She was a solicitor used to dealing with other people’s problems and separating the emotion from the facts. But today she looked tired, worn out, and close to tears.
“Noticed your not your usual self what’s the matter”? I asked.
“I’m caring for my dying mother at home and have been doing it for the last two months. I need to get home as quick as I can”.
“Do you have anyone helping you”? I inquired
“Sometimes my sister helps but she has three kids. Mostly it’s just me and mum, I had to move in with her temporarily to take care of her because she couldn’t manage on her own. I’m not sure if I can manage. I sleep in the armchair next to the bed”.
“Would it help if I sat with her while you do your work at home”?
A smile fleetingly replaced the stress on her face. ‘Here’s the address she said and my number if you get lost”.
“Ask your mum if I can come and see her, phone me if she says yes, no problem if she says no”.
Later that evening she phoned confirming it was okay.
I arrived the next day at the agreed time and was greeted warmly by the mother.
“Oh it’s you,” she said and smiled from her hospital bed
“I told you I would come” I replied.
We sat in silence except for when she asked me to swab her lips or when she wanted to talk.
“My other daughter Crystal is bringing my grandchildren to say goodbye. I told them all to come today. But the one I want to see the most is too upset to come. This granddaughter, we are very close. I’m afraid she won’t come.”
“She will come,” I said.
A knock on the door announced the arrival of the mother’s younger daughter. I stood up to leave and started to say goodbye when the mother said to me “don’t leave stay a while with me.”
“I’ll be having a cup of tea in the kitchen with Jenna,” and I left the room so she could have some time with Crystal the younger daughter.
“My mum was a beautiful woman immaculately groomed and a loving mother. She doesn’t look anything like she does now. She always used to get her hair done once a week. She told me before she got sick she was doing her hair and accidentally sprayed her hair with a fly spray instead of hair spray. No flies on me,” said, Mum.
We laughed together, sharing her mum’s secret, “she is so funny” said Jenna.
After a short time Crystal appeared, her children were outside, too upset to see their Nana. Crystal turned to me and asked me could I please talk to her children who were outside.
She had two boys, one aged 10 and the other aged 8, they sat close together. One looked like he had been crying.
I sat down and looked at them trying to gauge what I could say that would persuade them.
Very gently I said to them “It’s a very hard thing saying goodbye to someone you love. It’s hard for adults as well. I know you really love your Nana and she loves you too. Your Nana wants to say her last goodbye to you because she loves you so much.”
“Right now Nana can talk, soon she won’t be able to talk only hear. There are some things she needs and wants to say to you and I think there are some things you need to say to her. It’s up to you whether you go in or not.” With that, I got up and went inside the house.
The boys entered the house with their mother, to see their Nana. 30 minutes later they emerged from the room looking relieved but sad.
I went back in to say goodbye to Nana she asked me to stay for a bit longer. She was tired and I could see her energy was waning.
She called her older daughter to phone the granddaughter to come. Jenna was trying to mask the fact that she had already spoken to the granddaughter and she had refused to come, saying she couldn’t face it.
“She will come don’t worry,” I said.
Ten minutes later Jenna announced the arrival of the granddaughter. I stood up and walked over to my friend’s mother. I held her hands in mine and looked into her eyes and said, “goodbye my friend may peace be with you.”
Two days later I received a text from Jenna telling me her much loved mother had died.
We say goodbye every day. I wondered if when we say goodbye with no expectation, will it get easier to say at the end?