The Long Goodbye

My bedroom is peaceful and to myself. The nurses have made me comfortable in my own bed. I have no pain anymore. I have no visitors, why would I? There is no one to sit at my bedside to hold my hand, to hold back tears and feign being strong on the outside but quietly crying a river on the inside. My house was never a place of social gatherings, even when I was younger. Since the unfortunate circumstances of my father’s death when I was a child, followed by the sad loss of my mother not long after, I have been alone in this house. I have never married due to living in shame of what I did those many years ago and so have no children or grandchildren to mourn my passing. I will die as I have lived, completely alone. I only wish my time would come to an end quickly.

Twelve months ago I was given the news of my fate. I had left it too long though so my days left on this earth were numbered. How many days left though, the doctors were uncertain. Each day was a blessing, or so they would tell me at every visit. Only I knew that this was my punishment although I could never tell them that. It would only put a downer on their day too whilst they are only doing their job.

As I look out to the window I can see the sun shining through the broken clouds. It is making it’s way down to end it’s long tiring day travelling across the sky. I wish I had the strength to walk to the window and look out in to my garden. It is my pride and joy. Gardening has brought so much peace to me over the years. Now I am confined to my bed and I think over my day and how no one could have predicted this turn of events. Only twelve hours ago I went for my appointment with the doctor to discuss my options. The cancer had won the battle with the last lot of chemo. They tried to stay positive and it was suggested that we try a more aggressive form of treatment, but my eighty year old body can not take any more. I have fought long enough, not only with the cancer but with my own demons. I cannot fight this any more. As I returned home I was met with my live-in nurse who sat me down with a cup of tea. She had bought a bouquet of lilies from the florists which were placed on the coffee table. She promised me that the smell was filling the room, but I couldn’t smell a thing. The chemo had affected every part of my body that the cancer had not reached. If only my memory could have been affected too, then I might be able to finish my life in peace. I sighed and drank my flavourless cup of tea.

I made a decision there and then that I would visit my Church tomorrow. I had not been to confession in several months and I felt that now was time to clear my conscience. I had put this off for too long now and knew it could no longer be avoided. It was something I had to do.

I had decided on an afternoon nap. I no longer wanted to sit in the company of the young nurse and I was feeling tired. The nurse ensured I was comfortable in my queen sized bed before leaving me, but something felt different. I could feel my heart beating but there was an odd flutter to it, and then the pain came out of nowhere. The pain was shooting through my lungs and in to my lower back. It was excruciating, nothing I had ever felt before. I called out in pain and the nurse returned, the look on her face said it all, this was my time. I would not be making it to Church tomorrow.

Thoughts started to flash through my mind. Events that I had long forgotten about were back in my mind. The death of my mother, that was hard. After what I did to ensure she and I would be safe from the man I was forced to call a father she was taken from me regardless. What was the point in it all?  I am not sure what I was thinking and what I was saying out loud. Was I confessing to my sins to the medic who suddenly appeared and was injecting drugs into my arm and my nurse who was stood impatiently by the door or was I in a daze? The drugs forced me in to a deep sleep. I did not think I would wake from this sleep but unfortunately I did in the early evening, and I was alone.


A quiet whisper had called out, I was sure of it. But who said my name? There must be someone in my room with me but when I open my eyes I cannot see anyone. It might have been the nurse checking if I was still here and with me drifting in and out of consciousness I would have missed her. As soon as I go she will be free to leave, once she had rung her report in to the hospital of course. What a burden I am. Maybe the morphine is playing tricks with my imagination but the voice sounded so familiar, a voice from my past.

I take another look around my room at all the trinkets I have acquired over the years. There are photos of family and friends in silver frames now long gone, most before their time. Jewellery boxes which have not been opened in decades, filled with heirlooms I never got a chance to wear and have no one to pass them on to. I look to my dressing table and see the cream lace throw draped over the chair and think of how it came to be. It was made by my mother as a gift for my twelfth birthday. I remember the day she made this for me. It was a hot summer’s day and my father returned from his night at the pub. That night he showed his true colours, and what he did to my mother and I would be repeated for several years until I put a stop to it.

