A Story by ganga ramesh

Death is not always painful It can also be peaceful... It needn't be always unforgettable It can also be memorable... One such death is the one of JEANNE...





The sun shone brightly as my son-in-law, Mark, parked the car in the car park of the  beautiful gardens of St Gemma’s Hospice. After I got out, I waited a while and took stock of my surroundings. An icon of Jesus Christ on the front of the building looking down on all who entered and left the property, gave me some comfort as I prepared myself to visit my sister, Jeanne.

Mark slowly pushed my wheelchair towards the main entrance; I took the opportunity to look around the well-bloomed garden, passing the pink rose bushes with an ornamental birdbath in the centre. As we went along and crossed the path with the newly laid lawn at either side of it, the fresh smell of mown grass from the other areas of the garden lingered in my nostrils until I reached the reception area.

A mature thin lady came outside and lit up a cigarette. I immediately felt sorry for her and in my own mind I wondered how long she had left on this earth? I didn’t begrudge her having a cigarette, as it was probably one of the few pleasures that she had left.

“Can I help you?” she asked, as we were about to pass her.

“No thanks,” I replied politely, and automatically I turned to look at her at the sound of her voice. “I’m going to see my sister who’s a patient here.”

“Which ward is she in?” She asked in reply.

Mark stopped pushing the chair and I took a good look at this lady and finally my eyes rested on the Identification card on the front of her dress, “Receptionist.” My mouth opened and for a moment no words emerged. “I do apologize,” I said finally, as I gathered my composure, “I thought you were a patient who’d come outside for a smoke.”

“No love,” she replied laughingly, “I’m a member of staff who’s come outside for a quick smoke, and yes I reckon I do need to put on a bit of weight.” She put out her cigarette and we went inside where she informed me that my sister was in “Dales Ward.”

As we were escorted through the building to the ward, I noticed that there were an average of four people to each room, and how happy the patients appeared to be.

Finally we reached the ward we’d been heading for and I was a little surprised to see that Jeanne had a room to herself. I waited in the corridor for a moment and stared into the room at my sister lying quietly on the bed.

“Are you okay?” I asked Jeanne breaking into an audible whisper as I wheeled across the lonely ward.

Jeanne’s head turned gradually at the sound of my voice and as her eyes fell on me, her faced brightened and her smile from ear to ear said it all and portrayed that she was glad that I had arrived. “I knew that you would be here soon,” she told me, as I approached her bed and stopped the wheelchair as close to her as was possible.

I reached out and took a hold of her frail bony hand and carefully stretching across, I kissed her gently on her happy features that were now stained with tears of joy.

“I’ll leave you two alone,” said Mark, as he headed towards the doorway. “I’ll be back later to pick you up Mike; I’ve just got a couple of errands to attend to.”

Jeanne looked over at Mark, “thank you for bringing him to me,” she said, as she saw him give a quick wave.

“No problem at all,” he replied, and smiled to her as he left.

I had decided to visit Jeanne on my own, as I wasn’t too sure what to expect. My wife, Betty, had already stated that brother and sister should just share moments like this alone. I knew she was right and I was happy that it would be just one on one. This way we would be able to talk about matters in private. It was also why I had chosen the morning to visit her, as I knew that she would be inundated with her children and grandchildren in the afternoon, and I would have felt that I was intruding on their intimate moments with her.

As we talked about the past and the future, I felt a gentle breeze from the open window and the sun was shining brighter than I’d seen it in days. The bouquet of flowers in a vase on Jeanne’s window moved gently, wafting a beautiful aroma of assorted blooms towards us.

She informed me that it was a matter of will, on how long she stayed alive, and that she wanted to see her grandson’s birthday on the 29th of August. Knowing my sister, I guessed that she would probably achieve this. She went on to inform me that she’d had the birthday card written out already, and if for some reason it was god’s will that she didn’t make it, then at least her grandson would still receive the card.

Jeanne, who had always been the practical type of person, stated that the arrangements for her funeral had already been made and that her husband, Pete, was to bring one single red rose, and her children were to bring one single yellow rose each. Anyone wanting to attend her funeral was being asked to donate money to St Gemma’s rather than buy flowers, as she thought that the money spent on flowers could be put to better use on the care of the patients in the hospice.

I agreed and as I gently held her hand, she gave it a gentle squeeze, and I made no attempt to stop the flow of tears rolling down my cheeks, over my lips and dripping off the end of my chin to fall on the back of my hand.

“Don’t be sad for me,” she said as she momentarily let go of my hand to pass me a tissue, a box of which she kept close to her. “When I’m gone, this will just be a body, I’ll still be here watching over you, and watching over my children, and if ever you need me, I’ll be there for you, always….and whenever you need  me…I will be there for you…always….in your thoughts, your tears and  also in your silence, Mike…”

She went on to explain that the vicar visited her on a daily basis and that she got great comfort from him being there. She no longer feared death, but looked forward to her new life with old friends and family who she knew was waiting. She stated that she felt that she wasn’t ready to go just yet.

Looking at this now, misty eyed, less than four stone people, in front of me, who at the moment appeared to be in deep thought, I just hoped that she obtained everything that she wished for.

