There was a woman twenty years Chris’ folks’ senior that they knew because she was from his mother’s hometown and lived in Le Puy. When her husband was alive, they were alone in the world as they had no children and no living family with whom they got along. Chris’ parents helped them with everything, passing the house weekly to fix bits and bobs, help with difficult cleaning, and just be a presence. Her husband used to be very adamant with Chris’ folks that his wife’s family was not to be trusted, and that if he were to die, they should endeavor to keep an eye on them. He passed away in 1998, but there was no sign of any family.
Then a couple of years ago a cousin came out of the woodwork, and with a decent lawyer was able to push the woman out of her home and into a nursing home where she didn’t even have her own room. Anyone who has seen the film Man Bites Dog (or C’est Arrivé Pres de Chez Vous) will know that the very elderly here do not trust the banks, and so often hide money throughout their homes. This was the horrible motivation of the cousin, who never once visited her in the two years she lived in the nursing home in which she’d dumped her. Yesterday Chris’ mother left after lunch to see her, but she had passed less than an hour before, peacefully, in her sleep, at the age of 96.
As is so rarely the case in this life, there were blatant forces of good and evil in her life – the kindness and altruism of Chris’ parents’ religious visits and support, and the cruel greed of a distant cousin, who might have won her favor if she had expressed the slightest interest in her wellbeing. And yet there is also no clear winner. I would have loved for the courts to have seen what was truly at play behind the cousin’s feigned concern, and to have sent her packing so the woman could have lived the rest of her days in her own home. But superheroes are not always armed to the teeth, or laden with incredible powers to overcome. In this case, her caped crusaders were just a kind couple in the neighborhood who understood their obligations to their fellow human beings.
Still, it is comforting to imagine her last few hours. While she could hardly hear and barely see, she was quite lucid until the end. She would have known her friend was coming to visit, which would have given her great joy during the day. She would have probably enjoyed her lunch a little more, knowing she would have company in just a couple of hours. She took a nap after that meal, knowing that when she awoke, her friend would be by her side. She didn’t wake up, but her friend was there.