Five years ago, we clustered around a bed in a palliative care ward, waiting. Holding hands, talking, but mostly, waiting.
It didn’t take long in retrospect, although the hours felt interminable, waiting for the next breath to come, the death rattle heavy in the room.
Until the next breath didn’t come and it was over. Months of appointments, of waiting, of saying goodbye over and over, culminated in one sharp moment when it stopped.
And then we all breathed again and had to go on without her. She stopped, but we failed to stop with her, and the hole of her leaving grew bigger as we missed her.
The first sign: wild ducks fleeing, circling frantically overhead like a crowd of mismanaged school children, no one sure where to go next. They hide in the trees and fall silent.
Not a bird in the sky, until we look closer, and see them, circling. Hunting maybe, or courting.
Round and round the eagles go, my eyes spotty from looking up at the bright sky, a cup of tea warm and heavy in my hands. The undersides of their wings glint gold in the sunlight, bright enough to make my eyes tear up as I look away.
We watch until they disappear over the horizon.
The crows return first, flying over, cawing their life loudly. Then the sparrows. A rosella. Our neighbours pigeons.
Life goes on, even with the shadow of death hanging over us.
Forty minutes to make three kilos of soap. Twenty minutes standing outside. Ten minutes reading. Today is broken up into blocks of minutes as we count down.
For a moment, everything will stop.
And then I’ll draw breath again and on we’ll go, into our sixth year without her.