At school two little six year olds had an argument. They were both very upset when I called them over to talk to me.
I asked the first one what the problem was.
Pointing at the other girl with a quivering finger she said, amongst sobs, “she called me a F F F FAT BANANA. Why are you laughing?”
“Well,” I said, “are you a banana?”
“Are you fat?”
“Is it true?”
Softly I said to her, “so darling if it were true it would be serious, but it’s not true so it’s funny isn’t it?”
I asked the other girl, “why did you say that?”
“I wanted her to be my friend but she didn’t want to, so I called her a FAT BANANA… Naomi, I really love bananas.”
I smiled and said to her, “darling if you want someone to be your friend, that’s not the way to do it. First you have to help them if they need help, be kind to them and laugh at their jokes. Then they will want to be your friend because they can see that you are a kind and caring person.”
She was a nun from Christchurch who recently settled in Auckland to be closer to her children. She loved hot chips with a vengeance and enjoyed listening to SOLE3 MIO. She had always been independent and strong-willed but the cancer was starting to win. When she got sick her daughter became her caregiver. The daughter was able to work from home and that helped a lot.
The nun would take me to the airport when I went to India. The early morning flight was usually cheaper so it meant I would have to be at the airport at 5 or 6am. She insisted on taking me and picking me up upon my return she said it was her way of supporting me.
When she started the first round of chemotherapy she was too exhausted to have visitors and would phone instead when she felt up to it. Sometimes her daughter would go out and I would sit with her, and we would talk or sometimes just sit.
I found a message from her to call in on my way home and pick up some hot chips, she sounded flat.
When I arrived she was weary and pale, I asked her to move over in the bed so I could lie down on top of her duvet, beside her.
“Busy day at school and I‘m tired.” She laughed and made some space.
“Did you get the chips?”
“Of course,” rearranging the pillows I propped her up .
“Come here my friend,” she said with outstretched arms. As I moved closer she chuckled and waved me away, she meant the chips.
She didn’t have much of an appetite but she wasn’t going to let her hot chips go to waste.
She was the hot chip nun.
“You know what I would really like?”
“More chips,” I teased.
“No a bath, I have to wait until next week for someone to come to bathe me.”
Next day I gave her a bath, an hour later she was back in bed and her mood was lighter.
Two days later she was admitted to hospice, she loved it there. She enjoyed the peaceful caring atmosphere and commented on how accommodating the staff were. She started to deteriorate quickly. The next day by evening it was clear she wouldn’t last the night. She slipped away in the early hours of the morning with her son and daughter at her bedside. When I got to the hospice her children were tired and ready to go home. I sat with her just like we used to do until it was time for me to go to work.
She was once asked what she learnt about life, “simple,” she said, “life is precious.”