This is a woman who was invulnerable. It was a strange trigger. Along time ago, we swiped all of the photos from Barb's Mum's home, from the 50s. I scanned them in. These photos, and a million other family photos from our collection flash up randomly on the TV screensaver. She asked for her wedding photos. And she asked to be moved to the sofa so she could see properly.
I put them in a slow loop and she sat there quiet, transfixed and concentrated. I think she sensed a tipping point.
Barb's younger sister sat beside her and a dialogue opened up that was lucid, sad, reconciled, peaceful. She did, for the first time, talk openly about the end. Barb's sister has always been one of those lost souls believing in miracles. For the first time I saw fear and trepidation in her Mother's face. A fear that only the bravest and strongest sometimes show. Not for them but for those around them.
She then proceeded to articulately and thoughtfully plan out what should like after she died. Cremated. Work out what you want to do with the ashes. Don't care if you share it out in paperweights. Just keep a small part of it and bury it with my most loved and missed husband George. who died in 1985. She talks to me often about the good times with my father in law who I knew briefly. No regrets, just fond memories, such is the woman.
This gorgeous old woman is afraid to die because she is afraid of not being able to be the unwavering stalwart of her family; something she has always been and now there must be a clear and unequivocal understanding that the next generation must step up to the plate.
I called my sons. They rallied. We had a quick debrief outside the house before they came in. It was about their Mum and her sister. And also about debriefing them about something they had never seen or dealt with before. My mother in law is not dead. Far from it. but she is dying and she knows it.
So after that they came in. Due and loving respect to mama. I whispered into my mother in law's ear that this was going to be awkward for them. She retorted.... " Do you think I don't know? Look at me. Can't they guess? Don't worry, I will talk to them."
She did. After that it was the usual cacophony in the Fong household. Yelling, laughing, food (always food), irreverence and most of all, care.
She'll die soon. I don't know when. She's now afraid. But this ex school principal is probably more afraid for us. While we may all be staring the spectre of death in the face at this point in time, there is a gentle but overriding sense of love embracing each and every one of us.