ONE, EMERGENCY CALL Tuesday afternoon, July 6th 1999
the moment I received the phone call from the head nurse. It was 7 p.m.
"Your mother is in a critical condition. You better come quickly."
I felt numb all over and my legs seemed
turned to lead. When I tried to move, it was as is if some force was holding
me back. Even to step into my car and turn the ignition key was an effort
and I found that my arms were covered with goose bumps and I was icy cold
although the sun was beating down and it was as hot as a furnace. I rammed
my foot hard down, breaking every speed limit, but it seemed that some
other person had taken over the steering wheel: this was the spookiest
thing I had ever experienced but more were to come.
I had the impression that my father who
had died in 1973, a psychiatrist but much involved in psychic phenomena
and the occult, was beside me, breathing into my ear that I must control
"Slow down, you want to help Momma? Then
get to the hospital alive."
I sensed his presence assuring me that this
sort of experience can happen when two people are really close, and it
was as though I was enveloped by a kind of protective cape, yet at the
same time I knew it as the cape of death. My throat was dry, I was choking
and at that moment, I had the burning desire that I should die in place
of my mother.
I don't remember actually arriving at the
hospital and running into the elevator but suddenly, I was with her, alone
in a room and I understood that this was what the nurses referred to as
the death chamber. The final chapter was being written in the book of
her life. Yet she was still conscious, looking pale and tired, a blue
and white striped washcloth, drenched in icy water, on her forehead, surrounded
by a team of doctors.
A young blond doctor who seemed to be in
charge bent over her and bellowed.
"Mrs de Vries, Mrs de Vries, can you hear
He could have been heard a couple of wards
away and she turned her head away. "Mrs de Vries, your daughter is here.
Can you please answer a few questions?"
She nodded feebly.
"Are you sad, or depressed, Mrs, de Vries."
She shrugged her frail shoulders and said
"Mrs. De Vries, do you want to die?" He
I begged him to stop yelling; after all,
she was not actually deaf. In a soft, clear voice, she replied, "Yes,
I want to die. The sooner the better."
I looked at the doctor and pleaded, "Please,
now that you have heard that she does not want to live longer, can you
do something about it, and speed up the dying process?"
The doctor straightened his back and looked
hard into my eyes.
"No, madam. We are not allowed to practice
euthanasia, not even if she had signed all the consent forms." His voice
was harsh and grating. "St. Lucas is a Catholic hospital, we are not permitted
to help patients end their lives prematurely. The most we can do is to
stop all life support, no more food, no more medications except painkillers,
and no more liquids. I promise we won't even administer a liquid drip.
So she will dry out spontaneously, and as the body needs water, she will
be completely dehydrated within two days."
My mother understood every word and looked
"We stopped her intestinal bleeding a few
days ago. In fact your mother is not ill at the moment. She is quite anaemic
from losing so much blood, but if she had any willpower she could actually
go home, and get better there. She just has not got the oomph to go on
living. Isn't that right, Mrs de Vries?" he shouted in her ear. She gave
him a really mean look.
A nurse interrupted, "I am sorry doctor,
but look at the patient's condition. Her weight is down to 45 kilos. Surely
you wouldn't want to send her home in that state, would you?"
I nodded and asked him, "Please, be kind
to her, and whatever you do, don't send her home at this stage."
He gave a short-tempered nod, looked at
his watch, scribbled a few words in his notepad, a brief check of her
blood pressure and heart, and he and his entourage swept out the room
without even saying goodbye.
By now, it was around eight p.m., visiting
hours were over, and ward 7 A of St Lucas Hospital was in complete silence.
I switched off the big lights, leaving just the light above the wash basin
and moved my chair close to my Mom's bed. She was dozing, in her hand
she clutched a brand new handkerchief Dia and I had given her. I sprinkled
it and her sheets with 4711 Eau de Cologne, something she and her mother
had enjoyed from childhood.
I looked down at her gaunt face, her eyes
dark and sunken and refreshed the washcloth for her. She woke up for a
few moments and sighed:
"Oh, I am so glad you are here. Please don't
leave me any more. "
"No Mom, I cried, as I collapsed against
her feeble chest, "I will not leave you ever again. I will sit with you
until the very end."
Rozetta, her friend who had also been with
her for the last few hours, took her hand, kissed it and said goodbye,
relieved that I would look after my Mom for the rest of the night, while
she went home to catch some well-deserved sleep and a bite to eat.
