It was my mother's 71st birthday today. She is dying. On June 13, I was told it was a matter of weeks. She has survived precisely three weeks.
We gathered at her hospital for afternoon tea.
I choked on the "happy" of the birthday song and lip-synch'd the rest. No-one was up for 'hip-hoorays'. I arranged a cake (among other savoury and sugary treats). No-one appeared to notice the missing third 'e' of Beverley. Mum was always a stickler for that. Her sisters too. Its significance paled by the fragile retreat of the person we have loved in to and then out of a body given over to cancer.
My brother called from Sydney. It didn't go well. He spent the next half-hour dispatching distressed texts. He couldn't understand a word she'd said (of which there were very few), except for, "Is that you, Kevin?"
Not his name.