Yesterday we lay my mother’s godmother to rest. My mum’s actual mum had died when mum was only 18, so Aunty Gwen (as we called her) was really very special to mum, a surrogate mother of sorts. As fate would have it, Aunty Gwen took a turn for the worse just after my parents had left for a trip overseas and while my mum had said she would be ok if she wasn’t around when the time came, no one in the family actually believed her. For a few days I thought Aunty Gwen was going to rally just as she’d done every time illness struck her in her ninety-one years, but when she murmured “where’s my daughter and when is she coming home?” I knew we were on borrowed time. Aunty Gwen was very traditional and never called my mother her daughter, as it wasn’t strictly their relationship so I knew she meant business.
I rang mum, she hopped a flight from Beirut of all places and I promised Aunty Gwen I would have her daughter by her side in thirty-two hours. She said she’d hang in there till then. The next day, with the countdown on, I made sure Aunty Gwen (now on a ventilator full time and not able to eat, drink or speak) knew how many hours she had until she would see my mother, her daughter. My brothers drove down from their home two hours north to see her and reiterated the message that she now only had four hours left until mum would be holding her hand. My husband and I raced out to the airport, picked up my remarkably fresh looking mother, fanged to the hospital, made it through security (by this time it was after midnight and the hospital was obviously closed for normal visiting hours, but the people in charge of Aunty Gwen’s ward knew how critical timing could be and were more than happy to have late night visitors), and we entered Aunty Gwen’s room to find her eyes open and waiting. After telling her I loved her and kissing her for what I knew would be the last time, Gregory and I took our leave and returned home. Utterly exhausted, I took a hot shower and I was there when Gregory came to tell me that Aunty Gwen had passed away with her daughter by her side holding her hand. Mostly I was relieved, Aunty Gwen had willed her body to last long enough until her favourite person was by her side, but I was also desperately sad at the passing of a wonderful woman who had brought much joy to our family over the years.
Several days earlier, when I knew things weren’t going to improve, the kindly Doctor had taken me aside and urged me to call my mother. Then he looked at my belly and said; “one life ends and another one begins.” He is right of course, but it is one of life’s trickiest realities to face. As I walked away from the Doctor, desperately trying to contain myself, I looked around for a distraction and read the notices up on the wall. Through my tears I realised the ward was named the same name we have chosen if we have a son. Prophecy or coincidence? It doesn’t really matter. This is the circle of life and as I sit here typing with my baby shifting inside me, I know Aunty Gwen was moving over to make room for the peanut. And surely this is the point. Love. Love for each other, love for those who’ve gone and love for those to come. So thank you Aunty Gwen, may the peanut do you proud.