Ward 27. There are six elderly ladies here, each waiting for their one-way-or-another escape. One of their number is my mother-in-law. I’ve brought her husband and their two sons. As she looks at her lads – both aged over 50, her eyes brighten and focus as they tell me all the things she can’t.

She recognises her sons, in the same way a baby calms at the sight of Mom. There’s a glimmer of hope in her eyes and mine – not of recovery, but of release. I find myself willing it upon her to let go and end the last chapter in sleepy peace. I loosen the tube caught around her neck that has not only irritated her skin to red, but has restricted her breathing, and release the other end of it from her hand’s 74-year grip.

Did she pull on it? Does she know? The last four years in a nursing home – have they been fought, or endured?

She keeps her knowledge in her head, so I share with her the things in mine. I thank her for lending me her son for a brief while, the bringer of the three pieces of my heart for whom I shall divide my kingdom.

And I thank her for her.

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