No nonsense from the start:
in her basement room with the green light
and a window on the garden
she saw through all excuses, pretexts, masks,
and managed to winkle confessions
from the loneliest hidden places.
Guiding me through the tunnel
she told me honestly that it would never end.
Bespectacled, girlish, tough as an ox –
she marched against the Iraq war,
talked politics in the surgery,
reminded patients that they had rights,
helped teenagers all over the world to become adults
and campaigned for assisted dying.
To have her fight your corner was to know
you could outface the playground bullies.
Humorous, relaxed, she read my poems,
liked the choughs, enjoyed our dinner at High Table.
Twenty-one years ago to this very day
when I was giving birth, she made her way
across the hospital to hold my hand.
“Just happened to be passing through”
she said. “I thought I’d drop in to see
how you're doing...”
When she died, I was one of thousands
left nursing an immense and aching grief.
Her final legacy? The shameful hurt
of feeling thankful that she had at last
got what she wanted, a peaceful death –
even though no one could help her
to have it when she longed for it.