After my father died in a nursing home, I felt quite guilty. It's true I had young children at the time, and a marriage rapidly going down the pan, and the home was 70 miles away. Also, by the end he was barely aware of who I was. So, I had plenty of excuses not to go more often. (In fact, along with my brother and his partner I'd been to see the him a few hours before it happened.) Even so, the thought of him dying among strangers, bewildered and afraid, haunted (still haunts) me. I was determined to "do it right" with my mother, and I think I can truly say that I did. Project Oyakoukou (親孝行) was a labour of love, but of course it was partly motivated by a desire not to feel bad afterwards. Not that I`m apologising for that. What human endeavour lacks any scintilla of selfishness? There's no need to put a percentage on it.
Two bits of homespun wisdom I've found helpful so far:
From a documentary on the Amish that I saw a few years ago: "You can't stop a bird landing in your tree, but you don't have to let it build a nest."
From Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: "You can't run away from your own feet."
Driving back to Bristol last Saturday, I was flicking round the dial to escape Gardeners` Question Time, and came across a station playing Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, which I used to play all the time as a student but hadn`t listened to in years. Of course, I was in tears by the end - I think I suspected the end was close even then. Ever since it`s been going round my head, night and day. It`s playing even as I write this.
The next time I drove back was Tuesday, and I felt compelled to go via Stonehenge. Driving through a Bronze Age and Neolithic funereal landscape was oddly comforting. Plenty of others have walked this way before us. However, by the end of the journey my car had fallen ill (the battery was flashing on the dashboard), and so far the garage has failed to diagnose its illness.
Today we got my mother's death certificate from the hospital. Tomorrow, an appointment with the undertaker.