1. Always say ‘Love you Mom,’ before you hang up the phone.
2. Every time you visit her, wonder if it’s the last time.
3. When the taxi’s in her driveway, engine running, and the driver has slung your suitcase into the trunk, and she’s standing on the front porch waving, go back for one more hug. Make a joke of your neediness. When you embrace her and she’s as fragile as a nest of twigs, be glad you went back.
4. When she falls in her garden and becomes disoriented and delusional, drop everything and fly across the ocean.
5. Spend hours, days, weeks, sitting with her in the hospital. Don’t waste time scolding her for not eating. Never mind about the physiotherapy exercises she won’t do. She peaked in week two when she walked the length of the corridor. Box ticked as far as she’s concerned. Let it go. Let her sit, and later, let her lie. She’ll be gone in five weeks so what does it matter.
6. Feed her. When they put her on pureed food, give her ice cream for breakfast. And yes, vanilla is a flavour. It always was her favourite.
7. Read to her. My God the woman was never without a book or two on the go. Read to her. For the love of God, read to her.
8. Sleep in a chair that’s been shoved in the corner for you. When you wake up with a crick in your neck, crawl carefully into bed beside her (see reference to nest of twigs, above). When she stirs, kiss her cheek, and whisper, ‘Do you want me to go back to the chair, or do you want me stay here?’ When she says softly, ‘I want you to stay,’ squeeze back the tears and think, I want you to stay, too.
9. Tell her it’s okay to let go. That you’ll miss her. Everyone will miss her. But you’ll be fine. Everyone will be fine. Lie.