Pamela Ann Egan (nee Murphy) Born 13th October 1948/ Died 18th October 2006
A brother’s memories.
I wanted to tell you what it was like to be with Pam on the day she died and the easiest way was to write it down. It is full of emotion but emotion brings passion. I love passion.. Pam did things with passion… always letting people really know how she felt about the things she loved. I will do this with passion and I make no apology for it. I loved my sister and I hope you can see the humour in parts of my story as I celebrate her life through my thoughts. Hopefully it will bring you closer to her. Here is my story…..
It is not easy to write this as tears stream down my face but I owe it to the memory of my sister to try. Her death on Wednesday 18th October 2006 at Logan Hospital around 3 pm is still very vivid in my mind and it was a very moving experience for all those involved. But I have my tissues and I have my sun glasses here with me… it will be a little disjointed but it is what I have felt and seen in those 5 days since last Wednesday morning before her death…….
From the moment my brother Noel and I walked out of that cold, dark hospital room about half an hour after Pam died, I have done nothing but reminisce. Noel’s words to me then are still ringing in my ears as I write this… ‘We can’t leave her here by herself.’ he said, ‘I am going to stay with her until they pick up the body’. Her immediate family, the loving and caring Kevin, Leon and Bridgette had left as near emotional wrecks only 10 minutes before this moment after months of high emotion and we were heading back to their house to comfort each other. I reassured my brother that she was no longer part of that body in the bed and he came with me albeit reluctantly. I was very moved by his obvious distress about her predicament. It was really hard to leave.
I have many memories of things that happened that day. It started out as a normal routine type of day the 18th October … I had already wished my good mate Rob Sutherland a Happy Birthday and went to work with nothing much on my mind. I sat at Centrelink that morning talking to people about their problems and what we could do to help them. A ten minute tea break came up and while sitting at a table having a cuppa, there is a tap on my shoulder. A colleague says, ‘You are wanted on the phone. I’m sorry Brian but it is about your sister’…..my mind races ahead… I have been expecting this call for sometime and my colleagues were aware of that but nothing prepares you for the adrenalin rush..
I move quickly back to my desk with my head spinning and grab the phone and a loving and caring voice speaks quietly to me….. ‘Hi babe’ and my darling wife Vicki proceeds to talk slowly to me and I can hear the painful message I did not want to hear…. .My sister in law Meryl has phoned and Pam is in a coma in Logan Hospital. ‘Are you coming home?’ She asks…… Of course, there is no question that I wouldn’t leave immediately no matter what… I need to see Pam, be there with her as quickly as I can. You want to be with people you love when they are in need…..People at work are asking me questions but I ignore them. I am in a trance as I hurry to the car and point it towards home. My thoughts race as I remember the 3 odd years since she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The families shock reaction at the time and our feelings of doom and gloom and then her reaction to the news…..non-acceptance that it was happening. I will beat this.
We all thought Kevin would die first as she would nag him to death!!!!!!!
Seriously though, from the day she was told about the cancer, she had a…..‘Sorry folks but I can’t accept this’!!!!!! attitude and believe me my sister had attitude. You have heard from her own story so sincerely read by Rod that she modeled herself on her tough as teak father John Murphy and her ethics were his. My sister has never taken a backward step just like John didn’t and indeed, for the next 3 years from her first visit there, she would tell them at the PA hospital cancer ward what was happening and what she was prepared to do not what they wanted to do. ‘You want me to do what??? Take what!!! Why should I do that.. give me the statistics on that… she drove them mad……
As a kid she was no different. I was in her bedroom until she turned 12 when privacy issues meant my parents moved me into a back room with brothers Pete and Noel. Before that Pam and I were very close and I worshiped her. She was so good at her school work and so into life. Ballet dancing, piano lessons.. all sorts of achievements. She was a rose among the thorns. But…. She had a temper and was always in charge of her life…you had to be in a small house built like a rabbit’s warren, with 6 children and two adults living in it that allowed for little movement without encroaching on a siblingsterritory. She always had her door closed and you did not enter or if you did at the risk of grave harm. If any of the us went near her she would crack you with her hairbrush or if we were making too much noise while she was studying then the door would open andbang!!! wack!!!! Boy could she hit… the rose among five thorns was a very deep red rose at times!!!
Back to last Wednesday though….
..I arrived home from work and Vicki and Beau are ready to go… a quick change by me and off to the hospital. No talk on the way just a quiet reflection. More thoughts in my mind of Pamie as a teenager… a good girl in every sense and devoted to school work. Some great academic results that she is justifiably proud of …. and then school is over.. and off to work she went. The odd run in with bosses… one poor guy made the mistake of swearing at her and sure enough, on hearing this, the next day John Murphy went to her workplace and had a quiet word and he apologised to her. For those that really know her, this sounds familiar doesn’t it to her pattern later on with her own children???
