'Ta ta, Ducks.'

‘Mum can’t talk anymore,’ my cousin tells me when I ring to see if I can visit Auntie Joanie, ‘so it can be quite tough. If there are a couple of you, you can have a conversation around her which she can follow.’

Auntie Joanie has now been moved to a small cottage hospital. Inside it’s clean and bright with views across a field. The atmosphere is calm and peaceful. The staff look up and smile when they see Ma and I’m glad that my aunt is in a place where someone’s taking notice of what’s going on.

I’ve thought about a few things I want to say but it all goes out the window when we turn the corner. Auntie Joanie is propped up in bed, supported by pillows. The general hospital, where she was previously, lost all her clothes so she is wearing a new cornflower blue nightdress which brings out the blue in her eyes. Her hair, which was once a rich gleaming auburn, frames her face in silver waves. From this angle you can’t see what radiotherapy has taken away but Ma bends over her big sister and rearranges her curls just to make sure. All the time Ma’s talking softly, calling Auntie Joanie by one of the pet names they shared and which I’d almost forgotten. Watching them just breaks my heart. Tom catches my eye and I can see how moved he is too. I have to make my excuses and leave the room, briefly – I want to be brave for Auntie Joanie, and especially for Ma. Crying all over the place isn’t going to help.

When I return Auntie Joanie stares long and hard into my eyes; her gaze reminds me of a newborn baby seeing the world for the first time, trying to take everything in. Maybe it’s the same at the end of life too. Tom manages to raise the faintest of smiles by teasing her for not offering him a whisky as she does usually, whatever the time of day, but mainly she watches us with a clear, steady gaze until sleep starts to overcome her and we have to let go.

Letting go is the hardest part. I didn’t manage to talk about the things I’d planned but it doesn’t matter; Auntie Joanie will always be there in everything from my earliest sun-kissed memories of a beach in Cornwall, through being given a thorough telling-off for some inconsiderate behaviour as a teenager, to being cared for by her when I was convalescing after an operation. I will miss her. It’s hard enough saying goodbye to Auntie Joanie when she’s on the end of a phone as neither of us wants to be the one to actually break the contact but I can’t keep her here forever. Bye bye, Auntie Joanie. Ta ta, Ducks.

Painting is 'Chapel Window' by Tom Tomos


Pipany said…
Oh Chris, I am so sorry to read this. What a heart-wrenching time you have had lately. Let the tears flow and think of the good bits. Sending you loads of hugs and love xxx
toady said…
So very sad for all of you. Hugs
lampworkbeader said…
I am so sorry to hear your news. Hugs and love, Lampie
Preseli Mags said…
So sorry to hear your news.xx Mags
Fire Byrd said…
I have a lovely poem that someone once gave me, and I think the last few lines are apt here, but I'll happily supply the rest anytime.

..... When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling.
Live your life so that when you die, you're the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying.

Which seems to be what your Auntie is doing.

There isn't anything strong about not crying, after all grief is the price we pay for love.
elizabethm said…
It is hard isn't it? She sounds a a great lady (as does your mother when you write about her - she reminds me strongly of mine).
Hope you are giving yourself plenty of small kindnesses.
Calistro said…
Oh Chris, that post was so beautifully written and touching. Goodbyes (silent or otherwise) are so hard aren't they?
Annie Bright said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Annie Bright said…
How wonderfully written, Chris. You have me in tears here!
(sorry about the deleted post)
Tattie Weasle said…
I have rewritten this too many times - words as usual seem inadequate. Sending you heartfelt love and hugs.
Crystal Jigsaw said…
A great sadness and obviously a great loss to your heart.

CJ xx
Ouch! The hurt is practically physical.
Take care Chris,
Thoughts and prayers winging their way
Flowerpot said…
Oh Chris I know this is so difficult. Take care and remember the person she was - that's the important thing. I really do feel for you. Take care.
Faith said…
I have some idea how you are feeling. You have described your aunt so sensitively. Very difficult time for you all, but memories last forever.
Withy Brook said…
As you said, goodbyes are so hard at the best of times and final ones are obviously the worst. As others have said allow the healing power of tears. I know you had to be strong for your mother at that particular moment, but she may well want to share tears after it is all over, and maybe before. Thoughts and prayers with you all at this sad time.
Fiona said…
The way your aunt looked at you. I remember that look so well from my grandfather's last days. It is, as you say, is if they are seeing you for the first time. Such a hard time for you.

Do you feel like holding hands on the first day of A215? I promise not to be a bad influence:)
Kate.Kingsley said…
That was a very moving account, Chris ~ thank you for sharing it. I find things like that very difficult to write about, but that was so beautifully written, with so much warmth.

(Ps: great to hear that you've signed up for A215 ~ hope you enjoy it)
Debs said…
Your sad but beautifully written post reminded me so much of my grandmother. It's very hard and I feel for you and your family.

Lane said…
Such a moving post. It struck a real chord as I have the same thing with my 'Auntie'.
It's just too hard to say goodbye.
((hugs)) to you.
LittleBrownDog said…
That was so moving, Chris. Must be very hard for you. But it's comforting to hear she's in a safe, caring place, as such is sadly not the case for so many elderly people. She's obviously dearly loved, too, and I'm sure she will be able to feel that, and that will be a comfort to her.

Thinking of you. xx
BT said…
Have come to your lovely blog via another. So sad to read about your Auntie. I hope you find a hospice place for her, they are wonderful, as you know.

I love those paintings by Tom Tomos. I must investigate.

Best wishes,
So sad to hear this news Chris, always so hard to let go for someone you love.

I am sending you buckets of love and hugs.

Sally's Chateau said…
Beautifully written Chris, as Pipany says let the tears flow and think of the good times. x
Zinnia Cyclamen said…
You wouldn't be the 'you' that you are if it wasn't for your Auntie Joanie. Such a sad time - but you wrote it beautifully. (((((hug)))))
Fennie said…
So sad, so poignant these goodbyes.
Makes me think of when I said goodbye to my father. But a presence will remain, in you, in others, in everyone she touched and saw. And then of course will come that time - when we ourselves are saying goodbye - embarking on that same journey into the unknown - carrying the same baggage into eternity - and waiting on a whisper of wind to be reborn, from the dust that accumulates under the beds of young lovers (or so Jane's Feng Shui book tells us). So mundane, really, this arriving and departing business. Better to stay a spirit floating amid the fields of blue cornflower, hearing the conversation of others as they play and smiling benignly. Take care, Fenniexx
Benitta said…
I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Popular Posts