This week last year I was on my hands and knees, scrubbing an old lady’s house, when I heard that my mother had had a stroke. It was very stormy and I couldn’t travel for a day, and then, because I knew it was serious, I tidied up my affairs before taking the long journey to South Africa.
Looking back, I see that my mother consciously and actively decided to go on a journey, to die. She tidied her house and gave away her belongings, and she withdrew from people. She didn’t stop talking or become silent, but her conversation was more and more about the past, and she became an observer of the present, rather than a participant. She remembered her life, the happiness, not the sadness. I once heard her say that the most joyous day of her life was her wedding day – how I envied her – and she often spoke of my father. She spoke of her parents too, and a childhood that must have been carefree.
I miss her, but I remember her courage in taking that last journey, and I know I must find the strength to live through the next two weeks, as I remember.