Today I sat with someone as they were dying, as they died; not a close friend but someone I came to know through my volunteering. Her only family is a cousin who lives a long way away and so I, a stranger to her, shared a few of her last hours. I've only just returned from a trip back to England and because she had been so very ill before I left Ididn't expect her to still be alive and when I called into the nursing home today it was with the expectation that I would be given news of her death. But something had made her cling on and I think that I really do mean cling – her fingers were curled around the cotton cover of the duvet as if she were scared of falling; indeed that may be what it feels like that close to death. I'd decided to sit for an hour with her and I talked a little even though she wasn't conscious because I understand that hearing is the last sense to go and that maybe she would be aware of words. She said once that she liked my voice. Then I said goodbye and got up to go and at the point something changed and I knew that it was time. So I waited for a few more moments and the sun continued to shine and the people in the garden outside continued to talk. I heard a match strike as someone lit a cigarette. Only one thing changed.
Johnny is away tonight and he telephoned a few moments ago and I told him what had happened today. He said that she had probably waited for me – maybe people do wait and I do have experience of this – but I don't think that happened here. Of course, this would make it all about me then. And it really is all about me because I sit with someone now as they die because I am scared to die alone. If I sit with someone now then I can fool myself that I won't be alone either. As if it made a difference.