“Perk up your pencil.” “Pack up your penguin.” “Pick up your pasta.” She got lots of words wrong now. But it was ok. She laughed and we laughed. We knew it was ending and she felt it.
“No, it’s not a penguin, I know it’s not”. And sometimes her smile would falter but then she’d laugh and mean it. She’d laugh as if she had never laughed before and enjoy it. She’d enjoy the physicality, rolling into the shaking, the juddering, the gasping, the loudness and life of the laughter. And then she’d stop and wipe her eyes and always say more or less the same thing: “I may have tears in my eyes but I’m not tearful”. Sometimes she’d say “but I’m not cheerful” or “but I’m not terrified” but we knew what she meant, and the laughter would start again.
We laughed with, so close with, feeling so close. And the laughter, the closeness, made the leaving less difficult.
“I’m not tearful – I started life with a scream and I’m not going to leave with a face full of tears. That’s not me, is it? Though I could cry if I wanted, cry for others. Cry so much for others but not for me. I could tell you not to cry but what good would that do?” So she, and we, laughed.
Leaving life with laughter. Still so, so, sad, of course, still nail in the heart sorrow, of course, but less hard. A deep breath to soften the nail, always there of course, but somehow less sharp.
I breathe in and my chest swells, my heart swells, and I feel the nail in my heart, even now, even now as I wait for my laughter to find me.