It’s been a while since I wrote you. Six months. What was the last thing I sent you? A postcard, probably. Someone – one of your sisters, my aunts – told me a while back that my letters to you went unopened. Hence the postcards: nothing for you to open (or not open), a pretty picture for you to look at, and less aching white space for me to fill each week. It made it easier – for me at least. Nothing too heavy. News from up here in the north. Family. Friends. Work. Then best wishes for your well-being and family down there.
Phone calls from me ceased when you could no longer take them. When you could no longer remain awake at the phone or even, perhaps, know who I was. You used to love texting, before illness took its final hold, but the special large screen phone we got you so you could take and make calls from your room languished unused and uncharged.
I cherish the times I came to visit with you, on my own or with Pam. The time I took you to Washington Wildfowl Trust to see the ducks. Holding your hand. Sitting with you in your room while you slept. I remember the moment (not precisely when but how it felt) when the question “When will I go down next?” shifted into the knowledge I would not.
And then the phone call telling me you’d gone. A week or two of uncertainty, doubt, fear. Then plans to be made. Hotel rooms and a hire car. Routes. What to wear. That was okay. I’m good with that stuff.
And then there I was, back in Liverpool one last time. Squeezed in the back of the funeral car. Your face staring at me all the way to the church from the framed photo they’d propped at the back of the hearse. Carrying your coffin – no weight at all really – up the aisle of the church I remembered so well. The priest’s eulogy. “She was a saint. Literally, a saint. She always put others first.” And I wanted to scream.
YES SHE WAS. SHE DID. AND LOOK WHAT IT FUCKING DID TO HER.
I didn’t scream out, of course. I stayed quiet in my seat. I own my share of the blame. The depth of your need terrified me and I left you to get on with it all. I wasn’t there when you needed me to be. It was easier to pretend I didn’t notice. To visit occasionally and then not at all. To phone occasionally and then not at all. To write letters, and then postcards, that said very little and needed no reply. I’ve learned a lot about being there these past years but too late for you and me. There is no going back but I would do better by you now.
I don’t believe these words will find you now any more than the postcards did. You are gone. Not gone somewhere. Just – gone. But there are tears in my eyes and perhaps that stands for something.