I had brought a big bag with all those magazines
and newspapers I had not had the time to read at home lately and intended
to settle down next to my Mom. Suddenly something told me to grab a pen
and my notebook and start writing the first pages of a new book. I had
not written a book for the last ten years, but now I was truly inspired
to put on paper everything I had experienced about this encounter with
death, and for four hours I sat there, writing by hand and not on a laptop
(something I had not done ever since I got hooked on the computer).
Round midnight I was very tired. Usually
I am wide awake at that hour, but here in the quiet surrounding of the
hospital it felt good to try and catch some sleep. I felt utterly worn
so I climbed into the bed, which had been brought for me beside that of
my mother. However, I barely slept a wink as I kept waking up every half
hour to have a good look at my Mom, and even placed my ears against her
chest to make sure she was still breathing.
I woke suddenly at half past four, not knowing
where I was and drove home. The color of the sky had changed but the pinkish
purple combination persisted. This time I was well aware that I was behind
the wheel and did not rush, enjoying the quietness on the road. Once inside
the house my dogs greeted me excitedly and I found notes everywhere from
the people who live with me. I freshened up in the bath and checked my
email, secure in the understanding that my Mom would hang on to life for
at least another day or two. But already at half past six, I felt restless,
worried in case my Mom awoke and fretted at not finding me next to her.
DAY TWO. WEDNESDAY July 7th 1999 AT THE
Today was not so good: my Mom now barely
spoke. I had brought with me a copy of the eighty printed booklets I had
prepared for her death, a collection of German and Dutch poems about death,
my Mom's favourites which I had so recently read to her, as well as three
pages I had written as my own offering. Its cover was a tender picture
of my Mom and me during our happy days in Spain about ten years ago. Christopher,
the sweet, gay Singaporean house-boy who lives with us had neatly bound
them with a purple ribbon. The booklet was Pauline's idea and she spent
two days on its layout and printing, a lovely memorial for those who wanted
to pay homage to my Mom at her funeral.
Its production was perfectly timed: I read
my farewell text to her and a few tears trickled down her cheeks. Gently
taking my hands, she whispered, "You really do love me, don't you?"
"But of course, Mommy, " I tried to smile
through my tears. "Why do you ask?"
"Because you did a terrific job preparing
all this. Now all I want is to leave you as soon as possible... I just
want to go... I am so tired."
"Mom, remember what my ex-husband Frank
used to say: It takes as long as it takes. Be patient, you will soon be
During the day, whenever she gestured, I
gave her water from a plastic cup and even a few tiny spoonfuls of vanilla
ice cream. When she wanted no more, I finished the rest.
She gave me a bewildered look. "Darling,
please don't eat so much," she murmured.
"Mammi. Stop worrying about my life or my
weight. I am a big girl now, please relax and lets make you as comfortable
Then she dozed off again and I also laid
down for a catnap of an hour. The hospital was quiet and memories from
my youth flooded back.
At about eleven, two very kind nurses washed
her. I was shocked by the condition of her body. A few days before, I
had massaged her with chamomile cream from top to toe. I can still remember
the feel of the texture of her dried-out skin, and how it came to life
under my fingers as I applied the cream ever so gently to her belly, her
thighs and her hands and a different cream for her face. I had cleaned
her hair with some alcohol, she was too weak for water and shampoo and
I had cleaned, filed and polished her nails
In the afternoon, I ate the most insipid
slops, which had been served for her. Her body was by now so desiccated
that she could hardly speak a word and I moistened her lips with some
lemon-water and brushed her dentures.
Time passed. Around four, we had a visitor.
Yvonne had been helping my mother and Hetty clean their house for the
past twenty years. She was a kind woman with a pleasant round face who
considered my Mom as a second mother, her own mother was senile and had
not been able to recognize her for eight years. Although she was shocked
by my Mom's sudden deterioration, she remained composed until she was
out in the hall when she burst into tears.
My Mom had grown quite fond of my lover
Dia and she asked her if she would bring her a bottle of white wine. She
dreamed of just one last glass of good wine, but alcohol had always been
on Hetty's taboo list, but safely in hospital my Mom was her own boss
if only for a few fleeting moments. She was like a naughty child as we
made our final toast, me with water, she with watered wine in her plastic
cup. But she suffered a violent choking fit: however Yvonne had difficulty
in downing two glasses, unwatered.
Swallowing, even a single drop of water
was almost impossible for my Mom who looked helpless and confused and
her mouth was so dry that her words were difficult to understand. In fact
her mouth was so dry that she could barely speak and we started to communicate
through signs and with simple fluttering of her eyelashes or tiny movements
of her head.
