The Last Laugh
Cointreau and Lemonade (Mum’s favourite tipple)
Abandoning my car in front of the A&E department, I raced in. She was already in the resuscitation area, hidden behind a curtain. I heard a nurse say, 'We've got a DOA'. I'd watched enough TV programmes to know what that meant. My heart lurched as I realised there was more than a curtain between me and the woman who had given me life.
The medics continued to work on her empty, lifeless body. Eventually I could no longer watch and I begged them to stop.
'Just one more try,' pleaded my aunt, who had joined me behind the curtain. We held hands, gripping tightly to each other, as if fearing that letting go might result in one of us being drawn closer to death.
The medics pushed and pressed her body one more time, but we all knew it was futile.
Once it was all over we were led away to a private area; other members of our family had collected in there expecting the worst.
We hovered, unsure of the correct protocol, still shocked and confused by the events of the evening. Eventually a nurse called us into another room. On a small white hospital bed, covered in a thin, green blanket, my mother lay peacefully, with no evidence of the trauma she had endured. All of us sat around the bed, whilst she lay in her final place of rest. She looked asleep, and we spoke in quiet tones, as if afraid we might disturb her.
Over time the volume of our voices increased, as the situation became more normal. We stopped going over what had happened that night and began to reminisce about happier times.
There was a gentle knock at the door, and a young policeman poked his head round, clearly anxious not to intrude on our grief. He checked his paperwork was in order and asked if we wanted him to remove my Mum’s wedding band. I nodded and he began to pull, gently at first, then more forcefully. The ring was stuck fast and he looked flustered and concerned. A voice piped up from behind me],
“If you suck her finger, that will make it easier to slip off.”
The complete horror on his young face was enough to send a ripple of laughter through the room. He hurriedly finished his paperwork and practically ran away.
All the time in that room, I had a strong sense of my mother’s presence, and I know she would have enjoyed the warped humour so typical of our family.
Too soon the nurse informed us it was time to go. I left reluctantly, feeling that I was abandoning her, so powerful was my belief that she was there with us enjoying the last laugh.
Alison Peden is married with three daughters, a stepson and a beautiful granddaughter. She spends much of her spare time writing short stories.