Her first trip away alone for a holiday was to Kirra on the Gold Coast where we spent family holidays as kids but she was now venturing out alone… she met a nice guy and he gave her his photo with a note on it signed by him…she was thrilled. Traveling to work the first week back she showed the photo to other girls who she is traveling on the train with and one of them pullsout the same photo from her purse… Pam is given a hard time at the family dinner table by her loving brothers but she learns a hard lesson of life. You can’t trust everyone!!! …..
Then I am thinking about her in hospital and I am remembering how she hated them. As a young teenager she developed an infected blister on her heal… memories float back of a huge argument with her father about any need to go for medical treatment but he was adamant she was going to the doctor… he won and she went but not without one hell of a fight.. recently she had been in over- night at the PA.. Calcium levels had built up but she was very reluctant to stay and only agreed to if Kevin slept there as well….. the hospital gave in.. yes, she hated hospitals so I am surprised last Wednesday that she is in the Logan hospital.. will know more when I get there I am thinking.
‘Is this the turn-off to the hospital???’ Vicki asks. She is driving on that day because she is worried about my ability to concentrate. We are there in no time around 11 am and take the long walk around the hospital buildings looking for Room 3a, information that Kevin had emailed that morning but with no hint she was in trouble. We are to learn soon that he had to take her to the emergency dept the night before around 11 and it is 2am before she makes the decision to stay for a couple of days. ‘I need the rest’, she says so he leaves her reluctantly and goes home for some much needed sleep of his own.
Kevin has been constantly at her side for weeks since her condition deteriorated in August. Palliative care at home is not easy but she has learnt that Kevin can be trusted and is always there for her. He does a magnificent job. Kev’s said he had a joke with her before he left the hospital that night about who should have the hospital bed, him or her.. nice to think they had parted on such good terms and with a joke….his last words with her to remember for the rest of his life. I am so grateful to that man for caring so lovingly for her. He made her last years something special. Thanks Kev!!!
We reach the room and there she lies in her coma with Rod and Noel holding her hands… it is hard to believe that she was talking to Kev only a few hours before but it is indeed too late to talk to her now as she had gone into the coma that morning, before Kevin and the kids could return. Being unable now to communicate, the end is coming quickly. We sit and talk about her life and what she meant to us, amongst much sobbing and meaningful tears from us all and we take turns to sit with her. I am glad that I have spent many moments recently talking to her as this is not the time.
Vicki looks after Beau outside in the hallway and Bridgette and Leon join them at intervals but she comes in regularly like a mother hen to hug and reassure us. We walk to the kiosk for coffee breaks as watching her dying is not easy for any of us and the stories continue. I am so lucky to share this moment with her family and will cherish the memory. We wait and wait hoping for a miracle.
It is amazing to hear in these stories and how close her immediate family has become, due to her illness. If there is to be a positive in all this then it has to be their closeness now.. the love is so obvious in that room…the stories being told about her not resting and wanting to do the housework whenever she was home, even in palliative care or the Bee Gees CD she is given recently for her 58th birthday on the 13th October by Leon and how she was singing to it…….. but on that day at no stage does she respond to our gentle touches and kisses as she lies there breathing heavily but with little purpose… she is in another place now, no doubt watching lovingly over us and when she finally stops breathing it is indeed an anti-climax. No wiz, no bang just silence and a look of panic on all our faces. But she is not in pain and she is in a better place - although I think I just heard her say to me now, ‘I am not sure about that Brian, give me the stats on that first’.
Nothing more can be done on that day in that room.. there are lots of hugs and crying and we go…one by one… until Noel and I are standing there and he speaks to me about not leaving her. And the room that was full of warmth as we spoke about her life turns a deadly cold…...
My mind returns to reminiscing as I leave the hospital… my visit to her Coodgee flat when she went to Sydney as a young woman and how happy she was; her gutsy effort in going to NZ and Papua /New Guinea to have a working holiday that lasted five odd years. The boyfriend from one of those holidays who stalked her until dad had a quiet talk to him and he disappeared from her life. Her 21st when we danced like the wild ones and a photo I have to remember it forever…
I could always make her laugh as she loved my corny jokes so I felt close to her… we never had an argument in our lives… just sibling talk and laughs about our childhood and the antics of our famous father. The white flash as the family called him on occasions as he dashed out of his bedroom in his Bond’s undies and singlet to chase us away from his bedroom door where he was trying to get a few hours sleep before returning to his job as a night shift worker that evening.
I reminisce about her wedding day at this church 27 years ago… you can see her photo on the front of the order of service you all have … what a beautiful photo and how radiant she looks and her love of red roses shone through that day as she carried them to the altar. When you see a rose think of Pam.. she loved them. Kev tells me she preferred white ones.
