Last Words by Don Cowan
Don completed the first stage of the life writing course in January 2017 and has written quite a lot of memoir since. This year’s new course on memoir and biography is helping him sharpen his focus, increase his awareness, and expand more competently the memoir-writing he has begun. Don feels encouraged by Deborah’s insights and that of other participants.
I had travelled 1,000 kilometres by train from Melbourne to Newcastle to visit my mother who had been admitted there to the Mater Hospital in Waratah.
She was very ill, more ill than I had ever seen her. It was late in the day, the doctors had gone home and there was no-one around able to explain to me the name or nature of her illness. But other patients in the ten-bed ward told me that she would often call out loudly, ‘Oh God, let me go!’
I had never heard her pray, and knew nothing about her religious beliefs, but I believe that her cry was from the heart, a prayer if ever there was one. Intermittently, it rattled the other patients and prevented or interrupted their sleep.
We greeted one another, both of us tired, she from her pain and sleeplessness, I from my long journey. My mother and I had never had anything much to talk about at the best of times, so this was difficult for both of us. We would speak, but not say anything that mattered.
Out of the blue, she said. ‘I love you, Donald.’ I couldn’t believe she’d said it; she had never done so before. I mumbled back something like, ‘I love you too, Mum.’ As I left I promised to return next morning. It was night.
As I drove out of the hospital carpark I muttered, ‘too late, Mum.’
The phone rang at about 6.30 next morning. Edna, my mother, had died.
Nowadays, I think that perhaps it was not ‘too late’ after all. She had just squeezed it in. So had I.
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