I returned home from London late last night (at 12.45) to an email, telling me that a dearest elderly friend is now desperately ill. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day.
Today it is Mother’s Day.
I put on a pretty dress and went round to her home. Why do pretty dresses matter. The hospital beds were now instated in the main living room. She was being spoon fed like a baby when I got there, with a soft milky ready-brek type food, so I just sat quietly until the meal-time was over. She had no idea at that point that I was even there. She lay in her bed in the brightest red silky PJ’s, with the covers over her. Why do brightest red silky PJ’s matter.
Her body now is so very frail and diminished, so much so that it was almost absent. Her head propped up, on over full pillows. Bless her, because after every few spoonfuls of food administered, she managed to say thank you. So frail, so close to death, and still food and gratitude had a role to play in the ritual.
After her medication was administered I moved forwards. I sat on the edge of her bed and I took hold of her hands. Hands which had previously (all the way through her meal) lay stationary, almost in the child-like prayer position upon her chest. Hands now so still. So blue. Fingers like thin wasted, empty blue test tubes, frail with every vein showing through the translucent skin. Glass like. Hands like the flesh of the tiny little stickleback fish of my childhood.
As I took up her hands and closed my hand around hers, she opened her eyes and I whispered a “Hello my darling”. Slowly the recognition came into her face like warm liquid, traveling upwards until it reached her eyes, and with all her gentle frailness and all her courageous strength, she lifted my hand the few inches up to her lips and kissed it, and squeezed it, and held it there. And all I could do was smile through the tears. And as I wished her a Happy Mother’s Day, my words kind of got mixed and muddled with the tears, and the smiling sadness over the top of it all made for complete stew.
Bloody life. . . . Bloody death.
This dearest lady is a wonderful mother. A very precious mother. She is not my mother. Her only child, her son and his wife, and their two small children, were all killed in a terrible tragic road accident, over a decade ago. When I wished her Happy Mother’s Day, she smiled and said “Thank you, Is it Mother’s day, oh thank you”. We both cried. When my Dad died I was so broken, only this very special lady understood and met me in my grief. She soothed my broken heart. More than once. She really is so very special.
I am not so sure people are supposed to go to somebody’s death-bed and make them cry. Silly me. All the ‘end-of-life’ care staff are so positive and happy and uplifting, and they discretely left us, just to be. We sat in silence holding hands for a while, gentle, softest silence, her drifting into such deep sleep, I almost thought she might not return. So peaceful. But after a while she did return.
I kissed her, and told her that I too would return tomorrow. I whispered “We are all here with you my darling” and she smiled and squeezed my sad hand, and once again she came to meet and soothe me in my grief . . . So gracefully she softly whispered back “I know”.
And then I left, along with my tears, and I felt united, in life and death, to every mother there has ever been, the world over.
Precious, precious Mothers Day.