I'm devastated. My niece called last night to let me know that my sister died.
TBD readers will have followed my recent mentions of her illness and her recent surgery, so I was not unaware of her condition. But the news last night came as a complete shock. I thought we had a kind of pact. When Ellie and I left her bedside for the last time at the hospital in Cheltenham last Wednesday, barely a week ago, I insisted that this was not goodbye, that I would be back to say goodbye when the right moment came. She seemed, at the time, quite bright, almost radiant...
... and had been recovering strength and energy after surgery. I genuinely believed that I would be seeing her again.
And now, not. Charlotte, my niece, told me on the phone that she had died very peacefully, and that the hospital staff were as astonished by her abrupt departure as the family. She had been transferred from the medical facility in Cheltenham to a convalescent hospital in her home town, Cirencester. The morning of her death, Charlotte told me, she had appeared quite sprightly, getting up out of bed and leaving "all the other old ladies" behind as she walked down to the day room. Hours later, she died.
It was as though she had simply decided it was time for her to leave. As though she had considered the prospect of having to deal with the colostomy bag, the pain, the burden she might have felt herself to those around her, and decided instead to spare herself.
I woke this morning early, after a fitful sleep, thinking first of the grief I felt, but then... that this was a good way to die. For Buddhists, I know, the moment of death is an important one, because the state of mind at the time can determine the nature of transition into the next state of being. And Flora, it seems, chose a peaceful, relaxed, accepting path to follow into the next life, if there be one. She has earned a good step up in the chain of being.
At one moment while I was with her at the hospital, she recalled a quote that she attributed (mistakenly, I have discovered) to Peter Pan: "Death is the next adventure." Actually, it was Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of the magicians' school in the Harry Potter series, who said: "After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next adventure."
Well, she's off on her next adventure now. I hope there's one awaiting her, and that it will be another great journey for her. Meanwhile, here on earth and still among the living, I and her family and friends are left with only the memories to celebrate. And the task of mourning to be done.