Mother was awake when I arrived, just a few minutes after Aunt and Mother’s friend had left. She was quiet for a while, listening to the CD that was playing; Irish Gospel. It includes Lord the day thou gavest is ending, which coincidentally had come into a conversation on a radio programme this morning when I was driving about gathering more fruit juice and so on. I sang along and Mother woke up.
Maybe I am unnatural, but I found myself wondering about its suitability as a funeral hymn. It has a comforting feel. Our ability as humans to live in several planes at the same time is thrown into sharp relief at times like these. One minute I am browsing the aisles of Waitrose, looking in vain for small cartons of apple and mango juice, the next, tears are running down my face at the thought of Mother dying.
When Nephew and his wife joined us the planes were again apparent. I have not met their two cats, and both were eager to show off pictures on their respective ‘phones. We took it in turns to sit beside Mother. She could not have told anyone who we were. I am quite sure. I am equally sure that she knew us and knew she was with people who love her. Each one of us received a smile, a warm clasp of the fingers as we held her hands. The most moving part of the visit came when she was holding Nephew’s hand. She slowly and deliberately lifted it to her face and kissed it. Who needs words?
The carer came with her lunch, more Complan. Slowly, teaspoonful by slow teaspoonful, she drank one hundred mls. Nephew was thoughtful as the carer and I exclaimed happily that she had had so much. It’s barely enough energy to let her cough, he remarked. Still, she was so much more present, and I left them to visit aunt.
Coming back in the late afternoon, I was already thinking of returning to London tomorrow, or maybe waiting until Monday when the doctor has seen her. I spoke to the nurse in charge. She looked at me. It’s a long time until Monday, she said. We sat either side of Mother’s bed. Her breathing has changed, said the nurse. The woman who was conscious of us and interacting earlier was lying back on the pillows, her eyes closed. Maybe she is tired by all her visitors, maybe she is just terminally tired. I stayed with her until half past six. She opened her eyes and focused on me for a few precious moments. I swear when I told her that I love her she nodded and gave me a smile.
The nurse called me at eight when she went off duty to say she was much the same. The night staff are instructed to call me if there is a change. So I am back on the boat where a muted MasterB has disdained my offers of play. I have eaten, washed up, a mug of camomile sits half drunk beside me. Shortly I shall go to bed and hope that the phone does not ring.