I will miss you, she said.
I stifled a laugh. It seemed odd, to think of being missed. Not quite the same as thinking of events that you will miss being a part of, like seeing your grandchildren grow up, or being around for your daughter's wedding.
She can not cry, I was told. If she gets emotional, she cannot breathe. So, I did not want to say "I will miss you, too". Did not want to admit that this would be our last visit. Did not want to dwell on her imminent passing.
I have known Mrs Epp for almost all the 14 years I have lived here. She is my oldest patient and would be 96 at her next birthday. But she will not see her next birthday. For most of the past year we have had a standing appointment, every 3 weeks (or more frequently as needed) and I have seen her becoming frailer and smaller with each visit. Yet, until December, she always looked forward to the massage - such as I could give her.
When I got the response from her daughter saying it would be good to visit but that she may pass away that night, or tomorrow... or next week... I knew that, snowstorm or not, I would drive the 30 minutes into the city to see her.
Our appointments over the years have always included an extra hour or so of health talk and pleasantries and an examination of her latest knitting/crocheting/tatting project. She had a computer long before I did and was excited to show me what she had learned to do on it. Whenever she had a new health issue, she spent hours researching it on the internet. She was almost giddy at how easy it was to keep in touch with her far flung family. I followed her as she resolutely moved herself into an 'independent living' centre long before it was really necessary. I used her as an inspiration for my parents when they refused to even consider moving into a seniors home even when it was so plainly necessary. Three times she moved, each time a little bit closer to her daughter and farther away from her old friends. She was fortunate to have the finances to live in beautiful surroundings and to have round the clock care when she needed it. Still, she has lingered long enough.
I don't have the strength to give you a hug. So, I reached towards her and pressed my cheek against hers. A little later, after waking up more, some morphine, a new comfortable position, she brightened and found the strength for a hug. An embrace that I wished would end before my tears came. I must not cry. She must not cry.
Mrs Epp, I will miss you. Dearly.
Comments are not necessary. I needed to write this out for myself.
And I needed to share it with my far flung friends.