I often saw Ms. F at my aunt’s house. A fun, energetic, loving and caring lady, always making the most hilarious yet inappropriate comments, making the victim blush to the ear lobes and everyone else rolling around with laughter.
She spent the final two weeks of her life in hospital. As I was cycling past the hospital on my way home, I decided to stick my head around and say hello. I wasn’t expecting her to even remember me in her old age and deteriorating circumstances, but thought she might appreciate some company, no matter who it may be.
When I got there, she held on tight to my hands, and gave me the most loving smile. Two other ladies were by her bedside. It was time for food and they wanted her to have her dinner, but she would not let go of my hands to eat. She looked at me and said: stay for a while.
I had invited people over for my mum’s birthday for 7:30 that night. A while later, with the time at 6:45, the guests due to arrive at any moment, and dinner by no means anywhere near ready (I hadn’t even bought the ingredients yet!) I told Ms. F I had to go – but promised to come the day after. I was so touched and emotional as I left the hospital.
On my way to my aunt’s on Sunday, I stopped by the hospital again. As I approached her room, I saw that her family was by her bedside and hesitated by the door. I didn’t want to disturb their time together, yet I had promised to visit her again… I entered, shyly. She had a huge oxygen mask on her face this time and was struggling to breathe. She had shrunken since last I saw her and was using her entire body in an attempt to breathe. As I took her hands to say hello, her eyes opened and ignited with love, energy and her mischievous twinkle and she gave me the biggest most loving of smiles. She shook her head from side to side with affection and said: I love you, I love you, I love you like a tape on repeat.
Ms. F died the following day.
Two days later, I got home late in the evening and was browsing through my inbox. I was very excited to find an email in which I had been put in touch with a very exciting triathlon project, and they had responded so positively. It lifted my spirits so much that I kept twirled around the room chanting I love you, I love you, I love you, incessantly. I suddenly stopped still as I realised I was imitating Ms. F.
It made me realise how awesome a human being she had been – to be lying on her deathbed, with hardly any energy left, literally fighting to breathe… Yet still go through the trouble of mustering enough energy to show so much love and affection to me. To a near stranger, to a no-body. To make the effort to make even me feel loved, welcome and appreciated. What an amazing person with such an amazing personality. She set the bar so high: to magnanimously say ‘I love you’ with sincerity shining through her eyes. To make anyone, no matter who you they are – or how she’s feeling herself – loved, valued and worthwhile.