I found out when I called Mum as we transited in New Zealand. “How are you?” “Not so good.”

I kept it together for her but when I hung up I folded in half, making noises I had never heard myself make before.

My poor daughters, aged 11 and 8, helping my husband to hold me up.


Things are proceeding rapidly. It is probably not as much as two months now. Mum’s in the palliative care room at the hospital across the road from her house. Sarah believes I will get to her in time, but admits she’s glad I rebooked on an earlier flight.


Mum just turned 78 and I will be 43 next month. We have had a fine, long run. We have travelled together in Australia and Ireland and England and America. She is the only other person who attended both my graduations, my wedding and the births of my children. The years since I had Claire and realized exactly how much my mother loves me have been our best years, years of profound mutual affection and happiness and peace.

None of which reconciles me to her loss.


It is like birth in several ways: we wish to avoid overly medicalizing things, but we’re not opposed to the judicious use of drugs; it is a passage to another state; to overgeneralize only a little, the women get practical, if weepy, while men try to compartmentalize and problem solve; we can’t really imagine or understand what’s going on, and we probably never will.

But there’s no baby at the end.


I said to Jack: “I’m mostly okay, except for the bouts of ugly crying.”


This entry is All About Me, and I apologize. I am in the gate lounge at San Francisco, ready to leave, having spent almost exactly three and a half days in California. When I reach Mum’s bedside tomorrow I will tell you some more about what an excellent person she is. She’s just lovely.

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