The lady in front of me has just burst into tears. She is telling me about the things she will never see. ‘The nevers’ are the hardest, she says.
The crushing realisation that forever is just a word. Seeing her son graduate, or her daughter get married. Who will help with the table plan, or throw the confetti? Will her husband ever get over losing her?
The grandchildren she will never meet are focused firmly in her mind.
The practical matters help:
Her husband doesn’t even know how to work the thermostat, she says, laughing. I laugh too. I want to lie and tell her that everything is going to be fine but we both know that it won’t.
I hug her, I’ve never hugged a patient before, in fact I think I’ve only hugged a grand total of five people in my life and one of my parents isn’t on that list.
We talk about boring practical things and the rational and irrational concerns. I can see from her eyes that it’s helping her.
It suddenly strikes me that I’m almost certainly the first person she’s opened up to about all this, the only one she’s been totally honest with. It’s an honour I didn’t ask for.
It’s a strange privilege.