Balancing the risks

By Claire Fox | 13 October 2020
  • Claire Fox

It’s the first anniversary of my mother’s death. She died last October, aged 92. I spent hours with her the day before she died, in a nursing home in North Wales. She was very weak. I held her hand, talking to her incessantly, re-telling those favourite, much-repeated funny anecdotes from our family history. She couldn’t speak, but would squeeze my hand, smiling at key moments.

At one point, she struggled to sit up and leaned forward: she smoothed my ruffled hair and pulled at my creased shirt – an old habit of reprimand, because she always thought I looked scruffy. She was smartening me up. I was astonished at this gesture of agency, but delighted to recognise that familiar, affectionate tut-tut look. This was my Mum in her final hours, emphasising that she was still there and in charge. With stupendous effort – even at the end of life – she was declaring: ‘I am still able to assert this little bit of control and authority.’

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