Always gone

I got a message last night from Donna at around 7 saying that her mum had just passed. It wasn’t a surprise. We’d spoken on Friday. At that point, her mum had stabilised and was showing some promising signs. She was still in an induced coma, however, and couldn’t breathe by herself;f. As Donna updated me, I kept thinking about mum and her last days. You want to believe, but the best evidence I had was in my eyes. No matter what anyone told me, I knew mum was on the way out. I asked Donna what her gut feel was. She hesitated before answering that she didn’t think her mum would make it out of hospital.

I haven’t spoken with Donna yet. Last night she was with her family, and this is a deeply personal time. I dropped her a line to tell her I was available anytime to talk if she needed that and any help I could provide.

I remember when mum died. It was entirely expected, and when I heard, I just felt a deep sadness that she was gone. I was like an automaton that morning. The reality is that when someone dies, there’s much that needs doing. I spent most of the morning on the phone, updating family and friends and speaking to the funeral directors.

Some people cried when I told them. Others were quiet and sympathetic. I was controlled. It was in me, but I had set it aside. I remember I heard the news at about 7am on a Saturday. It was too early to call any but the closest of relatives. I made those calls then headed up the road, wanting to get out of the place. It was sunny and blue-skied. I went to a cafe that was empty of people and had coffee and a light breakfast. Then I returned home and to the business at hand.

In the afternoon, Donna turned up on the doorstep. I was so grateful to her. I was by myself. I’d done most of the things I had to do, but I had no one to talk to. That evening we ended up having dinner at the Thai restaurant around the corner from where mum had lived. We’d been there so many times before over so many years. It had been a favourite. It seemed apt to be there again, though in very different circumstances.

Donna and I exchanged messages this morning. She said how she had been preparing for this moment and how, more than anything, numb she felt. I told her that that’s how I was pretty much all the way to mum’s funeral. I was so busy. I had to do everything. It was easier to keep busy and postpone my grief, though I felt sad.

Then, the funeral came and went in an explosion of movement and colours, tears and laughter and memories, and a house afterwards cluttered with post-wake debris. That’s when it hit me: I felt desolate.

I don’t know what the current arrangements are, but I hope to attend the funeral in support of Donna. Unfortunately, Covid restrictions may prevent that, as well as my medical situation potentially – I see the specialist tomorrow and may be straight into hospital after that for all I know.

For Donna, her life has changed now. She has already said how her mum’s relationship was the most important in her life, and now her mum is gone. I feel for her. I know what it’s like to have such a strong presence stilled, a voice now unheard. She’ll think of so many things she’ll want to share with her mum, and the instinct to call and chat will remain strong for ages to come (I still remember my mum’s phone number).

It’s a hard thing to get your head around, that someone who has always been there will never be there again.

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