The family gatherings over the years… she was always there… always supportive of her brothers… I have spent the last 4 days looking at photos and watching my sister change in appearance from the carefree young lady she was then in her single days to the devoted parent of two and wife to Kevin …. all these different gatherings and she was in all my photos with a different hairdo each time.
Never underestimate the value of photos… they freeze in time the way we look and the history of your family and the events and people over the years who were important to us. Reminds me of the movie ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ when the elderly lady reluctantly walks into the old people’s home near the end of her life and all she has under her arm is a shoe box full of photos. What is in that box???? she is asked and she replies…. My life!!!! . Those photos you are looking today are my sister’s life.
How she loved her 2 children and always wanted the best for them. All that nagging Leon and Bridgette was for you… she wants you to have a better life than she did as every parent does… and she kept pushing for it. She won’t nag you any more but I think you have the message as Leon is already traveling and discovering the world as she did and Bridgette is finishing her teaching degree. Your mum is happy about that no doubt.
Leon was to tell me at the hospital during our talks that his mother only started her KUMON training role that teaches the basics in subjects after school hours in Beenleigh because she was sure that the schools were not giving him the basics in education. There are now probably a thousand Beenleigh kids and young adults who know more about the basics because they attended her classes after school.
God knows her reputation at the Beenleigh schools was approaching legendary status at one stage years ago. Even up to Year 12 when most parents have long given up on their kid’s education, Mrs Egan was at the classroom door demanding to speak to some poor teacher who was in for an earful. They all ducked when she arrived.
Pam loved education and her family.. her two great loves. You have heard about her studies in the eulogy and even up to a few weeks ago she was up all night doing an assignment for her Masters which she would have finished next year. Didn’t seem to matter to her that she was not well … just kept driving herself. There is no question about her academic ability having already achieved an Associate Diploma and a Degree in Teaching but she wanted more.
What a gutsy woman… when I told friends about her demise, my good mate Rob Sutherland said ‘she seemed indestructible’ and Keith Blake said ‘what a big heart’. Yes indeed she had a big heart and she could fight. One of the most heroic fights I have seen……. she fought that cancer for three years. We had just about written her off in 2003 when it was diagnosed as she also had a tumour on her spine and she could hardly walk. Medical professionals said… ‘3 months maybe’…. Pam said… ‘no way’ …she was not ready to die. We held her 55 birthday party at our house that year and all the family attended who could… it was a huge day and it was the only time I saw her cry… but she hung on.
No one can understand how she managed to go 3 years without chemo although some modern drugs did assist but her bravery made us so proud. Her father would be telling her now in Heaven how proud he is that she turned out just like him and her mother Joyce would be proud of all the love she gave her family….. in that three years she furthered her studies; walked for cancer on many occasions; did a trip OS to Ireland and other countries with Kevin; visited old school chums; enjoyed many more family gatherings and my daughter Laura’s wedding; saw her kids become adults and became closer to us all…. a full on 3 years of activity and achievement.
I look out today and see friends from her school days and her travels, friends from her work days and people who have known her through Kumon and her community work. And I see her loving family who will miss her support…... from the original six Murphy children the rose has gone and only five thorns remain.. I see her life out there in your faces and it looks good. My own immediate family has rallied around me at this sad time and I feel the same pride she did in her family. I feel loved like she did.
I worry about Bridgette and Leon after them seeing their mother dying that day in hospital and Kevin’s heartache.. it was not a pretty sight but she did die peacefully and even though she did not want to go yet, as she still had much to do in this life, it was her time. You kids know what she wanted so get on with your lives and never forget her. For those of us that remain, it is a timely reminder to get our acts together as our time will come. We need to look after each other, do the things we want to do and say the things we want to say so that when we are in that hospital bed we can also die in peace.
Please celebrate Pam’s life today as she never wanted any more than to live her own life, a simple life and do it her own way and do it as successfully as possible. She achieved all that and died with her loving family around her. It seems ironic that she would die in breast cancer ‘pink ribbon’ week but it reminds us all how careful we must be with cancer.
My local Member of Parliament Margaret May told me when I informed her of Pam’s death that the day Pam died, Wed 18 October, she was making a speech in Parliament about breast cancer and the need for research. Last year I had organized the Boomer Music Festival on the Gold Coast and during my opening speech I had dedicated the day to Pam and told the crowd of her illness. Margaret May was there and took up the fight so Pam’s influence has done some good. Let’s hope a cure is near.
Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts with you, thank you to my son in law’s dad Andrew for conducting her service with passion and please join her family Kevin Leon and Bridgette in the hall next door after the service to help celebrate Pam’s life…..