The smile left her face as she turned to look at me and the tears fell down either side of her head as she lay there. She grasped my hands as tightly as she could with the both of hers. “I know they are waiting patiently for me,” she told me, “but I’ve asked for a little more time.”

I watched as she searched my features for any tell tale signs, I knew that what she had said was a question rather than a statement and that she was looking at me for confirmation?

Taking one of the tissues from the box to wipe her tears, I stared her straight in the eyes. “I know that you will receive all the time you need.” I felt the grip on my hands relax and she smiled again.

She turned her head towards the scenic view outside her window, “thank you.”
“No Jeanne, thank you…. “ I was searching for my guts to return and save the situation for me.

“I know I have always been that horrible sister….but you were there…u are here…and you will be there…for me..and just for me…I know, Mike… thank you…” she told enhancing the grip of her fists on mine.


I was having my afternoon tea, when the phone rang, and it was my brother-in-law, Pete. I heard the stifled sob, followed by “I’m sorry Mike.”

The next voice I heard was Jeanne’s. “Mike, I haven’t got long to go now and I just wanted to say goodbye.”

With the tears falling around me, I uttered the only words that I could. “Jeanne, please don’t go yet, I’m coming, hold on for a while longer.”

I turned in suddenment as I was shocked about the sudden happening that would leave me without my Jeanne. It was unbelievable…that sight.. it was  29TH….’Jeanne you have made it dear…’ I thought.

As I entered the hospital side ward, a sunbeam filtered through the almost closed curtains, and shone directly on my sister as she lay, possibly deep in thought. At first I didn’t notice the nurse who was seated in a chair in the corner of the room, and it startled me when she spoke.’ She’s asleep’, the nurse informed me.

I went to the side of Jeanne’s bed and as I suspected I saw that her eyes were open, I knew my sister better than any trained medical staff and knew that if it was at all possible, she never slept during the day.

Gradually I opened both the heavy curtains and the net curtains underneath as wide as they would go, then I opened the bottom half of the window. The whole room filled with bright sunshine, and turning, I saw the most beautiful smile on my sister’s features than I had ever seen before, and I smiled at her in return.

The nurse stood up and smiled weakly, but the sad expression on my features caused her to leave the room.

Arranging the pillows so that Jeanne had a better view of the moors and the activities that were going on there, I took hold of her hand that was cold to the touch, and began to describe the parts of the moors that she couldn’t see. As I was relating this to her, I felt her fingers tighten on my hand. I looked at her and knew that she wanted to sit up and see for herself.

With her help, and my firm grip to steady and lift her, I slipped her out of bed and sat her on my knee, and I wheeled my chair closer to the window to ensure that she had the best view possible.

Jeanne laid her head against my shoulder and placed her arm around my neck. At this stage she had still not uttered a word. Her smile was now even broader and her looks were heavenly as she stared out into the distance.

This reminded me of when I was a child and if ever I had a problem I would go to Jeanne who would place me on her knee and comfort me. Now it was my turn to comfort her.

Once again, but this time with tear filled eyes, I began to point out the different characteristics and movements that were in front of us. We could both hear the sounds from the people and the wildlife. There was the shepherd with a crook in his hand and his border collie at his side, and between them they were trying to get the sheep heading towards a large pen that had been erected on the hillside to our left. Just below them there were fell walkers wearing their knapsacks heading deep onto the moors taking advantage of the good weather.

I heard Jeanne sigh and looked at her. She was so happy and turned her dreamy eyes to me, she was so warm against my body, and I adjusted my position slightly to ensure that she was comfortable. I knew she wanted me to go on with my observations, so turning back to the window I pointed out the children playing and even from far in the distance, their joyous laughter reached us. It appeared that they were having a picnic with their family.

But the object that stood out most, like candles on a cake, was the deep corpse in the centre of our vision. This held all kinds of wildlife, a lot of which were nocturnal. We both knew that if we went in there at this moment that any of the wildlife that was awake, would treat us with wondrous sights and sounds.

Behind me, the doctor who the nurse had gone to fetch informed me that Jeanne was now at peace.

With the tears almost blocking my vision, I informed him that I already knew and wiping my eyes, I held Jeanne tightly and carried on looking out of the window to the green heather filled fields. A broad smile adorned my features and I lifted my right arm in salute as I waved to the figure that had attracted my attention below.

“Keep on writing Mike,” the figure called up to me, “I’ll always be with you.”

“I will,” I called out loudly, “save a place for me.”

The figure below waved frantically as it headed for the children on the family picnic, and soon joined in their laughter.

They stopped playing momentarily and turned, and they all waved to me, I waved back as they gradually left my vision and in my mind I could still hear their laughter, but one laugh stood out from the rest. My sister, Jeanne, was now happy, and I knew that she would take care of the children as she had taken care of us.

© 2013 ganga ramesh

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Added on January 29, 2013
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ganga ramesh
ganga ramesh

coimbatore, tamil nadu, India

Something I love most about living is the connection I have with myself and with nature. and Naturally, Romance is something as natural as the sky and the moon and thw water and man himself!! I love t.. more..

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A Chapter by ganga ramesh

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A Chapter by ganga ramesh