Sarah had heard it said that you dated your life from one significant event; a life changing happening that defined everything as either before or after its occurrence. For some that might be marriage, a birth or a death, but as she contemplated the many moments such as these in her life, Sarah knew her own personal time-line started the day she left Ireland and arrived in Liverpool.
Sitting here now at the end of the bed, her life seemed so clear, her memory complete and unclouded. She felt as if she could dip into it at any time and watch events unfold, like watching a re-run of a favourite film. Re-wind, watch again, the ending would always be the same, she knew that, but was that so bad? She had lived through the best and worst of times and hoped that ultimately she would be judged as a kind and loving woman.
She sighed; shed done her best, had it been enough to atone for her moment of madness? She looked at the old lady lying in the bed and wondered how much longer she could hold on. Shed been like this for days now and Sarah had lost track of time, night and day, day and night all merged into one. The relatives came and went, some sobbed quietly, some begged the old lady for just one more moment of recognition, but she was past that now.
Sarah sighed again, she knew these people, knew and loved them all; would have embraced them and kissed their tears away; but they never looked her way, always at the old lady. Her breathing was very shallow and Sarah knew that the end must come quite soon, should she leave now or wait a while longer? She knew she had no choice other than to wait, because there was still time for him to come and she wouldnt want to miss that. He would come eventually wouldnt he? She felt panic beginning to rise, he must keep his promise and come and take her out of this room and away from this endless waiting.
The nurse came in, didnt give Sarah a second glance and went instead to her charge. She wiped her face with a warm flannel, dripped water into her mouth and wiped it round with a tiny sponge on a stick. She smeared Vaseline onto parched cracked lips and smoothed the thin white hair. It warmed Sarahs heart to see such tenderness, but the old lady breathed on, not knowing of the care she was receiving. The nurse turned her, and as she lay - almost lifeless now - a small moan escaped her lips.
Thanks girl, the old lady couldnt say it, so Sarah said it for her but it went unheeded by the nurse, who closed the curtains, turned the light down low and looked briefly around the room perhaps shed heard after all?
The door closed behind her and Sarah was left alone once again to keep her silent vigil. She moved up the bed, closer to the old lady so she could look down into her face. It bore no resemblance now to the beauty it once had. Sarah shrugged, what did beauty matter anyway?
She went back to her spot at the end of the bed. There would be no more interruptions tonight for a little while. She was free to wander among her memories. Pick them up, examine them and put them down again, even skip through the painful ones if she so wished but that wasnt how to remember ones life. Without the pain the joy might be lessened and she didnt want that.
Seagulls circled overhead cawing loudly as huge flakes of snow whirled and chased each other before settling on the ground. Sarah held out her hand and caught one, marvelling at its intricate pattern before it melted away into her already numb fingers. She stuck out her tongue and tasted one as it fell there, turned to smile at Father Reilly, but her smile, like the snow, froze on her lips. His disapproving glare, the straight setline of his thin lips somehow turned her heart into lead and she felt the crush of it in her chest.
Sarah Ann Reid, he said her name as if tasted like vinegar, put on your gloves and behave like a properly brought up young lady