25 July 2015, Le Pine, Glen Waverley, Melbourne, Australia
My mother was some kind of genius if you think about it. She worked out how to have a ten star death way back. It's been a lifetime in the planning, but I reckon she pulled it off.
If she wrote it down I think it would go something like this.
First, make yourself loveable. This is the most important part. Be generous, kind, open hearted, compassionate and caring. Love your friends and neighbours and tolerate all the crazy things the world and your family does, but give them the occasional smack if they get too far out of line. Let all your children think that they are the favourite. Keep up with the times. Take an interest in the world and grow wiser as you grow older so you give the next generations something to aspire to. Do good things, don’t just talk about it.
Have a sense of humour even a streak of naughtiness. Insist on whiskey and beer, but wait until your husband the wine connoisseur is gone. Secretly vote Labor but also wait until husband dies. Smoke cigarettes and enjoy them. Everyone is going to die of something.
Next you will need a lot of willing hands to get the nurse to patient ratio needed. So do nursing. That way you will have plenty of friends up for the job when the time comes. Keep in close contact with them. Sure fired bonding exercises include playing cards, scrabble and bemoaning the modern state of nursing. Make it a family tradition. Be inspirational enough to encourage members of the younger generation to take up the profession, so when the time comes there's someone to do the heavy lifting. Make sure they too are devotees of the old school of nursing.
Next- how to die. On your own terms obviously. Do this with grace and quiet determination and begin well in advance so that everyone is clear that a) you will not go into a nursing home and b) you will decide when it's time to go. Make this clear to the medicos so they're arses are covered and you get your own way. Back this up with signed documents while you still have your marbles. Make sure the family are on side.
Next where to die. At home obviously - but how great would it be to have a room that fills with sunshine in the morning and looks out at the garden. It will also need to accommodate a proper hospital bed with all the bells and whistles and a door for the dog. So have a son who will become an architect to design such a room. Feed him a endless supply of Cornflake Cookies and bond with him over a football team. Make it one that can never be accused of letting success go to their heads.
Then get him to marry a woman who is a natural born communicator, a peace keeper, a five star cleaner and could make lists for Australia. Make her not unlike yourself in many ways, but keep the love of football for yourself.
Next food. A ten star farewell requires a top notch caterer who knows exactly what you like and has all your best recipes. She will make delicious soups, endless cheesy biscuits, divine chicken sandwiches and five star meals for the care squad. Give her the ability to feed and entertain the visitors who will be coming to say goodbye in their droves with barista coffee, a variety of tea and delicious snacks. Make her also good with small scruffy dogs, account keeping, filing and games. Bond with her in Gembrook, over scrabble, movies and gardening. Smoke inside with her.
Then to ensure proper immortality, encourage offspring to have children who will grow up to be a joy to their grandmother, can speak for her at her funeral and will carry her to her final destination. Make them as kind, loving and generous as you are and impressive and entertaining enough to brag about to your fellow grandmas.
Next write a list of all your dear friends and neighbours. Give it to the List Queen so that she ensures they come to say goodbye. Remind them of all the happy times you had together. Keep photo albums of all those happy times and remind everyone that being young does not last forever and that every moment is precious.
Next the weather. Make it so cold and rainy for the final week you are staying in bed that people envy you. Proper Pyjama weather. Make it early spring so the flowers are fresh and beautiful. Then when it's all over and you have gone, bring out the sun to help lift the spirits of those who will be grieving. Encourage everyone to think that you have extraordinary power.
Make this goodbye time not too long. It's hard work to die, and even though you relish hard work, a week is about enough. Long enough though, to reunite your family and have them sort out petty differences as they all pitch in for your ten star death.
Long enough too, for them to realise just how special you are and be grateful to have had such a wonderful mother.
Give them the weekend off. Die on Friday night, just after dinner, but not too late so they all get a good night’s sleep.
Finally- slip away peacefully, surrounded by those you love.
So if that's what Norma did when she was alive, imagine what she will do now.
I think we can expect some real change on the global warming front, an outbreak of peace, an end to world hunger, new found humanity towards refugees and if I was Tony Abbot I'd be very, very worried.
Vale Norma, my beautiful mother- see you in the next life.