I watched my husband slowly put down his newspaper, rise from his chair and put a little white cup of water to my mother's mouth.
I heard one nurse to another: "the family is an extension of the patient".
A nurse called Jolly, told me clearly to not hold 'it' all in my heart and I walked the 2000 steps back to our car, knowing truly the meaning of sobbing your heart out.
I discovered kindness everywhere these past weeks and wondered often, why kindness is like an invisible friend and not more a part of everyday life?
I also discovered Woody Allen and Wes Anderson know lots about family, when we acted out vignettes of our/every family's dysfunction, straight from life's screenplay:
There's me (Julia Louis-Dreyfus ), my dying mum (Anjelica Huston), my ex-husband (John Travolta), his wife (Melanie Griffith), my husband (Alec Baldwin) and our son (Owen Wilson).
The scene: Julia Louis-Dreyfus crying with nurse, she'd been wearing the same dress for five days. Anjelica was drifting between life and death, all the while with fabulous hair.
John Travolta arrived. He was wearing shorts and a nervous smile. He loved Anjelica. His wife, Melanie Griffith was wearing turquoise tassle earrings.
Julia's phone rang. It was Alec Baldwin and Owen Wilson.
"Where's grandma? We're on level 7," Owen Wilson said.
"I bet they're lost," beamed John Travolta across the bed, with the kind of smug expert, ex-husband ESP that is never welcome and always right.
(Of course they're bloody lost. Anjelica isn't where they left her, she'd been relocated to a nicer place, on another floor in another wing.)
Owen and Alec finally arrived at Anjelica's bedside, saving Julia from making any inappropriate observations and hastening the exit of John and Melanie.
I discovered kindness everywhere ...
All the while, Julia listened to another family in the room next door, arguing about who had washed their dying brother's legs, soundtrack Meatloaf, Bat out of Hell.
"I can tell you did his left leg, you left a bit." On it went.
The man with one dirty leg died before my mum, like a bat out of hell, his sisters sobbed and he was wheeled out with great dignity snuggled below his favourite rug.
All around us the kindness and the craziness that is an acute care hospital.
So how do hospitals manage the crazy and the kind? The soft and the loud ... The despair and the joy.
And how do they do this dying thing when they're conditioned and instructed to 'save' a life?
I have a view of dying, which I think is a lot like giving birth; a great moment of the unknown, unavoidable and not to be feared.
In the great big hospital where my mum died it happened like this:
The doctors asked what she wanted. She wanted treatment to stop.
Over a day they took out her drips, explained what would happen and handed her to a palliative team.
They took mum to a single-bed ward and for three weeks they did nothing but read her mood and pain, kept her comfortable and fresh and lovingly let her go.
I marvelled at the hospital's agility and willingness to ask "what do you want?"
You and I know Launceston requires another 10 dedicated public, palliative beds.
You and I don't know why the state government continues to keep palliative patients in expensive acute beds.
You and I hope next week's election yields a government that will fund for a palliative unit that could be a world leader.