Goodbye will be farewell
My sister tells me that you can always tell when someone is close to death by looking at the feet of the nearly dearly departed. They turn grey in colour and the skin, thin and gaunt, around the bones, droops over the skeletal limbs like an ancient veil that would tear into dust if you were to suddenly touch it.
For me, I think you can tell when the sick, suddenly rise up in their bed, eyes wide open, staring beyond you, behind you, and the hand reaches out for a face that isn't there.
- Nellie. Kenny!
Calling out the names of the long time dead is a big give away. Seeing a light in the darkest corner of a room is another. And just when you think the inevitable has passed and you turn to leave the room, you hear -
- Michael - what's wrong?
One of her feet is still peachy the other, grey and gaunt. All colour has been drained from her wonderful face. My sister is used to this from caring for the elderly. Auntie Elaine is only sixty four.
They told us she wouldn't last the weekend. Four days. That was four years ago. Seven days ago they told us she would be gone within forty eight hours, seventy two at the most. Sunday I saw her laid in bed, her mouth wide open, the bottom jaw, jawless, they removed her lower false teeth. So now there's a gap covered with flat skin, a straight line leading to the edge of her chin. Her chin leading straight into a black hole. Three days ago my auntie Sheila, started singing to her - lollipop lollipop, oh la, la, lollipop - repeating over and over the same line, and just as, what was once an endearing gesture, began to great on my ears, she surprised us all. Her weak frail hand rising up, the fingers began clicking, minus the clicking sound.
- lollipop lollipop - I joined in with auntie Sheila, simultaneously, popping our fingers out the inside of our mouths. And for the first time since Sunday there was laughter in a drab nondescript room where there was once barely any life at all. Auntie Elaine, as always, surprises us all and surpasses every expectation of the so-called experts.
- still with us aren't you, luv. - Auntie Sheila, said; Stroking auntie Elaine's other hand.
Later, that same night, John was holding her hand, chatting to her. My cousin Michaela rolls her eyes at me, she later told me that John, as much as auntie Elaine loves him, always tends to go on a bit. After a few minutes auntie Elaine's eyes creaked open, barely able to speak, she said - god sake, shurrup! And we knew, despite the hallucinations the apparitions or memory flash backs, she was still more than with it. And that's what they probably are.
Those names she calls out those empty corners of the room her eyes seem to widen toward. I read that when the brain dies all those synapses and connections, millions of them. They start jumping around, going crazy, not knowing what to do. Each one bouncing from one part of the mind to another, memories flashing in the minds eye like the switch on a TV remote.
Your life flashing before your eyes.
- Kenny - she called out.
Maybe I'm being too skeptical, maybe it's not so scientific. What if she is caught between two worlds. Ours and that other place. If there really is a heaven I can't understand why on earth she would see Kenny. If he's going to be anywhere, surely it's hell!
The reason why auntie Elaine is so strong the reason why this disease is having such a tough time taking her away from all of us.
Thirty years of not just kicks, punches and slaps - but stabs!
I remember when the HSBC building was still the Midland Bank and I was there with her on one of the catering floors. I was about eight and she was looking after me. She had a sagging black eye and a slight lean to one side, holding her ribs. Back then I never knew why, but innocence doesn't last. My Father took more than his fair share of hits for his sisters. The ones that married part time Monsters, anyway.
- why is this happening to me? - she asked our Michaela. I don't cry much I wait until I get home, but when our Michaela looks at me from across the bed. Her eyes full of tears, fear and hopelessness. My eyes start to sting.
Her eyes open, slightly. My Father asks her to give us a smile and her lips suddenly, stretch back, for a quick second, sarcastic grin, then returning to dead-pan. And again - there is laughter in a room of tears.
Both her feet are grey now and she is no longer on liquids. It's just a matter of time. Two days ago she was feeding herself a cup of coffee and the Doctors were amazed, once more. They said that rather than a few days she may actually have a few months. But they also told us that there is always a peak before the troth, before the inevitable. Today she now has pain in her legs. Sedation has helped with this as we know that morphine would end it all completely, but now that may be the only option. It's all up-to our Michaela. I know that some day soon, see ya later on, or goodbye will actually mean farewell.