I could not follow when after an hour Yvonne
left and she pointed at the table next to her bed until she whispered
"Mandarin". That was the last word I was to hear from her mouth. I peeled
the mandarin, took a segment and fed her slowly just with the juice. She
eagerly tried to suck the freshness and flavor of the piece of fruit.
Gently and elegantly she returned the fragment of pulp which I removed
from her pouting lips. I fed her four more pieces. I have never studied
a mandarin as I did that afternoon and I shall never again eat a mandarin
without thinking of my Mom and the way I fed her that last time--every
little sliver of the fruit will come to my mind.
She dozed off for most of the day and Hetty
and I did a lot of crying Each hour she looked more exhausted and wasted
but there was still one more night. Hetty left round 9 p.m. and again
I was alone, staring my Mom in the face for hours. I had finished writing
80 pages and had writer's cramp before falling asleep around midnight.
It was four in the morning when I drove
home and went through the same ritual as the morning before. Again I had
to cancel by email business appointments with regard to a theatrical production
in which I was heavily involved. Everyone was understanding and sympathetic
and wished me well over this most difficult period of my life.
DAY 3, Thursday 8th July, 1999 FINAL
I was back in the hospital by seven and
a few hours later my cousin Harold from Dusseldorf arrived. He had not
seen his aunt for a few months and was shocked, but his face was expressionless.
Together we sat by her bed for hours, stroking her tousled hair and caressing
her clammy, cold body now and then, but she would feebly push our hands
away. Although her eyes were closed, she responded to what we said by
tiny squeezes of her hand.
When Dia and Hetty showed up, we had some
luncheon, which had been prepared by my American cook, Wendy, and we sat
and talked quietly in the waiting room, which had been reserved for us.
But we were too gloomy to have much appetite: Dia soon left, she had some
work to do, but promised to be back in the evening and Hetty took Harold
home for a short siesta.
I closed the door to the corridor. It was
a very quiet afternoon and heat hung heavy in the air, I moved my bed
into the corner of the room from where I had a good view of my mother.
She had opened her eyes only briefly when Harold and I sat next to her.
Her eyes were tired and dull and she was breathing irregularly and occasionally
During the first night at the hospital I
had taken some photographs of her while she slept. Next day, I asked her,
when she smiled at me, if she minded if I took a picture of her face.
I knew that she hated Rozetta or me taking pictures or filming her when
she was already looking quite disheveled.
"Yes, OK, just this time, but for your eyes
only," she whispered.
She smiled at the camera but her eyes were
even now death haunted. Today, I took some pictures of her hands, elegantly
resting above the sheets while the fan made a soothing whirring. Then
I went back for a short nap. It had all been too emotional, meeting Harold,
her relapse into silence.
Earlier, there had been a typical "Germaine"
incident. She had opened her eyes, trying to focus on each of us as if
for the very last time. Then she glanced at where I had left my little
filofax diary open on my bed, next to my overfull handbag. The apparent
disorder seemed to upset her tidy mind. With a barely perceptible gesture,
she beckoned me to close the book and then to put it away inside my handbag.
A mere two small hand-moves and her sign language had come to an end:
this was the last movement of her hands anyone saw.
I dozed off into one of the most bizarre
dreams. I seemed to slide into a sky of incredible pinks, oranges and
purples. I felt that my body was drifting in mid air on a wisp of a cloud,
floating through timeless space among those colors which I could almost
touch, the same colors I had seen in the sky that first day I was called
to see my Mom. It was silent and serenely peaceful, yet intense, as the
colors became more and more vivid, inviting me to go on with my voyage.
I had the feeling of being higher than I had ever been and for a few brief
moments I had the sensation of dying and entering heaven.
I woke at the sound of the footsteps of
my cousin who had come to say farewell to his aunt before catching a seven
o' clock train back to Germany. The two of them looked at each other for
a long time. Her eyes took in everything, but her words no longer came.
Two nurses came to give her a few morphine shots: they noted that her
breathing had become quite irregular, checked her heart in her faint pulse
and took her blood pressure.
Rozetta arrived with a basket full of goodies
for which my Mom obviously would have no use. The poor woman was so nervous
as she watched her lifelong companion about to leave this earth. Dia was
on her way: I had called her and asked her to hurry as I saw the first
signs of oncoming death as my mother's body started to twitch, first her
shoulders, then her legs. The odor of death was all around us.
