It was Saturday evening and Mum was tucked up cozily in bed. Our friends, Eileen, Chris and Nel-Rose had left a couple of hours earlier for their long drive north to Kendal, in the Lake District. Nel is studying nursing at Lancaster University and we are all so happy to see her following her dream.
I sat on the side of Mum's bed, as usual going over the lovely moments in the day that we had shared. I told Mum that Nel is hoping to do one of her placements in Canada.
"Wouldn't that be nice?" I said, "She might be able to stay with us."
Mum nodded, "She can stay in my room," she said, smiling.
"Do you still remember the loft room?" I asked; Mum's stroke in 2003 took some of her memories with it.
"Oh, yes," she said, "I remember all of your rooms. I don't remember the other house," she added, making a face, and I knew that she was referring to the last house she lived in with Dad, on Snake Lane; a place with no happy memories. That is a house whose rooms she has chosen to forget.
We reminisced about how she loved looking up at the stars and moon through the skylight over her bed in the loft room. There she was surrounded only by love and happy times with family. And also by all of our friends, who like everyone who ever met Mum, loved her at first sight.
Mum was up for anything and everything; coming with me everywhere I went: worship practices; writer group meetings; church, cell group; shopping--and endless coffees and teas with friends. She loved it all and partook to the full--never admitting to being tired.
It was so good to know that some of those memories remain with Mum as well as with me.
Goodbyes at the end of our happy times together back then, were hard in a different way to now. Then, she was leaving intense happiness for a hard life at home. And yet outwardly we spoke only of gratitude for what God had given us together, and "next time."
We held our sadness close inside and did not admit to it; that would have been too hard. As I watched her brave, smiling face vanish finally from sight, I would turn away, holding tightly to Paul's hand, head bowed to hide the brave smile on my own face that was now crumpling into tears in spite of my valiant effort to hold them back.
I am grateful that now it is different when we part. I leave Mum in the care of loving hands; those of Rob, and her carers, who are respectful and kind. She knows that I leave for a life that is happy, and I know that she is cherished.
We still focus on being grateful, as we should, for all that we have been given, and we still cling to "next time;" for always there is next time. We can count on that, whether here, or in heaven, where one of us will be waiting for the other at heaven's gate one day.
With grateful hearts always, we will say, "Until we meet again."