As I write this, on a cold and windy Monday evening, a storm is on its way towards Auckland. It seems kind of fitting.
My wonderful mom is right now sitting by the bedside of one of her dearest friends. This dear dear friend, a woman who has been in my life since a few months after we arrived in New Zealand from South Africa, many years ago, is dying. My mom is stroking her hair, jokingly threatening to put it into pigtails for her, and waiting as the evening closes in on this special woman for the last time.
It’s been a short illness but one from which there was no escape, even after some gruelling rounds of treatment. She’s leaving behind a loving family, with kids and grand-kids, and a circle of friends who will miss her very very much.
My mom has a circle of friends who are all extraordinary women. I very much hope that I am lucky enough to have the incredible friendships she has when I am her age. These women met in their early days of arrival to NZ from South Africa and Zimbabwe, brought together through mutual friends – I think there was a book club in there somewhere, but now that I am older I suspect it was pretty similar to my friends’ version of ‘book club’….lots of wine, discussion about crock-pot recipes, and a safe place to vent about husbands and kids, along with inappropriate crushes on celebrity judges of dubious cooking shows (or whatever the equivalent in the early 90’s was).
These friends have seen each other through kids and grand-kids, moves and changes. They’ve reached the stage in their lives where the roles change and they have become responsible for their own parents, and adjusted their lives accordingly. There have been ups and downs, weddings, births, holidays, and celebrations.
And now there will be a death. The death of a woman with a laugh you could hear two rooms away. A woman whose hug could wrap you up and change your whole day. A beautiful woman who was larger than life, who dealt with a fair amount of her life’s ups and downs with humour, passion and a full-on ‘get-on-with-it’ zest.
My heart is breaking right now, thinking of this wonderful woman, and the love she had for her friends. And the love they have for her. It breaks thinking of my beautiful mom sitting by her side right now, just being with her, even though she probably doesn’t know my mom is there. It breaks thinking about losing this sparkly and loud and funny and sweet lady who has been part of our family’s life for many many years. She was at my 21st, helping in the kitchen and entertaining the random neighbours. She came down to Dunedin with my mom on a road trip when I was studying down there – we toured the wineries around the South. She could – and did – talk to anyone. It was such a gift – although we learnt to add at least 10 minutes to every departure from a cafe or restaurant as she invariably ended up chatting to the waitress while everyone else stood outside waiting to head off.
Tonight I am so grateful for friends, for what they bring to our lives. I am grateful for Hospice care, and the dignity, grace and love the nurses and doctors bring to those in the final stages of life’s journey. I am grateful for my mom, a woman whose strength is only equalled by her compassion. I am grateful for my dad, who is at home worrying about my mom. I am grateful for her lovely friends, my extended family of mothers, and I know they will look after each other through this loss, and they will celebrate her life.
This is a random post, I know. Life is like that, I guess. Tonight has just reminded me, once again, that life is short and love is what counts in the end. Love in all its forms.
To my mom and her lovely lovely friends, I love you. To Gilly, beautiful soul, may angels lead you in. Thank you for everything xxx.
Lots of love,