We Wait

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.

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24 thoughts on “We Wait

  1. Dear Isobel,

    A poem for you, perhaps a little comfort.

    Calm plateau land of love and rest, acceptance of the future sure to be
    With love surrounded, battles fought with courage and zest for life undimmed.
    Every moment precious now,  and so hard won is sweeter still.
    Faith and hope, so strong and firm, will be with you and yours to ease the pain,

    And joy be yours for ever more. A gift of loving still is yours to give and to receive.

    • I am off to bed shortly. The home will not call me between half past ten tonight and half past seven tomorrow morning. I think I shall have a glass of wine now, then call it a day. I realise I have mixed feelings about actually being there when Mother dies, partly because it is a room in a home, not her home, and there is nowhere to be, to stay after the event that is ours.

        • I am half an hour away on the boat. Aunt is probably about the same in another direction. Nephew is further. After my father’s funeral we all went back to the house. Now there is no house. I hadn’t thought about it before, just how I might want to stay with her.

  2. Thoughts and prayers continue. My dad passed away just in February, and I remember those last days of waiting well.

    • Thanks Derrycats. You don’t know quite what you are waiting for, and certainly not the length of the wait. I realised I was listening to every breath, waiting for the next, looking at her skin, the bone so evident just underneath, talking to her, maybe stopping her from sleeping, and aware of very little we understand the gap between life and death.

    • Thanks Julia. It won’t ring now. I had a discussion with the nurse, and though part of me wants to know at once if there is a change, there is little I can do, and a good night’s sleep is probably the more sensible route.
      If I wake up, I can always call the home.

  3. Isobel you are so in my heart. Such beautiful words you have written. Sadness there yes but a comfort in them too. I can’t help but think of my Mom, I know you have heard that before. I just want you to not hurt during this but I know that is so impossible. I love the nod and the smile you got when you told your Mom you loved her.

  4. I would like to find words to soothe your feelings and to comfort you in the distance. I am so glad you had your Mum’s,nod when you said you loved her: it will stay with you forever, doesn’t it? All my love is with you.

  5. it is such a time of unknowing…sadly I was not there at the end with my Dad…he was in Australia and I in NZ but I saw him just a few weeks before and his frailty was the hardest thing to see…I am thinking of you Isobel…sending you hugs and love

    • I wasn’t with my father when he died. He wasn’t exactly frail, but he had had a couple of serious illnesses and had had to adjust to a different pace. Once your body has failed you, I think you lose confidence, and it is the fear that accompanies illness and frailty that is so hard to live with and to witness.

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