I went to see Mum at the nursing home the following day. She looked crumpled, lying in exactly the same position she was in some months ago when I last saw her, as though time had stood still. The only difference was the paleness of her skin, and her eyes. It broke something in me, to see her like that. When she looked at me, she seemed to be saying 'get me out'.
My sister had made a compilation cd of all my Mum's favourite songs and show tunes. I put on It's Not Unusual. Mum used to love dancing around to this, shaking her arms from side to side, swaying her hips. She fancied Tom Jones like mad. Then I put on Copacabana and sat by Mum's side singing along, my sister in the background doing a little dance. There was no response. In the end we turned it off. I remember watching Barry Manilow concerts on the telly with Mum in the living room when I was growing up. We'd sing along, especially to the slow ones, where the middle-aged women in the audience would sway in unison to the music, holding their lighters in the air high above their heads.
Emma went off to give me some time with Mum alone. I put on Relaxing Piano Classics. I really don't know what Mum makes of all this. I sat next to her by the window whilst Clair De Lune played. Mum stared out at the same spot she always stares at. A robin hopped onto the bird table outside, and started pecking at seed. I pointed at it, encouraging Mum to look. There was a flicker of interest in her eyes.
I watched her, watching the robin. Then I turned back to look at the robin, so tender and slight, flitting about the table. The piano ebbed and flowed like white foam on water. I felt myself breaking into tiny pieces, dissolving into the sound of the piano keys, the sight of the pecking robin and the blue of my mother's eyes.
We went to see the doctor early next morning. I trembled as I went inside her room, as she asked my sister and I to have a seat.
Here was a kind doctor, whose words were a balm on all the cuts that have been building up on me since my mother's first stroke, over six years ago; on all the cuts that the tens of doctors who haven't understood, who haven't bothered, who have deprived us of answers, who haven't had the time to care, have left. For the first time I felt I was being listened to.
I tell, for the first time, how I feel about my Mum being kept in this awful state, where she is neither here, nor gone, powerless and voiceless, forced to reside in some half-way world, unable to let go, unable to return. I have become sure that she doesn't want this, that she isn't a willing participant in what the doctors have decided is the easiest course of action. It is one that we never had any say in, and Mum certainly didn't.
I expect the doctor to fob me off with platitudes and protocol. Instead, she turns and says to us "It's no way to live".
When I see my Mum later, I feel differently from the day before. I feel like I can finally look her in the eye and say "Mum, it's going to be alright".