, for those who cannot. For the thousands across Wales spending time with their mothers today, there will be thousands more looking up at the spring sky. Paul Young is a local business owner from west Wales, and this is his first Mother’s Day without his mother.

Kathryn Young, who lived in Lamphey, Pembrokeshire, went into hospital one summer’s day last year. Two days later, she was gone. She was only 69, and for her son, that fateful day in Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest will forever be etched in his mind.

Read more: The latest death notices in Carmarthenshire as families remember loved ones

“It was quite sudden in the end,” said Paul, who lives in Llanteg and co-owns Spiffy - a ‘happiness gift shop’ in Carmarthen designed to help people live a positive and fulfilling life - with his partner Shaun. “She had suffered with a chronic condition - a rare form of rheumatoid arthritis - for 20 years, and had been in hospital three weeks previously. But this time was different. They took her in and she went straight into intensive care. She went in on the Friday and died on the Sunday.”

Paul was able to sit with his mother - along with his partner and his father - as she drew her last breath in that hospital bed, but, to add to the tragedy, his sister Emily was outside in the car park, having to say her goodbyes on Face Time, a necessity brought about by coronavirus restrictions.

“She was living in Canada but she managed to get a flight back straight away when the doctors told us on the Saturday that Mum didn’t have long left,” said Paul. “So she flew back, she made it all the way to Pembrokeshire but wasn’t allowed into the hospital because of the Covid regulations at the time. So she sat in the car, outside, and said her goodbyes.”

Paul (second from the left) pictured with his father Brian, his mother Kathryn and his sister Emily (Paul Young)
Paul's parents Brian and Kathryn pictured on their wedding day (Paul Young)

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Paul and Emily’s father Brian died just three weeks after their mother, adding to the heartache that engulfed their family in the summer of 2021, a time when Emily was pregnant with what would have been her parents’ first grandchild. Her daughter was born in December, but her grandparents never got to meet her.

“We were very close,” said Paul, now 34, about the relationship he enjoyed with his mum. "I didn’t move out of the family home until I was 28 so we spent a lot of time together. She was very warm, kind and sweet. She was so selfless. Because of her condition she didn’t have the best quality of life. I would just try to take her out for a coffee as often as I could or she would come and sit in the shop. She was very gentle and very quiet.

"Nobody ever had a bad word to say about her, and she never said a bad word to say about anybody. Three months before she died, her auntie, who was only six years older than her and more like a sister, passed away. They grew up together, so that hit Mum really hard. She was an only child, so when she lost her auntie it was a big hit.”

For Paul, Mother’s Day will be a strange day. It’s a day that will contain happiness, sadness, and most of all, a sense of embracing what you have in front of you, for you will never know when it will be taken away.

“It makes you re-evaluate your priorities in life,” he said. “It makes you want to hold people closer. I remember in January, I was walking around Marks and Spencer and they had just started putting the Mother’s Day cards out on display. It just hit me, there and then, the thought: ‘I’m not going to buy one of those this year’.

"Her death has not changed how I feel about her. I think, because she had this illness for a long time, I had prepared myself for it, in a way, for a long time. I always sort of knew that she was never going to live into her 80s, so in the past few years I just tried to make the most of my time with her, and now that she’s died, after the initial feelings of grief and pain, I can look back fondly.”

On Sunday, Paul will have dinner with his family, visit his sister’s family including his baby niece, and lay flowers on the graves of his parents. It won’t be a normal Mother’s Day, but he doesn’t want to shy away from it.

“She is always going to be my mum and I can still celebrate her even though she is no longer with us. Mother’s Day has been on my mind for the past couple of months, but it was always going to come around and you can’t avoid it. I don’t want to, because to avoid it would be to avoid the memory of her.”

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