The End of the Story

Last week I wrote about my friend Sue who had terminal cancer. She was living in a local retirement home and I was visiting her regularly. The staff members were professional and caring. Theirs is such a tough job and deserves to be paid better than it is.

I had seen Sue on Tuesday at midday. Another friend had brought jelly for her to eat as she found anything chewy hard to swallow. Then a staff delivered ice cream and peaches for her dinner. Sue opted for the vanilla ice cream. I tried to feed her with the dessertspoon and was roundly scolded for my clumsiness. She also complained that it had bits of something in it. I used a teaspoon next and melted ice cream. This was slightly more successful and she took about three spoons before giving up.

When I returned next, I found her changed. She slept most of the times only acknowledging me and another visitor briefly. The next day, she was also sleeping and didn’t open her eyes at all. Her breathing had become more irregular and staff members kept dropping into her room. I realized they were expecting her to die soon. Her breathing became more irregular. Staff members kept dropping in and I realized they expected her to die soon. I am still not sure why I stayed as Sue didn’t know I was there. Somehow it seemed important to be with her.

Next morning I called the home and was told Sue died at midnight. Like most of us after a friends or relative’s death from cancer, I am conflicted. I certainly did not want her to continue as she was but yet, I knew I’d miss her.very much. It is ironic that the last words she spoke to me were about my clumsiness. Sue liked order and organisation and expected tasks to be done well. Her complaint gave me a glimpse of the old Sue not the one who was being swallowed by vicious cancer.

Her memorial service is scheduled for next week.