If I hadn’t known better I would have sworn you were simply asleep. Your eyes were peacefully closed, your mouth resting and at ease and your cheek was warm under my hand. I was sure I could see the almost imperceptible movement of your chest rising and falling.
But then the tell-tale signs started to filter through. The shutters were completely shut, the lights dimmed, the sheets folded carefully over your tiny shoulders and there was total silence in your room. A strange, haunting silence that had never been there before. A silence which meant that your rasping, grating breathing of the past few weeks had been quietened forever. Our kisses couldn’t wake you and even your son’s unbearably desperate cry of ‘Mum, Mum!’ did nothing to make your eyes flutter or hands reach out to him as they had done before. You were there but you were gone.
When I think back I realise you were nothing like the clichés of the invasive, prying, jealous mother-in-law. You were discreet, kind, always available. You never told me what to do or when to do it. You had utter faith in my capacity as the wife of your son and mother of your grand-daughters. You respected me, my ideas, my wishes, my way of doing things. Never judgemental, never harsh. We had not one single argument in almost thirty years.
As I was leaving your room this morning I caught sight of the photo I had brought to you only a few days before. It was poking out of the horribly unceremonious plastic bag which contained your personal belongings. An extraordinary photo of the ten of us during the wonderful week we all spent together to celebrate your birthday. You looked so happy, so beautiful, so proud to be surrounded by your husband, your sons, their wives and your grandchildren – the family you had created whom you loved so much, and who loved you. We all looked so happy that day.
Tonight I can only say through my tears goodbye and thank you Sleeping Beauty. You will be missed more than you could ever imagine.