Shortly after Harold had left, my Mom started
to breathe ever harder, as if it were her who had to hurry to catch the
last train. She laid on her back against the big, white pillows, gazing
at the ceiling, neat and tidy as the nurses had washed her a few hours
earlier. It was scary to hear the pumping of her lungs and I feared that
her poor little heart would not take it any longer, yet there was still
strength in that worn out body.
Dia had quietly walked into the room and
sat at the foot of the bed, taking in the scene, while Hetty and I sat
on each side, holding her hands ever so gently. I gestured Dia to call
the nurses, as this beginning of her one way journey to heaven was likely
to take some time and I was about to burst from a full bladder but did
not dare to leave the room. The nurse who had lovingly cared for my Mom
all week, felt her feeble pulse and assured me that I could run and pee:
there was still a little while to go. An older, more senior nurse tiptoed
in to join her pretty, young colleague who had clearly never before witnessed
a death. She looked like a younger version of myself and gently kept saying
to my mother, "Vrouwtje, kalm aan maar" (sweet woman, do take it easy)
The older nurse declared that this was one
of the most beautiful departures of a family member she had ever seen,
so peaceful and in perfect harmony with all of us around her. So often,
people died in a coma or in agony with family or relatives bickering over
their inheritance oblivious to the dying person being able to hear everything
until the very last moment.
The younger nurse took my mother's wrist
but there was no pulse. Yet she was still gasping and hyperventilating
as though even now she could save her life. Then, incredibly, she opened
her eyes wide with the most beatifically happy expression I had ever seen
on her face. The last rays of sunshine through the half-opened curtains
shone into her eyes and for the first time I saw the lenses inserted after
removal of cataracts and their color changed from the blue through gray
and green to a shade of purple. As her pupils dilated like a cat, I knew
that she was following my own dream road, seeing the same colors, symbiotic
and psychic as we were. She seemed totally at ease, relaxed and glad to
be on this final journey at last. But her breathing was so heavy that
I put my hand on her chest and begged her to slow down but to no avail.
Yet the tranquility of her features, the disappearing of every wrinkle
and the amazing changing colors, all happening during that fierce struggle,
seemed bizarre and incredible. Her skin turned white, one nurse told me
to check her legs and hands and indeed there were spots of white and light
blue as death crept upon her.
I suddenly remembered the words of a good
friend, Ellen, "at the moment your Mom is about to leave you, please let
her go and tell her how much you love her too." I leaned forward, gazing
in fascination into her eyes and said "Mommy, all who are dear to you
are with you, so please take it easy, slow down, let go. You may go now
to join your own mother and Pappy. We love you very, very much."
Maybe she heard me, her eyes blinked, her
breathing slowed to normal, then it became slower, and slower, a tear
rolled down her cheek from one corner of her eye. The nurse whispered
softly that the moment was almost there now. Her body became less agitated,
a faint smile appeared on her face as she breathed her last at a quarter
past seven, exactly one hour after she started her final journey, still
with that blissful expression.
It was Hetty's 73rd birthday, one she will
never forget. The nurses shook our hands and expressed their condolences.
They left to summon the doctor to formally confirm the cause of death
and, I quickly took my camera and took half a dozen pictures from all
angles of my Mom's face, some with Rozetta near her and one of me and
her together, holding her face lovingly in my hands. Only now did I realize
exactly the significance of the word, heavenly.
I came into this world on June 15, 1943
at 7:15 am: my Mom left it at 7:15 p.m., and I wanted to preserve forever
that radiant expression even in death.
We cried a lot for the fifteen minutes we
were alone with her body. Then the nurses returned, the younger with tears
in her eyes, and the older assured me that this was the most idyllic death
she had ever seen and that my Mom was a truly beautiful person. The moment
came to say farewell but after Dia and Hetty left the room, I insisted
on staying and watching, to help the nurses wash and clean her body before
being sending her to the mortuary.
I was quite unprepared for the shock after
this heavenly death scene when the sheets were pulled away and a horrible
smell of feces arose from the bed. But I did not care, it was all part
of the dying process. Fascinated as I have always been by death, this
was part of it, so I did not want to miss it either. I watched those eyes,
restored to teenage blue, being closed. Her body, naked now, lay in front
of me, as I stood behind the bed to take in all that was going to happen.
