By David Milligan-Croft.
When I watched my mother dying,
Over a period of months, then weeks, then days,
Her eyes closed, never to reopen.
Her breath laboured,
Her skeletal frame sinking further into the mattress,
The morphine drip, drip, dripping into her veins,
I wondered whether she might be better off dead.
Not out of malice, of course, but out of love.
I wanted to see an end to her suffering.
This was not life – it was living death.
Before she entered this comatose state,
She spoke of sitting in her garden
Amidst the spring narcissus,
Surrounded by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
What was the point of thoughts of the future,
When there is only this moment?
This precise moment, where you are a prisoner
In your own decrepit body and locked-in mind.
But the nurse told me that you could hear us.
And I thought that, despite your pain –
Your second-by-second suffering –
It must be of some respite to hear the voices
Of your children close by. Sometimes talking to you,
Sometimes to each other – reminiscing.
Perhaps making an inappropriate joke,
Despite your circumstances.
The dab of a coffee-soaked sponge
To bring succour to your parched lips.
(Or Tia Maria, when the nurse pretended not to look.)
Then your grandchildren,
Pottering about your granny flat,
Wondering why this contraption of a bed was in the living room.
Bringing you gifts from the kitchen – a saucepan, a spatula,
Touching your paper-thin skin, telling you to ‘wake up, grandma!’
But you were awake.
That must have made you smile in your mind.
There is only ever this moment.
No future, no past.
Just a collection of moments to be cherished.
So, my mind began to change.
I did not think you’d be better off dead.
I thought you were exactly where you should be –
Surrounded by your family,
In this moment.
For my mother,
14th August 1943 – 2nd March 2021.