My friend’s mother last night. She has been in and out of hospital and each time my friend saw her increasingly frail mother she knew this day was coming, but it was not until the doctor said it out loud that it became true. She said she threw some clothes in the car and took off. It was a Level 3 lockdown and not very far from home she was stopped by the police wanting to know where she was going. Her explanation that her 90+ mother was dying – and being looked after by her 101 year old father got her on her way. I did not know she was here until I got the text that started… Mum dying. She came round and sat for a moment but it was obvious she’d been doing enough sitting so we walked. I’d like to lay claim to it being my presence that calmed her but it was the native planting along the path and the fact that for the first time in days, she was outside. We sat on the memorial seat and talked until it was time for her to go. That was several days ago and today as I picked up my phone I saw hers telling me her mother had died. It sounds very much like the sort of death her mother expected. My friend is the youngest of three daugters who were all there. Dying at home surrounded by all the people who loved her most sounds to me like my friend’s mother once again showing her children how to do something hard. She also and probably quite inadvertantly, showed them that the youngest and fiestiest of the bunch (my friend), knew how to make this happen in the best possible way.

Recently a dear friend of mine from England told me that her wonderful mother lived in her dreams. I knew that Kiwi mother a little and I can only imagine the dreams my friend has, but I know there is a long and lingering sadness at the passing of a beloved mother. The shoes are too big and even if it is an expected death, it sounds as though it is a lonely place to be.

My own mother is in care and has lost a lot of her social filter which makes my visits often funny and yes, almost always sad. I know what happens in her life has very little to do with her but I do know when it comes to dying, she’ll be in there boots and all because my mother loves a good death and how she does it will be entirely up to her. None of this ‘they don’t like us to do that here.’ She has the funeral planned (the same as your fathers – even the music), and I realize how controversial this sounds, I’m not going to expect her to actually disappear. She often told the story of her Aunty Ginny ‘popping in’ to say her final goodbye, and with that sort of Irish logic, I doubt Mum will be able to resist. She did tell me the other day she was going to heaven but didn’t expect to see my father – which sounded a little odd but that’s what it is these days. Moments of almost-mothering when she comments on my hair or my clothes and asks what I’ve been doing, furious bursts of unteethered conversation and then the fear that she cannot control something as simple as the television. I feel as though the real mother, the one I could count on, has gone and left this shadow in her place. Everyone has their own path. This is hers and we must make the best of it.

To all my dear friends who have said that last sad goodbye, aroha.

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