Jules’ mother died on Monday afternoon. Louisa. That was her name. She had another massive stroke and it killed her almost instantly.
Jules was with her when it happened.
I wasn’t. I was out at a café near the hospital trying to get some decent coffee. And some freshly squeezed juice for Jules.
Like many people I find the hospital experience difficult. The constant drone of the monitors, the dinner trolleys, meds trolleys scraping on worn out floors; the poker faced doctors checking stats and saying nothing. A sense of stasis slips in if you let it. A sense of panic.
I was dawdling when Louisa died. There was this little girl, about three years old, walking with her Mum and she was chatting away as some little girls do about anything and everything. I admire that about little kids, how they see the world so visually, what is right before their eyes hasn’t yet been clouded by cynicism or weariness – and they notice it all as if they are cataloguing everything.
The little girl had on a hot pink dress. It was gorgeous, made from a kind of embossed velvet patterned with flowers. She also had on fabulous knee high boots in black with huge pink polka dots. She was happy in her dress and her boots chatting away to her Mum. I could see it. At that moment she was ready to face the world. I dawdled so I could watch the little girl.
As I crossed the road into the hospital grounds I saw a bee on one of the poppies growing by the entrance. How marvellous it must be to spend your days weaving in and out of colour, supping on sun-warmed nectar. At one with the earth and the sky. That bee, contented as it was, made me cry because it made me think of Louisa and the poppies in her garden. How unanticipated they were. Those poppies changed my view of her.
When I got back to her room Louisa was dead. The room was bustling with nurses and the hospital chaplain. I was impressed that he came straight away. I felt bad that I had dawdled but death is such a private thing that maybe it was best I wasn’t there at the actual moment of her passing.
Jules was holding her mother’s hand, white-faced and crying in that silent manner that heralds real grief. The nurses and chaplain were asking her questions and she looked at me in that way she has where she says I don’t know what to do, so I took over and answered all the questions.
I couldn’t stop looking at Louisa’s face, how beautiful she was. How much Jules looked like her. I’d never noticed her whole face before because I’d always concentrated on the thin, judgemental line of her mouth. When I saw how beautiful she was I felt a wave of pointlessness wash over me – how pointless all that judgement and acrimony and self righteousness is.
I hate you because you’re gay or a greenie or a conservative or a socialist. I hate you because you didn’t go to the right schools or drive the right car or work in the right office. I hate you because you have less money than me and you are happier than I am. I hate you because you make me question my belief system and my method of judgement, and that is all I have.
I cried then. Great, blinding tears and snot, plenty of snot. I always wonder how people manage to look so glamorous when they cry in the movies because I look like I’ve been dipped in a bucket of slime and dragged through a hedge backwards.
I was crying for Jules and Louisa and probably a little bit for myself, but mostly for this life, this life that oftentimes makes us treat each other so badly for an indeterminate length of time and for reasons that are often so ill-defined and forgettable that if we were to break the reasons down into their individual parts they would be so petty, so insignificant that if we were to utter them aloud we would turn to dust.
I could see that Jules was getting upset that I was crying but I couldn’t stop. The whole thing was just so sad. All that wasted time. All those years. With that little gust of hope blowing through at the end, bolstering for an instant, but evanescent nonetheless.
Sometimes when sorrow comes the best thing to do is not speak at all. The room cleared and it was just Louisa and us. Jules and I held each other then, softly weeping.
Out the window the sun was shining. The sky was clear of clouds – a blue wash. I saw the poppies in the flowerbeds, their long, stubbly stalks bending almost to the ground in the wind. All together. Like they were bowing. Like they were saying goodbye.