The two nurses, wearing white rubber gloves, brought a bucket full of
wet washcloths, and set about removing the big pile of feces, then they
washed her back, arms and face, even cleaning out her mouth with a special
brush. I asked them to insert her upper dentures, which had almost been
forgotten. But her mouth had already started to stiffen and the two of
them could barely open her mouth wide enough to insert the dentures. Her
body was thrown around left to right, her limp limbs hanging first over
one side of the bed, then the other, her eyes half opening and her mouth
slightly gaping. She had become a rubber doll bereft of all human dignity,
which had been so cherished by her throughout her life. The last clean
up was the front of her body. A small cloth was placed in her mouth and
at a second attempt they succeeded in inserting her dentures before finally
closing her eyes and mouth. I helped and felt how cold her skin had turned
and the flesh on her belly felt like parchment. Then came one of the most
challenging and intimate moments of the ritual as I watched the nurses
washing up my mother's vagina. I was amazed how young and beautiful it
appeared. After all, it was where I had come from, so as I had taken my
very first look at it, why not the very last? I even recognized the similarity
between her pussy and my own. So youthful and not a sign of decay.
At last, lumps of cotton wool were stuffed
into all her orifices to prevent any leakage soiling the coffin and they
slipped on a pair of underpants. She looked once more at repose in the
lovely jacket I had chosen for her and I picked out the silk blouse and
matching scarf to go the funeral parlor for her to wear when she would
lie on view a few days later in the mortuary.
Back home, we were welcomed by four great
friends, with open arms, warm hugs and tears while the excited animals
licked my cheeks dry. Christopher had lit a dozen candles, put on some
solemn music by Pachelbel and had placed a few large portraits of my Mom
and me on the table between lots of lovely flowers. It gave me a truly
warm feeling to have such consoling friends and housemates waiting for
I was amazed at how Christopher, who had
never seen my Mom, was so emotionally involved in our sorrow and had helped
so much to finalize the booklet I wanted to send along with the cards
announcing her death. I cried against his small-framed body (he only reaches
to my shoulders) and lay on the couch in the living room. For the next
half-hour I simply could not stop the flow of tears. Christopher poured
me a soothing warm bubble bath, as if he could read my mind. I felt utterly
wrung out: I certainly needed that bath.
Dia spent the next few nights with me, comforting me in her arms, so protective
and reassuring but both of us were tearful. She told me that it was as
though part of her had died,since she had been orphaned for ten years
and, desperately missing her own mother, she had found herself a new family
in the presence of my mother. She was subject to fits of black depression
and suggested as a title for this book, "Kind Af", which translates as
Child No More. "We are the next generation on death row," she said. I
nodded and cried some more.
The following morning I woke at five: my
biological clock had switched: I used to go to sleep around four a.m.
and wake up at eight a.m., but I had been falling asleep around midnight
in the hospital and waking at the crack of dawn. I sensed that something
in the room moved ever so lightly, rustling the curtains. I suddenly felt
that the spirit of my mother had entered my bedroom. It was as if she
opened the curtains just a bit to peek around the corner and wish me a
Then, three days later, Gloria, Annette,
Dia and a few other close friends had dinner in my garden, as the weather
was splendid. Dia was setting the table when there was a sudden gust of
wind. All the trees and plants swayed violently, then the wind stopped
as suddenly as it had started and again I sensed my mother's presence.
She always liked trees and once told me they had a life of their own and
probably were possessed by spirits. Now she was saying: "Have a nice meal.
I will be watching over you all. Enjoy!"
Another dear friend, a very talented artist,
Mark van Holden, an American who had been living in Amsterdam for five
years, came by. We seldom met but whenever we did there was a great meeting
of the minds as well as the physical hugging and feeling of being loved.
Mark is a very special human being, noble, considerate and spiritual.
Somehow he always shows up when I need him most without my calling. That
night he handed me The Tibetan book of Living and Dying by Sogyal
Rinpoche, and inside he had put a picture, a scene of a pink, orange shading
with purple sky and some soft white clouds, exactly what I had dreamed
when I thought I was dying myself, and probably the same as was reflected
in my mother's eyes. It gave me the shivers. I never saw the end of that
tunnel through which we pass to another world.
MORE FRIENDLY PLOT
week I would go swimming close to Zorgvliet. Next Tuesday, I would return:
Zorgvliet is the huge graveyard in which my Mom had long ago reserved
a plot, deep inside the expanse of green lawns. But even as death approached,
she instructed Hetty to pay to move her plot to a space close to the entrance
to be more easily accessible for me.
