We’ve had a bit of a yucky time in the last month or so. A little history lesson on who I am going to talk about first. When my mum died when I was 13 her best friend Pat stepped in and basically took over like a mum to myself and my sister Deb. My brother Rick was at Uni but Deb and I were teenagers and at that critical time we needed Pat and she filled the role of aunty admirably. I had known Pat since I was about five, I became good friends with her daughters and I grew up with them all as my family as we had moved from the UK when I was two so didn’t have biological family here. Pat and her husband David (dad’s best friend)Â moved here with Pat’s brothers and sisters and their families and they became our extended Scottish family. Pat was the one I called when I became engaged to Paul (I met him through their family), the one I thought of when I became pregnant. She came wedding dress shopping with me and was at the birth of my sisters kids. She was everything and more that I could want to fill the void mums death left. The kids loved going to their house on Boxing Day every year, her and David were like a third set of grandparents to them. The year before last Pat got cancer. Beth was very concerned, she was at the age I was when mum died, she was paranoid about me dying and couldn’t articulate well what she was feeling so I didn’t know (and still don’t really) how to help her, what she truly believed. We had had a child at school die from cancer, she knew that cancer was very serious. She gave me an apple to give to Pat when I went to visit her, she said that it would help her cure her cancer. Pat was so touched by this, that and Beth telling me that she would say a prayer for her. Pat was a faithful Catholic girl and she thought this was beautiful.
Late last year my dad called me to say that Pat’s cancer had returned. It was very aggressive. I had done a painting for Pat at my art class and I took it down to Pat after the New Year. I didn’t then know how bad it had gotten. The next thing dad was calling me to let me know that she was in paliative care. I was so scared to go down to visit knowing what I knew. I went to visit and it was so lovely I went back the following week. Pat was at her finest, looking resplendant and making everybody else feel at ease about everything. Beth asked me where I was going when I dropped her at school and I told her. She asked if Pat was going to die and I told her yes she was. She was devastated, as were my other kids. They made Pat a card, all saying a similar thing, they hoped that she would feel better in heaven and be with Nanny. It broke my heart. Each day I came back Beth asked me about Pat. She died after just a couple of weeks and I told the kids. I told themÂ dad and I were going to the funeral so Grandma and Grandpa would pick them up. She asked why I would be gone for so long and I told her that we would be going back to Pat and David’s afterwards. She corrected me – “you mean David’s don’t you?” “Yes, but for me it will always be Pat and David’s” I told her.
Last night Beth asked me about Pat. It’s beenÂ two weeks since the funeral. She told me that she missed Pat and asked me if I missed her. I said that of course I did and I always will. Some people say that kids with autism don’t feel things the same as we ‘neuro typical’ people do. Maybe not but they still feelÂ intensely at times. I wish I could explain things toÂ Beth the way I can to my other kids. Who knows what she thinks about death, who knows if she just assumes that I will die young like my mum did. She can’t explain things to me and unless I guess I don’t know what she’s thinking. I wish I could ease the stresses in her mind, it must be horrible to be thinking things and not being reassured. I have spoken to her about if mum had been sick now, how she probably would have lived because of advances in medicine. But then people really do die in her life and there’s nothing I can do about it. Last time I saw Pat I took her another apple from Beth. When I told Beth how much Pat loved it again Beth asked if Pat had read about apples in Total Girl magazine too. She did what she could for her Granny Pat and I reckon she’ll miss her more than we can even imagine. I know I do.