On the night of my birthday my father did the unthinkable. It was something that a father should never do to his only daughter, his only child. It hurts to remember the pain and trauma that he put me through, not only physically but emotionally too and having to endure my mother’s screams in the next room. If only morphine could assist with these feelings which were flooding back to me.

After I put an end to our suffering, in the sinful way that I did, I never owned up to it. I never told my mother, I never told my friends, and I omitted it from every confession I attended after that date. As far as everyone was concerned, my father came home one night and drunkenly fell down the stairs hitting his head on the concrete floor. No one questioned this as it was very believable from the statement the pub landlord gave to the police. He had described the drunken state my father was in most nights. Only I know what happened.

After the death of my mother the guilt of my actions took over and I decided to write her a letter. A letter she would never read, but I knew it would lift a burden from my shoulders, if only slightly. After I wrote it I quickly burned it in the fire so it could not be found by anyone, but I can remember every word. How could I ever forget those words which I had played in my head over and over again for years in the vein hope that somewhere my mother could hear them? Or that somehow the ashes of the letter which blew up the chimney could reach her in heaven where she could piece them together and read my confession. As I am thinking this over my eyes become heavy and are beginning to close again. Is now my time? Is this it?

“Violet?” That same voice called again.

I knew that voice. I had not heard it in over sixty years. The last words my mother spoke to me were nothing special. Her death came so suddenly and at a young age that no one was expecting it. I was eighteen and she should have been instructing me on how to become a lady and finding a suitable husband; instead she was telling me to make sure I picked up the order from the butcher’s as she was planning to make a meat pie. However the meat would not be needed as she died in her sleep that night. It was a peaceful death that we all wish for yet it did not help the pain which I felt for losing her so unexpectedly.

After her death the hopes and dreams I had once had were all taken away from me. Without my mother there to guide me how could I go on to live the life she had envisioned? I needed her approval. I had closed myself away. Friendships dwindled and the small family I had soon forgot about me in this big house. For all they knew I had been dead for years.

“Mother?” My eyes felt heavy but I opened them as much I could and saw a small figure standing by the bed. My voice was weary. It was as though I was not speaking aloud but thinking the words. “Is that you?”

Our eyes met. She was looking deep in to mine.

“Yes Violet, I have come to tell you something before you go, it won’t be long now.”

My eyes opened fully and she was exactly as I remembered her. She was the same height as me, very slim and frail. Her dark hair was tied up in a bun, she was wearing a brown dress with her homemade cream and floral apron. Her once pale and sunken cheeks were rosy and she seemed happy and at peace.

“Violet, I read your letter.” My eyes filled with tears. What had she come to tell me? Was she ashamed? Did she hate me? Could she forgive me? “You have nothing to be ashamed or sorry about. Please know that I never knew what he did to you, if I had I’d have done everything to stop it. I have come to say sorry. I should have known.”

Tears were falling down my cheeks. My vision was blurred from the flurry of tears but I did not want to blink for fear that she would disappear. After so many years apart we were talking more than we ever had before. Death opened us up to each other but it was a conversation that had come too late. Would my life have been different had I confessed before she died?

“Mother, you understand why I did it? You don’t hate me?” I asked. This time there was no mistake, I was speaking aloud to my mother. I tried to lift up my hand but it was too difficult.

“I could never hate you.”

Her pale hand reached out to hold mine. It was a strange sensation, like a tissue lightly gliding over my skin. Her other hand brushed against my cheek. A feeling rose up in my chest, a steady vibration like something was about to happen. Something I would never come back from. She leaned in to kiss my forehead as the vibration slowly faded away.

One thought on “The Long Goodbye

  1. I really enjoyed this story Debbie although my mum died before you came to Keighley her name was Violet and I felt very drawn to your character. Luckily my mums death was so different. My mum went out new tears eve and had the chance to wish her friends all the best. She sat down and was gone.


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