I discovered this when I met the undertaker,
a handsome man in his mid fifties, formerly a social worker, who treated
me with great kindness as we went through the formalities of filling in
all the official documents and choosing coffin colors and linings, the
details of catering and flowers, the timing and recording of orations
in the hall right down to whether I wanted the coffin carried to the grave
site manually or mechanically.
It was all too much of a strain, my stomach
was churning and I tried to control my tears so as not to be embarrassed
before these outsiders: the stolid novice assistant who had been an intensive-care
nurse must have witnessed so many tears. But the undertaker, a warm-hearted
man, observed my distress and urged me not to hold back my tears to spare
their feelings. There was no need to hurry so I gave way to a fit of sobbing
before having to come to terms with the business details since the only
thing which had been paid for was the burial plot, I assured him that
I would spare no reasonable expense, so everything went easily. I thought
that the announcement in de Telegraaf was ridiculously expensive but it
had been her favorite paper so within two hours, everything she had desired
had been achieved. There was a white coffin, three-quarters covered with
red roses and green foliage by Rozetta and our many mutual friends, while
I provided an enormous bunch of white lilies, interspersed with red roses
and our picture together from thirty years ago, stately and elegant, to
stand in front of the coffin.
Asked whether I had any other wishes, I
handed him the text for the obituary notices and requested that he would
arrange for them to be picked up from the printer and I asked that I would
be allowed to help with the make up for Monday night when she would be
on display at the Watergraafsmeer funeral parlor.
He made a few phone calls and gave Dia and
me the addresses we would need that afternoon and warned me not be put
off by the appearance of the old man with the beard, who was a make-up
artist capable of performing miracles with the dead.
So Hetty, Dia and I first went to the Miranda
Pavilion, a spacious restaurant that catered for funeral parties, located
five minutes from the cemetery, and I rented a room large enough for at
least 50 people to enjoy a relaxed brunch after paying their respects
at the parlor. Here too prices were horrendously high and I could not
help thinking how much more sensible it would have been to have made a
tasteful farewell party in my own spacious garden with food provided by
my own staff of two excellent cooks. But, again my mother's wishes were
my commands and this is what she wanted.
Finally, Dia and I went to collect the cards;
Christopher had already prepared the envelopes and put into each that
lovely booklet with poetry and the picture of my Mom and me. So we slipped
in the cards, stuck on the stamps and sent off all eighty of them.
Then we rushed to the new funeral parlor,
situated in an idyllic woodland setting. It was bright sunshine and my
mother looked perfectly at peace in the white coffin. The same elderly
man, named Herman, was waiting for us and bought us tea. He remarked on
her beauty. Saying that he could not believe that this was a woman in
her mid eighties. Her skin was so smooth that he suggested that I really
did not need to apply any make-up to so exquisite a face.
But I knew my Mom well enough to know that
she would appreciate a touch of glamour, even at her very last moment
on earth. So I had brought with me some gray/blue eye-shadow, her favorite
brown eyebrow pencil, a little lip liner, a soft pinkish orange lipstick,
dark blue mascara and some rouge combined with pancake.
In conversation, Herman told me that he
was a painter of still lifes. When I asked him whether he would not prefer
to be a make-up artist for living people rather then the dead, he shook
his head and said: "No, what I do is such relaxed and gratifying work.
You see, in fact I am a landscape artist and maybe because of that I am
good with quiet things. If only you knew how many bodies are being brought
here in a dreadful state, it is wonderful to be complimented by their
family when they see their beloved looking again as they did in life."
I was touched by his sweet nature and together
we worked on my Mom. He suggested using his own pancake as that was "dead
proof," that is it would compensate for the drying of her skin. Otherwise,
it would be difficult to apply any make-up.
I felt her icy skin, kissed the side of
her nose and touched her forehead, then lifted her neatly folded fingers
a fraction and pulled out the scarf from underneath her hands as Herman
had not really folded it the way she would have done it. So I started
to dress her up again, and when I looked at my Mom, it was almost as if
I could see her chest move up and down a bit, as though she was actually
All I still wanted to do before she would
be seen by the public that Monday night was to spray some Chanel No. 5
into her coffin and put on some of her favorite earrings which I had once
given her, as she always felt naked without them.
Still, there were two more days to go. Tonight
the body would be on display and the funeral ceremony was at midday tomorrow.
I had prepared some beautiful music: extracts from the Rachmaninov Second
Piano Concerto, the adagietto from Mahler's Fifth Symphony, Cleo Laine
singing "Send in the Clowns", and finally a lovely tear-jerker by Karin
Bloemen about her mother's death, suitably called "Child no More."